Challenging the institutional bias in research on education - multiplicities of learning processes in Africa
Iris Clemens, General Education, University of Bayreuth
Erdmute Alber, Social Anthropology, University of Bayreuth
In our interdisciplinary panel, we want to investigate learning processes in the African context in a broad sense and work out their necessary multiplicity. By stressing the relationality of any learning situation, we highlight the interwoven net of narratives, persons, artefacts, ideas, practices etc. that constitutes learning processes in Africa.
Since the inception of universities in Europe, scholars have perceived universities as global institutions, dedicated to universal knowledge, with one language of scholars and the mobility of faculty and students. But it was only during colonialism and the massive expansion of the higher education system in the postcolonial era, that the Euro-American university turned into the global model for organizing knowledge production and advanced training. The university in a globalised world is an institution embedded in its immediate and global environment. It has to respond to local and global expectations at the same time. In African countries the global expectations of external actors are not only connected to normative, but also financial power. This poses problems when the expectations and demands of local society and global actors diverge. So the question arises whether universities in African countries are challenging western notions of higher education or whether external western actors, their interventions and influences challenge or hinder the development of African universities that speak to the needs and demands of the societies they are supposed to serve. Furthermore: “What is the purpose of universities? What role should they play in national and international development strategies, and whom should they serve?” Competing higher education policy imperatives, or “management fads in higher education”, trouble notions of nationally-constituted, nationally-funded, and nationally-regulated universities, and call for an exploration of de-nationalized higher education models. What kinds of politics should a public university pursue, and what kinds of knowledge should count? Universities have long been and continue to be key sites of social change in Sub-Saharan African countries. The panel invites papers that discuss the above mentioned questions against the backdrop of a possible African higher education model.