A group of 400 education academics gathered in Cape Town this week to deliberate a range of topics – from systemic educational reform to classroom pedagogy – at the South African Education Research Association (SAERA)'s 4th annual conference.
Stellenbosch University played host to this conference which was held from 23-26 October, and which drew participants from South Africa, the rest of Africa, South America, Australia, the Middle East, the USA and Europe.
The conference theme was "Reimagining Education: Poetics, Practices and Pedagogies" and its aim was to contribute to a knowledge base that builds on research being done to reimagine education in the light of the complex and diverse challenges.
According to Prof Aslam Fataar, Vice-Dean: Research at the Faculty of Education at SU and coordinator of the conference's local organising committee, the theme elicited some exciting conversations based on the latest educational research done all over the country and beyond.
"The theme indicates the necessity of thinking and working through some of the most intractable problems in education, but it also suggests the need for a rupture with outmoded ways of thinking about education and the need for complex out-of-the-box ideas of how education works."
A total of 300 individual papers were presented, as well as three exceptionally generative keynote addresses. The conference also included 34 symposium panel sessions, 11 special interest group sessions, and five development workshop sessions.
"The packed programme was a testimony to the education academic community's ability to respond to important research challenges in education. The topics were wide ranging, incisive and relevant, addressing major issues in education as well as signposting a very relevant and fascinating research agenda.
"The conference succeeded in advancing the objective of showcasing cutting-edge research and debate in educational reform and renewal, and providing a platform for the ongoing development of junior academics," added Prof Fataar.
At the gala dinner, the prize for best doctoral thesis award was awarded to Dr Talitha Calitz from the University of Free State. Her thesis is entitled: "Agency and access through digital narratives: An application of the capabilities approach to academic literacy at a South African university."
Dr Kathleen Pothouse-Morgan from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and her fellow authors received the award for best article for their piece titled: "Learning through co-flexivity in a transdisciplinary self-study research supervision community."
SU's Vice-Rector: Research, Prof Eugene Cloete, delivered the keynote address at the conference's gala dinner and called on delegates to fundamentally rethink the way education is delivered.
At the conference, a statement in respect of the current universities crisis was adopted. It emphasised support for free education for poor students and decolonising the curriculum, calling on universities to remain places of safety and on SAERA to develop a research agenda to take these objectives forward.