The trajectory of the shifts in academic and civic identity in South African and English secondary school History National Curriculums across two key reform moments

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis seeks to explore the trajectories of the kinds of academic and civic identities that four different history curriculums would seek to produce. The curriculum documents chosen are two South African (Curriculum 2005 [1997] and the Curriculum and Policy Statement [2011]) and two English (the first national curriculum [1991] and the most recent [2014] Secondary history national curriculum). These curriculums have been chosen in part because of the historical connections the two countries share, as well as the relationships that exist between the history educationalists in the two contexts. The theoretical underpinning for the discussion of identity are Bernstein's concepts of instructional and regulative discourse. In addition to examining the shifts in imagined identity, the other question which the thesis seeks to answer is that of the underlying purpose of school history. Three ideal types were therefore developed in relation to the three dominant ways of viewing the purpose of history education that emerges in history education literature. The academic and civic identities were analysed through the construction of an analytic framework developed through an iterative process of engaging with the data and history education literature. A framework was also developed to consider the degree to which the four curriculum documents conform to the three ideal types. The shifts in overall purpose and identity within the two contexts are striking. The first English national curriculum saw a tension between a focus on developing history students who had a strong sense of national identity and using constructivist models that teach the students the knowledge base of the subject. Curriculum 2005 instead focused on attempting to create students who were actively engaged with the problems of their current day situation. By the second English national curriculum, this focus on making connections to current day challenges had been introduced in addition to continuing concerns about national identity and understanding the way in which historians work. The Curriculum and Policy Statement reform in South Africa brought greater concerns for developing historical thinking, but nevertheless retained a focus on actively engaged citizenship.