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The politics of knowledge : tracing the trajectory of the natural science curriculum.

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Knowledge production or research in South Africa, as elsewhere in the world, does not occur within 'innocent' spaces devoid of personal, social, political, economic and cultural contexts (Singh, 2000). This study explores knowledge production at the level of policy. It questions in the review of the school's curriculum policy in general, and the science curriculum policy in particular: What becomes new? What is different? What remains the same? What is the policy problem? Who is the policy population that is the target of such policies? Why is there such a universal dimension of what should be taught in science, and hence what science is? Why is the conceptual knowledge of the science curriculum and the conception of scientific literacy around the world much the same? At the level of research, what is the most illuminative way to seek answers to these questions? The study explores the theoretical, methodological and contextual constructs that frame the conception of scientific literacy. This thesis presents a critical analysis of the policy process and policy documents for two reform periods in South Africa. The theoretical constructs deployed are policy archaeology, ideology, inclusivity, governmentality and professionalisation. I argue in this study that the latter two constructs are regularities that are necessary for the emergence of the policy problem, they shape the social construction of the policy problem and they constitute and shape the range of policy solutions. I posit that these regularities are necessary for the social construction of the policy problem in both the C2005 and the RNCS processes. These regularities intersect in a complex, grid-like fashion on the policy-problem axis. These intersecting regularities makes it possible for the policy problem to emerge as a problem, constructs the problem, and constitutes the problem as an 'object' of social visibility. I argue that ideological shifts in the conception of scientific literacy are constituted by these two regularities. I conclude the thesis by drawing out five significant policy lessons: (i) An 'ideal' that makes intellectual sense but does not fit conditions in society can exacerbate the problems it seeks to solve; (ii) 'Change is only as effective as the smallest unit': in the policy-making arena the smallest unit is the policy writers, in the arena of practice it is the classroom teacher; (iii) Timing determines what is possible: the socio-political climate of 1994 resulted in some important silences- especially from conservatives and scientists; (iv) In the science policy documents the definition of scientific literacy is epistemological at two levels: the idea that scientific literacy can be defined and constitutes individual knowledge,and the view of knowledge in the policy documents; and (v) The policy process and the policy documents challenged hegemony of structure and the epistemology of knowledge.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville, 2005.


Theses--Education., Curriculum planning--South Africa., Education and state--South Africa., Science--Study and teaching (Secondary)--South Africa.