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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Making Teaching and Learning Culturally Inclusive: The Durban Institute of Technology Challenge

Sheila Narsee.

The notion of diversity as is currently in South Africa is clearly one that includes race, culture and language, but is incomplete because it is completely silent on issues of gender, class, alternative sexual orientation and the physically challenged. What is clearly required is a social reconstructionist view of multicultural education which seeks to utilise diversity as a powerful tool to empower particularly those learners who have been historically marginalised. This implies social justice and the democratisation of the classroom (Sleeter 1996; Grant & Gomez 1996: Freire 1997). Preece advocates strongly the use of "engaged pedagogy", and argues that current ways of constructing and teaching knowledge are value laden and designed to privilege only certain groups in society and that educators should look at ways to develop curricula which are culturally and socially relevant to marginalised adult learners. The goal is to shift the traditional academic position of neutrality so that marginalised social or social cultural viewpoint becomes the position of neutrality against which other values are compared and critiqued. Given a multicultural context there are pragmatic reasons for valuing diversity – an organisation which values diversity and incorporates diversity into its structures and policies, which treats multiculturalism as a resource rather than a deficit, is more likely to succeed in the long run. Further, drawing on the works of thinkers like Martin Nakata, Joseph Lo Bianco & Courtney Cazden, I argue that as educators we can construct a moral rather than just a pragmatic argument for valuing diversity; an argument which is underpinned by the premise that people's identities are constructed through dialogue and thus a failure to respect and recognise diversity in our students can be a form of oppression (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000).


Sheila Narsee  (South Africa)
Senior Lecturer
Department of Languages & Communication Faculty of Arts
Durban Institute of Technology, Steve Biko Campus

Sheila Narsee is a senior lecturer in the Department of Languages & Communication at the Durban Institute of Technology, Durban, South Africa. She holds a Masters In Technology (Education) degree and is currently reading for a Phd in Education. Her field of research and interest areas in communication cover a wide spectrum - workplace literacy & business communication, humanities & social sciences in engineering education and lifelong learning in higher education. Sheila is widely published both locally and internationally. She has presented papers and conducted exploratory research visits to Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia, China and Greece. Sheila was also selected to participate in the Summer English Teaching Institute at the University of South Carolina, USA.


(30 min Conference Paper, English)