Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Codification, Meritocracy and Performativity: Debilitating Factors for Black Pre-Service Teachers

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

Codification, Meritocracy and Performativity: Debilitating Factors for Black Pre-Service Teachers

Article excerpt


This paper is premised upon a study that was positioned to contribute to a transformative Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) mandate to institutions of higher learning. The intention of the mandate was to strengthen and develop the B.Ed. Foundation Phase programme. With this in mind, the focus of the study was on the concomitant effects of the convergence of language and identity on the black African cohort of this programme. This article thus draws from a DHET-mandated study, as mentioned earlier, to make inferences about the effects of the combination of codification, meritocracy and performativity on a cohort of black B.Ed. Foundation Phase pre-service teachers. In this paper, language is highlighted, not only as a means towards epistemological access, but with its association with the combination of codification (Bernstein, 1990), meritocracy (Lister, 2006; McNamee & Miller Jr, 2004) and performativity (Ball, 2003, 2012; McFarlane, 2013). In this regard, this paper is thus a reconceptualisation of language as part of the codification system of the academia.

The cohort under study is connoted as black first generation (G1) students, second language (L2) speakers of English and previously disadvantaged individuals (PDIs). "Black" is used to denote those who are of African descent and whose first language is a black South African language. Additional distinguishing features of the cohort are that they attended schools situated in areas that are categorised as urban (township), peri-urban (part urban and part rural) and rural (villages and farms). These are areas that were designated for black Africans under the apartheid rule (Bozalek et al., 2010). In this discussion, meritocracy and performativity feature because of the performance practices that often do not consider the diverse preparation (or inadequacy thereof) for the culture, language and, thus, codification system of the academia. The insights gleaned through the study are thus used to inform the stance of this discussion with regard to the significance of class-regulated prior exposure in relation to academic performance.

2.Context of the discussion

Bernstein (1990:13) observes that "class-regulated codes position subjects with respect to dominant and dominated forms of communication", adding that "ideology is such positioning [where] class-regulated codes position subjects with respect to dominant forms of communication". The reference to codes, in connection with communication and with special reference to dominant forms of communication and positioning, is pertinent to this discussion. This is because language is a means of codification and communication, where English is the dominant form of communication within the context of the academia. The L2 pre-service teacher cohort is positioned as subjugated subjects with regard to the codification system. The word "class" in Bernstein's (1990) citation above relates to Bourdieu's (1991) conceptualisation of social standing or status, which also has implications for cultural capital and valued epistemic meaning-making systems. Cultural capital refers to the type of educational skills and knowledge bases that provide an advantage in achieving a particular standing, which, in this instance, is an academic standing that is compatible with the cultural capital of the academia.

The aforementioned implies a particular positioning of the L2 cohort, with ramifications for their performance as dominated subjects, based on their limited familiarity with the codification system of the academia. In this regard, Bernstein (1990) is of the view that class relations privilege certain forms of communication, which transmit what he refers to as "dominant and dominated codes". The concept of meritocracy (McNamee & Miller Jr, 2004) comes into view because of the academic context where merit is regarded as part of the criteria for eligibility for academic success. …

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