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The artwork denotes a communal form of human engagement reminiscent of Ubuntu. Made up by one thousand smaller photos, the collage exhibits the significance of working together.
The artwork denotes a communal form of human engagement reminiscent of Ubuntu. Made up by one thousand smaller photos, the collage exhibits the significance of working together.

A way of thinking and doing

This course comprises four themes related to the idea of African philosophy of education. Nowadays, literature on African philosophy of education is much in vogue, as is evident from at least three major volumes on the subject:

One of the reasons African philosophy of education is gaining prominence in scholarly texts today is because it has been criticised for existing mostly in the oral tradition, while most philosophical works are said to have been documented in texts. Instead of refuting the criticism that the oral tradition dominates African philosophy of education, inasmuch as Socrates’ ideas were documented in the dialogues of Plato (both Greek philosophers of ancient times), I rather will refer to literature on African philosophy of education to explain the concept. Thereafter, I consider how this concept will influence educational relations amongst people.

My own interest in the texts of African philosophy of education is guided by my initiation, in the early 1980s, into an Anglo-Saxon analytic philosophy of education, which focused overwhelmingly on the quest for meaning and understanding in and about the texts that informed educational change in post-apartheid South Africa. It was only in the early 2000s, when I encountered the Ghanaian philosopher Kwasi Wiredu (an African now living in Florida in the USA) on a visit to our department, that I began to give African philosophy of education much more attention. Wiredu’s claim – that one would not necessarily compromise one’s African identity if one draws on other ‘truths’ outside of one’s own African tradition of thought (Wiredu, 2004) – had a major influence on my own scholarship in the field of African philosophy of education. In his words,

Any African effort to construct a philosophy for contemporary living by combining the insights of traditional philosophy with those originating from elsewhere is an effort in the Africanisation of philosophical studies (Wiredu, 2004: 17).

Hence, whereas my interest in this course is guided by an attempt at Africanising philosophy of education, the course also offers opportunities for those interested in enacting justice in and through their educational experiences. As a university scholar for almost two decades, after a long stint in the teaching profession at a high school, I have engaged with texts with the aim to bring justice to the pedagogical (teaching and learning) encounters of myself and students. Our focus in this course will be on the reasons why philosophy of education from an African perspective potentially offers possibilities for just human relations in and through pedagogical encounters, and more specifically through teaching and learning in a university setting. I have chosen the following four themes:

  • Giving thought to African philosophy of education;

  • Exploring different approaches to African philosophy of education;

  • Towards a communitarian understanding of African philosophy of education; and

  • African philosophy of education and the achievement of justice.

In these themes, we examine different understandings of African philosophy of education. In the main, we endeavour to answer questions such as, What makes up (constitutes) an African philosophy of education? Why should an African philosophy of education be considered as credible? and How can an African philosophy of education help us to think justly about education?

Like I am working in analytical philosophy of education, I am interested to know your own educational interests. My interest in African philosophy of education is stimulated by a concern for more deliberative educational encounters amongst students and educators. And what are yours?

This course is mainly concerned with your understandings. Although I will not be able to respond to all your questions, I am interested to know what you have to say in or about the issues under discussion. In pedagogic terms we refer to such a form of learning, self-directed learning because you demonstrate the independence of mind to articulate your opinions. In this way, as the course presenter I am not just simply a master explicator or someone who offers all answers to questions. I cannot and therefore invite you to come to speech or reach your own understandings which you can share with all others doing this course.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching for Change: An African Philosophical Approach

Stellenbosch University