Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

African Philosophy (of Education) and Post-Apartheid South African Schools: A Critical Analysis of the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

African Philosophy (of Education) and Post-Apartheid South African Schools: A Critical Analysis of the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement

Article excerpt


There are three main concepts that underpin this article, namely Bantu (popular) philosophy1 Western (academic) philosophy2 and universal (single) philosophy3.

Bantu philosophy, is [a] single system and unique to [African people]. ... True knowledge, human wisdom is dependent upon the wisdom of the [African] elders. One can learn to read, to write . but all that has nothing in common with wisdom (Tempels, 1959: 25-35).

Ethno-philosophy [one aspect of Bantu philosophy] exemplifies an essentialist/particularist orientation, while academic philosophy constitutes a paradigm case of universalism (Horsthemke, 2015: 18).

This universality must be preserved ... because these differences of content are meaningful precisely and only as differences of content, which, as such, refer back to the essential unity of a single discipline, of a single style of inquiry (Hountondji, 1996: 56).

Below, I show how the three quotations above are integrated in the article in order to mount a clear, coherent and consistent argument. Tempels (1959), a Belgian missionary, sets out a systematic account of Bantu philosophy - a primitive philosophy foreign to European philosophers. The key principle of Bantu (indigenous) philosophy, Tempels maintains, was that Bantu ontology (theory of life) is the basis of Bantu psychology. Simply put, African people explain things by reference to supernatural forces, magical remedies, ancestor worship, ritual of forces, folklore and customs, oral traditions and legends, to name the few, and these vital forces penetrate and inform African thought. Horsthemke (2015) speaks of two analytical constructs: ethnophilosophy (oral tradition) and professional philosophy (written tradition) as a subtext of universal philosophy. Hence, Hountondji (1996) asserts that only universal knowledge (as we shall see in later sections, philosophy is defined as a theoretical discipline, while knowledge is defined as a justified true belief) transcends these narrow schools of thoughts (i.e. "knowledge of African" and "knowledge of the West") - anchoring universal knowledge as a professional discipline. In light of this integration, the study on which this article is based, argued that:

* classical Western philosophy and indigenous African philosophy - and by implication of African philosophy of education - are part of a universal (united) knowledge system;

* as a unity of a single discipline, a universal knowledge system is feasible, desirable and relevant in settling differences between the "Western epistemology" and "knowledge of Africa";

* although, the national Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) promotes (scantily so) both academic knowledge and a universal knowledge system, the scale is tipped in favour of indigenous knowledge systems in South African schools; and

* only a universal knowledge system is able to address global challenges and deal with domestic philosophical-educational issues in post-apartheid South Africa.


The author maintains that all research contains (or should contain) a review of literature and locates empirical research within the relevant theory or theoretical framework. A conceptual article too, proceeds on theoretical level and works (even if it reports on empirical research) purely with concepts and texts. Viewed this way, this conceptual article employs three methods of inquiry. On the descriptive side, the author looks at the meaning and features of Western philosophy, African philosophy and universal philosophy. On the analytical angle, he provides a critical analysis of the concept of African philosophy of education reflected in the CAPS. Lastly, from a normative perspective, he makes practical claims about how the CAPS African philosophy of education project can be meaningful and consistent with the changing world. Briefly, this article is the result of a process of investigation with two aspects. First, the article liberates us from internal conceptual complexity we get into when normally used words, such as 'indigenous knowledge systems' idle in our minds. …

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