Prof Rouaan Maarman, the Deputy Dean for Research, has been busy since the advent of the pandemic to influence the way we think about basic education in the midst of fast changing social and technological realities. After publishing three opinion pieces in 2020 and multiple media engagements on various platforms, Prof Maarman has taken a prominent role in engaging the DBE, nationally and provincially, to pursue a social justice agenda with the basic education enterprise. He has been invited to address The BRIDGE Foundation in their Principals Upfront Dialogue Series on the role of school leadership during the pandemic, and has shared a platform with the newly appointed National Planning Commissioner for Education, Prof Mary Metcalfe. Prof Maarman’s address focused on the state of the schooling system and how we can respond with ethical leadership in our schools.
In February of 2022 he delivered a keynote address to the Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) Curriculum Strengthening Forum which was attended by over 320 high school subject advisors across the Western Cape province. His address revolved around the big educational challenges of our time: curriculum strength, education system dynamics in a post COVID-19 world, and classroom success. Research done in the Faculty of Education over the last decade has raised pertinent issues regarding the direction of basic education in the country, and its response to the societal realities schools are facing post COVID-19. Maarman’s central message was that we have to reimagine schooling settings in order to ensure curriculum strength is built, maintained and advanced to address youth unemployment in South Africa.
In September 2022 he was invited to address the History Subject advisors of the province in their Advisory Workshop. In his address Maarman linked the teaching of History in high schools to the challenge of preparing learners for university studies. He engaged the subject advisors around the pedagogies of change in the History subject and the value of History for South African youth. He also highlighted the continuum of avoidance, containment and risk-taking prevalent in History classrooms in South Africa and how subject advisors can mitigate the “elephants in the room” in History teaching.
At the end of September Prof Maarman participated in the DBE’s national Consultative Workshop on Formulating a Competence Framework for the school curriculum. Given that the DBE is attempting to strengthen the school curriculum, a series of workshops are being run to inform the content of the values, skills, knowledge and overall competencies of the envisaged South African school leaver. This process will result in the presentation of a draft framework to be consulted nationally in 2023. Maarman’s contributions in this workshop highlighted the political dynamics of basic education, the poverty and wider contextual factors in which the curriculum must be pursued, and the policy hurdles and teacher challenges to be overcome to drive an emancipatory agenda in teaching. He regards the “lifeworthiness” of the school curriculum as a neglected notion as it is one aspect that feeds into the current youth unemployment in South Africa. These engagements are based on research done at UWC in the Faculty of Education and they contribute to the national basic education discourse.
Prof Rouaan Maarman is the Deputy Dean for Research in the Faculty of Education at the University of the Western Cape specialising in poverty and education. He is frequently invited to commentate on basic education matters and the state of basic education in South Africa.