Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Non-Alignment of Espoused Theories of Action to Theories-in-Use: Socio-Cultural Hurdles to Provision of Equitable Educational Opportunity for Pregnant Learners at South African Conventional Schools

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

The Non-Alignment of Espoused Theories of Action to Theories-in-Use: Socio-Cultural Hurdles to Provision of Equitable Educational Opportunity for Pregnant Learners at South African Conventional Schools

Article excerpt

The vision for universal basic education or Education for All (EFA) by 2015 is internationally acclaimed as enunciated in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which South Africa is part to. However, one of the major impediments to the achievement of universal basic education, especially in most of the developing nations is the high prevalence of gender inequality in educational access, completion and performance rates (Stromquist, 2005; UNESCO, 2004; UNICEF, 2002; UNICEF, 2003a). This implies that any nation that hopes to realise Education for All (EFA) by the targeted date should eliminate all gender related imbalances from both its education policy design and institutional programs and practices. With the realisation that the education of girls and women is one unfulfilled fundamental human right, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), all have a clause that is exclusively devoted to the principle of gender equality, especially for the enhancement of access to and completion of education by girls and women at all levels by 2015 (UNICEF, 2003a , 2003b; UNESCO, 2000, 2004; UNESCO, 2005).

To show its commitment to the elimination of gender inequalities in education, South Africa ratified international conventions that seek to redress gender inequalities in education (Wolpe, Quinland & Martinez, 1997; Sadie, 2001). Consequently, its Constitution's Bill of Rights and Act of parliament on education uphold the right to education for all South Africans, regardless of any of their differences (Constitution of Republic of South Africa, Number 108, 1996; Prinsloo, 2005; Bray, 1996; South African Schools Act [SASA] Number 84, 1996:4). It is in this respect that pregnant teenagers of school going age are also extended the right to formal schooling (Department of Education [DoE], 2007; Manzini, 2001; Grant & Hallman, 2006; Kaufman deWet & Stadler, 2001). There is therefore a national policy that instructs and guides schools to integrate girls who might fall pregnant while at school (DoE, 2007).

This study investigated how school-based education stakeholder catered for the educational needs of the enrolled pregnant learners at two schools.

Theoretical Framework: Espoused theory of action and theory-in-use

The espoused theoiy of action is what a person believes in but may not necessarily implement it in actual actions, which is called theoiy-in-use (Argyris & Schon, 1974). However, people usually justify their behaviour in given situations by referring to the espoused theoiy of action because it is more reasonable and acceptable to human standards. In simple terms, the difference between the espoused theoiy and theory-inuse is like saying one thing and doing the other. In their definition and distinction between espoused theoiy of action and theoiy-in-use, Argyris and Schon (1974:6-7) who are the proponents of the theoiy, observe that:

When someone is asked how he would behave under certain circumstances, the answer he usually gives is his espoused theoiy of action for that situation. This is the theoiy of action to which he gives allegiance, and which, upon request, he communicates to others. However, the theoiy that actually governs his actions is his theoiy-inuse, which may or may not be compatible with his espoused theoiy (Argyris & Schon, 1974:6-7).

In this case, the theory-in-use is the overt behaviour which is inferred from how people act. The theory-in-use is socially constructed during interaction and therefore is culturally embedded (Argyris, 1990; Argyris & Schon, 1974). To this end, Argyris and Schon (1974:11) add that "versions of the same model of theories-inuse result from similar upbringing within a culture".

This proposition has an important implication for this study, which investigated how the school social environment influenced the perceptions and treatment of learners who chose to continue with their education while pregnant. …

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