Analysis of learning/development in South Africa

Learner: Oscar Vallazza – Linköping University

Course: Global / Local Learning, University of Western Cape, Cape Town

Instructor: Kathy Watters

Tutor: Zelda Groener, Natheem Hendricks

Group: Samarbeta

Assignment 1    Date: September 18, 2009                           Words:  3186

Critical analyses of the theoretical perspectives underpinning development approaches adopted by the South African government in effecting changes in adult education and training policy after 1994.

TABLE OF CONTENTS: Each heading has a hyperlink to the relevant section



1.1     PROLOGUE






2.2     Modernization

2.3     Populism

2.3.1   Sustainability

2.3.2   People-centered Development


2.4.1   Adult Education

2.4.2   Adult Learning

2.4.3   Lifelong Learning (LLL)





3.4     The Learning Cape Festival (LCF)


4.1     Overcoming tensions and dilemmas: an Intercultural perspective

4.2     A General-systems perspective

4.3     The Intercultural Dimension of LLL

4.4     Third-Culture (TC) Building and possible future scenarios





This paper stems from the readings and discussions of the first part of the course.  It will adopt a critical stand on the relevant theoretical perspectives.

The first section will present the current framework of Education and Learning in South Africa, including relevant dynamics, actors, and challenges.

Section Two will introduce the theoretical development perspectives affecting South African Education and Learning policies. It will examine Populism and Modernization as the two major influences on South Africa’s context, and present Lifelong Learning as a viable approach.

Section Three will discuss the interplay between local and global dimensions of Education and Learning with a specific reference to the Learning Region model.

Section Four will consider ways to overcome tensions and dilemmas by presenting a future scenario based on Third-Culture Building that may stem the emergence of a new paradigm for Learning and Development.


1.1      PROLOGUE

In 1994 the first free elections in South Africa marked the end of decades of segregation and discrimination, a time known to all as the Apartheid-era. The education perspective of the old regime affected both the oppressors and the oppressed, as it subjected the white population to indoctrination, whereas it served as a tool of repression towards the disenfranchised majority. Society as a whole internalized the essence of such approach, along with relevant discriminatory and repressive policies that established a form of unsustainable development that was “not based on improving the living conditions of the majority of South Africans.” (UNDP, 2003, p. xv) The new democratic government embarked on a reform voyage to redress the widespread level of inequality and establish a new socio-economic framework for the country. The task has not been easy.


There seems to be a general consensus that education is central to development (Toffler, 1984).  As Ackoff (1984) states, “development is a product of learning, not of production.” Furthermore, he believes that development is not defined by what people have, but by their ability to “do with whatever they have to improve their quality of life and that of others.” (Ackoff, 1984) To that effect, I believe that education is a pivotal means by which the Government and civil society organizations can address the imbalances currently affecting the country.

The 2003 UNDP report evidenced following challenges confronting the future of Sustainable Development[1] in South Africa: the eradication of poverty and extreme income and wealth inequalities; the provision of access to quality and affordable basic services to all South Africans, especially the poor; the promotion of environmental sustainability; a sustained reduction in the unemployment rate; and the attainment of sustainable high growth rates.

The above agrees with general ideas of Sustainable Development, which suggests a worldview that supports healthy, fulfilling, and economically secure lives for all without destroying the environment and endangering the future welfare of people and the planet. It is a complex proposition that implies a strong interconnection between several levels of sustainability, including environmental, social, and cultural, which will be addressed in section two.


Following the end of Apartheid, the African National Congress transitioned from its original function as popular movement into its new role as the leading government force, causing a shift in education and development policies. Such change highlights a clear distinction between state and civil society organizations. Whereas the 1994 ANC Policy Framework for Education and Training laid out the vision for future education policies informed by a progressive populist tradition, the later establishment of the National Qualifications Framework in 1995 marked a shift towards institutional/bureaucratic education policies.

Today we witness a variegated scenario of civil society organizations carrying out their populist missions, whereas governmental agencies and the state act mainly within the context of their institutional/bureaucratic tradition. (Walters, 2006) The latter has been sustained in subsequent national legislation, notably the 1998 Skills Development Act and the 2000 Adult Basic Education and Training Act (ABET), which constitute the legislative basis for a government-regulated approach to education that may require the intervention of the private sector and other organizations.  I believe such conditions may suffer from governmentability, defined as “a form of power that is exercised through an ensemble of institutions, procedures, analyses, and reflections, which results in the formation of a specific governmental apparatus.” (Foucault, 1991)


South Africa is a microcosm of inequalities. Access to education still eludes the vast majority, mainly due to lack of available financial resources and appropriate investments. This concurs in maintaining the status quo, with a rich minority living alongside a very large, poor segment of South Africa’s population. (UNDP, 2003)

In a 2007 study conducted in the Richmond District, KwaZulu-Natal, interviewees identified several barriers to education related to three main categories: poverty and unemployment; social breakdown; and health issues. (Land, 2006)

Such findings revealed the inability of established policies to break through the wall of destitution and despair that is still marginalizing the largest share of the population.



This section will present two of the main perspectives that inform development and education policies in South Africa. They are rooted in sociological and political discourses and are relevant to the understanding of current and future strategies.

2.2      Modernization

This theory views development as directly related to the economic growth derived from the expansion of modern civilization.  Rostow (1960) suggests that Modernization Theory pursues the establishment of an industrial, capitalist society. Accordingly, each society has the potential to evolutionarily move through stages of development, from traditional to the highest level, this latter being epitomized by the United States. The assumption is that eventually each traditional society will benefit from such transformation. Modernization has justified a “trickle down” politics whereby rich countries have supported development efforts in what became known as “the Third World” without really aiding the local efforts towards economic self-sufficiency.

Education policies derived from Modernization Theory stress the building of Human Capital, i.e. the individual capacity to contribute to a country’s economic progress and to produce personal income through investment in education and skill formation. Both Modernization and Human Capital Theory view development as an exquisitely economic issue. (Youngman, 2000)

2.3      Populism

Populism embodies the criticism towards Modernization and its failing “catch-up” model. It developed in the 1980’s as a new creed based on local self-reliance and “people-centered” ideals, embracing issues of feminism, environmentalism and ethnic diversity. From my understanding, Populism offers at least two approaches: the reformist approach engages people in finding solutions within the existing structures; the “libertarian” approach seeks to “restore ultimate decision-making power to citizens.” (Evanoff, 2001)

Populism is critical of the role of the state in education. Conversely, it supports intervention by non-governmental and voluntary associations that would work towards a broader participative education spectrum. It seeks to empower individuals and groups, and in that regard Populism echoes what Fenwick (2001) calls a “radical experiential learning perspective”, which views educators as promoters of consciousness. That in turn mirrors the language of Freire’s Dependency Theory (1970), which opposes both Modernization and currently widespread neo-liberal discourses.

I suggest that, in its most current form, Populism may have moved away from the historic Marxism-Capitalism dichotomy and embraced a broader glocal[2] agenda of issues of economic, cultural, and environmental relevance. In this context, Populism supports some key ideas that are relevant to development and learning. Next follows the example of two intertwined aspects of populist discourses: sustainability and people-centered development.

2.3.1   Sustainability

As mentioned earlier, sustainability considers environmental factors fundamental in any development approach. Natural resources are limited and vulnerable to the damage caused by reckless industrialization. Such thoughts find resonance in The Third Way philosophy that sees development “more in terms of personal, ecological, community and cultural welfare and progress than in terms of the mere accumulation of economic wealth.” (Trainer, 1989, in Youngman, 2000) This finds acceptance in the 2003 UNDP South Africa Report that links sustainable development to the need to unlock people’s potential capabilities and creativity to allow them “to fulfill their aspirations.” (UNDP, 2003, p.xv)

2.3.2   People-centered development

David Korten (1984) defines People-Centered Development as “an approach to development that looks to the creative initiative of people as the primary development resource and to their material and spiritual well-being as the end that the development process serves.” (p.201) Accordingly, People-Centered Development values local initiatives and diversity and “favors self-organizing systems developed around human-scale organizational units and self-reliant communities.” (p.300)


To understand the issues, it is important to consider the relevant terminology.

2.4.1   Adult Education

This term highlights the bureaucratic aspect of education emphasizing its two main functions: personal development for the middle classes, and basic education for the poor. (Walters, 2006) The concept is premised on Modernization Theory.

2.4.2   Adult Learning

This is a holistic concept “embedded in the political, social, cultural and economic processes of society.” (Walters, 2006) It promotes the use of new language that covers the diversity found in the education world and emphasizes the value of learning communities. It is premised on Populist Theory[3], particularly on its emphasis on people-centered education and small-scale learning projects.

2.4.3   Lifelong Learning (LLL)

This is a contested concept. As an example, The Cologne Charter on LLL (1999) reflects an institutional Western view of LLL, calling for a commitment by governments and the private sector to enhance education and training at all levels; and by individuals, to develop their own abilities and careers.

With regard to education and learning, the South African scenario appears as a combination of progressive and institutional approaches as defined below. As a people-centered form of learning, LLL may favourably impact current living conditions in South Africa and help remedy the fragmentation affecting its learning universe. Next I suggest two ways of looking at LLL, freely adapted from Walter’s article (2006).

a) Progressive tradition, based on Social Capital Theory

This approach to LLL promotes democracy and citizenship; respect for diversity; social change; personal responsibility; and critical, socially engaged thinking as put forth in John Dewey’s progressive views on education.[4] It also suggests a holistic approach to learning and is supported by Populism and Social Capital Theory, defined as “norms and networks facilitating collective actions for mutual benefits.” (Woolcock, 1998, p 155) Walters (2005) reminds us how social capital is based on “trust”, “community”, “partnerships” and “networks”, essentially the key ingredients of Dewey’s thought.

This tradition covers activities such as “capacity building”, “staff development”, “health promotion”, “skills training” and “community development”. (Walters, 2006, p.14)  Its ultimate goal is the promotion of widespread Active Citizenship as a way to implement people’s participation and growth in civil society, as postulated in the 1998 UNESCO’s Mumbai Declaration:

[Active citizenship] “connects individuals and groups to the structures of social, political and economic activity in both local and global contexts, and emphasises women and men as agents of their own history in all aspects of their lives.” (UIE, 1998)

b) Institutional bureaucratic tradition based on Human Capital Theory

Premised on the promotion of human resources development, this type of LLL follows an economy-based approach informed by Theodore Schultz’s Human Capital Theory and supported by Modernization. In its more progressive form, it relates to reformist and Social Democratic views.


3.1      LOcal and globaL dimensions of education and learning

This section will discuss the interconnection of the local and global dimensions of development and education discourses in South Africa. It will suggest some definitions for such complex processes and present the case of the Learning Cape as an example of global/local interplay.


The first part of the course saw an interesting discussion on defining local and global learning. We agreed that local and global learning are interconnected; the spatial dimension of local/global learning is altered by information technology; local/global learning has revived learning in civil society.[5]

I would add that glocal learning occurs at the interface of intercultural communication dynamics and suggests an understanding of human interactions across cultural boundaries, including cultural differences and people’s diverse communication styles, values and beliefs. Therefore global learning occurs within a collaborative and transformational context of local networks. Eventually, global learning processes may promote a cultural shift that could ultimately redefine people’s identities on a personal and potentially global scale.

3.3      THE Learning Region MODEL

Here is a definition of “learning region” that appears congruent with the previous analysis of local/global learning.

“The term “Learning Region” is used to identify regions that are innovative, economically successful, and inhabited by active and engaged citizens. Such regions are characterized by strong linkages between local businesses, community groups and education providers. Information and communications technology may enhance the efforts of regions to achieve sustainable economic success by improving the quality of information flows within a region.” (Toland and Yoong)

Walters (2005) believes that a learning region can promote citizenship and democracy by focusing attention on the interconnectedness and interdependence of the local and the global. These ideas stress the importance of social capital and establish a holistic platform for local cooperation. They relate to my previous discussion of local and global education; active citizenship and sustainability, typical of the “progressive tradition” of LLL. Additionally, by developing mutual trust, it is possible to build a web of constructive relationships among the local government, agencies, citizens groups and the variegated universe actively engaged in civil society.

This type of learning context is supported by constructivist views such as Knowles’ (1984) that support a learning environment based on trust, authenticity, integrity, mutual respect, and patience. In South Africa this approach may serve as both tool and context for overcoming decades of polarized enmity. The learning region may establish and promote a society that “is dependent on partnerships and collaborations of multiple kinds both for economic development and greater social cohesion.” (Walters, 2005)

3.4      The Learning Cape Festival (LCF)

In a 2001 whitepaper (PAWC 2001) the Western Cape provincial government recognized the pivotal link between learning and development within the context of the Learning Cape region. (Walters, 2005) That led in 2004 to the creation of the Company for Economic Development in a Learning Province, shortly The Learning Cape[6], as a “vehicle for the promotion of LLL and the creation of a world-class learning region within the province.” (The Learning Cape, 2009)

The Learning Cape provides a “troubled space for possibilities” (Walters, 2006) in a province with a population of 4.5 million, where 67% of people live below the poverty line, with 24% unemployment, where 30% of adults are illiterate and 78% of preschoolers do not have access to early childhood development opportunities. (Walters, 2005)

One of the projects organized every year is the Learning Cape Festival (LCF), which relies on the cooperative efforts of all sectors of society, including “higher education, civil society, trade unions, business, local government, libraries, and the Department of Education.”(Walters, 2005)

Following a progressive tradition, the LCF “aims to create awareness that LLL is an important way of addressing past imbalances in access to education.” (The Learning Cape, 2009)


4.1      Overcoming tensions and dilemmas: an Intercultural perspective

In this paper I have presented LLL and the tension between Modernization and Populist approaches. My next comments will focus on the LCF, a transformational opportunity involving all sectors of society and extending its scope from the local to the global arena.

Within these dynamics, there is an all-encompassing presence of intercultural issues that have not been adequately addressed beyond their mere recognition. Constitutionally guaranteed racial equality does not exempt from discussing such issues.

4.2      A General-systems perspective

The CLF serves as a viable approach to co-operation that merges “romance”, “vision”, and structural intervention within a diversified education framework of agencies, people, stakeholders, and individuals. It creates opportunities for institutional structures to “connect up” with agencies and organizations that are the expression of civil society. This holistic, systems-based, and complex scenario can only be appreciated through “telescopic” lenses (Walters, 2006), i.e. within a General-systems approach.

4.3      The Intercultural Dimension of LLL

The Intercultural Communication dimension of education and development in South Africa is premised primarily on the actual cultural and language variations found in the population, and finds recognition in the broader discourse on globalization, education, and development.

A comprehensive discussion on LLL should value South Africa’s multilingual, multicultural and multiethnic make-up and recognize that the dynamics of communication in such complex web of cultures greatly affect cooperative efforts and dialogue. Such composite cultural scenario is by no means a marginal factor in education policies. In fact, I like to see it as the platform on which to build any viable project.

4.4      Third-Culture (TC) Building and possible future scenarios

Elaborating, defining and enacting new effective policies for Adult Learning in South Africa may seem like a Herculean task. Society-building processes need to clarify what kind of transformation is envisioned in South Africa and towards what model the country is moving.

A Third-Culture context may provide a flexible framework for future LLL developments. “When dialogue between people from different cultures begins, we can also speak of an integrated ‘third culture’ perspective in sociological terms. When third-culture individuals from different cultures begin working together with each other, they may evolve entirely new ways of doing things.” (Evanoff, 2001)

Synergy may be the key to the success of TC building. It is loosely defined as “the relational interdependence” that constitutes the building block of TC development. (Shuter, 1993) Any synergistic approach should be based on a shared vision of a new emerging paradigm, a vision not enforced from the top down. Casmir (1993) called it an approach “from the bottom up,” which resonates with Walters’ “connect up” model. (2006)

By going beyond tolerance and integration, we may reach an advanced stage of intercultural connectedness resulting from a process of transformation. As in the case of the LCF, in this “‘generative’ stage entirely new forms of culture are creatively produced,” (Evanoff, 2001, p.25).


Adult Education in South Africa still suffers from an overproduction of bureaucracy remindful of Apartheid-era policies. (Walters, 2006) To escape such conundrum, it is necessary to move from Education to Learning. Lifelong Learning provides a perspective of hope by which South Africans will be able to conquer current dramatic economic and social difficulties. It will help design education policies that will promote Active global Citizenship.

The LCF provides a valuable context where people, civil society organizations and local government may achieve a cultural transformation based on the interplay of local and global factors. Dialogue may develop out of trust and openness and promote the emergence of a culture of multiple views and value systems. (Bohm, 1996) Third-Culture building may lead to a “generative stage” entailing the possibility of both personal and social transformation (Evanoff, 2001) that will transcend mere tolerance and emerge into a new stage of human co-operation. This may sound like an experiment, but I believe it is something worthwhile trying.


Ackoff, R., (1984) “On the Nature of Development and Planning”, in Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R., People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press

Bohm, D., & Nichol, L. (1996). On dialogue. London: Routledge

Casmir, F. (1993) in Third-culture building: A paradigm shift for international and intercultural communication. Communication Yearbook. 16, 407-428

Cologne Charter, Aims and Ambitions for Lifelong Learning (1999), adopted be the 25th G8 Summit in Cologne, Germany, 18-20 June Accessed on Sept. 5, 2009 at

Evanoff, R. (2001) Discussion Paper on intercultural dialogue and education. UNU – United Nations University Accessed on September 2, 2009 at

Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at

Foucault, M. (1991) “Governmentality” In The Foucault Effect, edited by G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Mills, pp. 87-104. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. [New York]: Herder and Herder

Knowles, M. (1984) The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company

Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R. (1984). People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press.

Land, S. (2006). Barriers to education faced by educationally deprived adults in

Muthukrishna, N. (ed.) Mapping Barriers to Basic Education in the Context of HIV and AIDS: A Report on Research conducted in the Richmond District, KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg: School of Education and Development, University of Kwazulu Natal.

Rostow, W. W. (1960). The stages of economic growth, A non-Communist manifesto. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press.

Shuter, R. (1993). On third culture building. Communication Yearbook. 16, 429-436.

The Learning Cape, web page, accessed on Sept. 3, 2009

Toffler, A. (1984) “Third Wave Development: Gandhi with Satellites,” in Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R., People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press

Toland, J. and Yoong, P. (ND) A Framework to Evaluate Learning Regions:

The ‘7-I’ Approach, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Accessed on Sept. 10, 2009 at

Trainer, F. E. (1989). Developed to death: Rethinking Third World development. London: Green Print

UIE, UNESCO Institute for Education, (1998) The Mumbai Statement on Lifelong learning, Active Citizenship and the Reform of Higher Education. Hamburg

United Nations Development Programme- UNDP (2003). South Africa Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press. Accessed on August 19, 2009 at

Walters, S. (2006). Adult learning within lifelong learning: a different lens, a different light, Journal of Education, No. 39 Adult Education Special Focus Edition, Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal

Walters, S. (2005) Optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect: Building communities of trust in South Africa. The annual Q-Africa Conference at Gallagher Estate, 16-17 November 2005. Accessed on Sept 9, 2009 at

Woolcock, M. (1998). Social capital and economic development: Toward a theoretical synthesis and policy framework. THEORY AND SOCIETY. 27 (2), 151-208.

Youngman, F. (2000). Adult Education and Development Theory in The Political Economy of Adult Education & Development, (Chapter 4). London: Zed Press.


On John Dewey

Cologne Charter on Lifelong Learning

A Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, EU Commission

The Learning Cape

David Bohm: On Dialogue, On-line version:

Journal of Intercultural Communication, Goteborg universitet

Pamala Morris’ Training Module on Building Cultural Competencies:

Milton Bennett’s Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS):

On Global Education:

Coyote #13, Intercultural Dialogue

[1] Sustainable Development is a widely-used term that offers many interpretations. Its first wording is found in 1987 in The Brundtland Report, also known as Our Common Future, published by the U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development. It read as follows: “Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

[2] By definition, the term “glocal” refers to the individual, group, division, unit, organisation, and community which is willing and able to “think globally and act locally.” The term has been used to show the human capacity to bridge scales (from local to global) and to help overcome meso-scale, bounded, “little-box” thinking. From:

[3] It is also used in Dependency Theory, which has not been discussed in this paper for lack of space

[4] For a summary of Dewey’s ideas and work, see this link:

[5] View the summary of Samarbeta’s discussion forum at: Log in required.

[6] Excerpt from :  “Ours is a vehicle for collaborative partners to nurture a culture of lifelong learning within the Western Cape. We believe public awareness campaigns and projects will demystify the concept of learning, promote the benefits of education and learning, and share the pitfalls of not learning or not being educated. Our people will become aware of learning benefits. Their interests in learning will grow. […] Together we will develop participatory methodologies that engage and support, learning and educational opportunities with our partners.”

ect of such vision. RECOMMENDATIONSRECOM

4 Responses


    Dear Oscar

    Assignment 1 feedback

    Thank you for completing this essay. You have focused on the topic and have succeeded in presenting a coherent analysis of theoretical perspectives on development which are evident in development and education policies in South Africa. Your comments on the context within which policies have emerged in South Africa demonstrate an understanding of the broad political and socio-economic pressures as well as some specific features of educational reform in South Africa, such as the need to transform institutional structure to benefit all within society.

    Your overview of the theoretical perspectives underpinning the development agenda in South Africa was competently done. However, you could have presented some critiques of these perspectives.

    Your acknowledges that the task of transformation South African society is not straight forward and suggests a mechanism/strategy, namely “third-culture” as a process involving ‘cultural negotiations’ to collectively seek societal solutions.

    You suggest that by adopting a LLL approach and moving from education to learning active citizenship will be promoted (p.13). This argument requires problemitisation since LLL is not value free. Second, mass education as strategy of modernisation places the responsibility on the state to provide education for all. Conversely, focussing on learning as an individual responsibility with state responsibility almost completely absent suggests a neo-liberal agenda.

    Your comments on how tensions and dilemmas in these policies can be overcome make persuasive points on the need to recognise the complexity of the challenges, to integrate initiatives in different policy areas and hold contradictory elements in some kind of equivalence.

    All these discussions have been clearly formulated and substantiated well, with references to the literature. Overall, your essay demonstrates a creative engagement with the topic and receives a well-deserved “Excellent”.


  2. I am a second year social science student at the University of South Africa. Need to know more of people centered development

  3. as a good start, you may want to read:
    Korten, D. C., & Klauss, R. (1984). People-centered development: Contributions toward theory and planning frameworks. West Hartford, Conn: Kumarian Press.

  4. I understand. If you are struggling with the material, you should discuss the issue within your cohort of co-learners and teachers/tutors. This is what the ALGC is all about. Learning emerges from personal and shared reflections. The on-line platform offers plenty of room to further understanding of the issues. Discussing that with your learning partner or other participants is also a good option. cheers.

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