Loosely described (by scholars in the field), pedagogy is the art of teaching. Different practices are informed by different educational philosophies and their assumptions about learning, the intellectual learning of a child, teaching style, and curricula.

Conservative or closed pedagogy sees learning as the absorption of specific bodies of knowledge, the child’s ability as determined by hereditary and environmental factors external to the school, the appropriate teaching style as one where teachers are [experts], and have authority over pupils, and direct the learning of subordinates, and the curriculum as the relevant class room knowledge as defined by teachers.

Liberal or open pedagogy conceives of learning as a process and not the acquisition of specific knowledge, the child’s mind as capable of development, teaching as simply guiding this development, and curricula as tailored to suit the pupils’ own expressed interests.

The interpretation of ‘progressive’ and ‘child centred’ teaching methods have been a long standing discourse since the 60’s. Notably here, is the work of Paulo Freire (a Brazilian); who argued it has radical political implications because it emphasises personal autonomy rather than social control, others claim that fully developed ‘progressive’ methods are rarely found beyond the early years of primary school and are unlikely to have any lasting influence on attitudes, or that open pedagogy reflects the middle class value system and is therefore unlikely to have radical implications beyond school.

Others scholars like Bernstein; Suggest that the move towards the integrated studies, an aspect of this pedagogy, may alter the power structure within then teaching staff. In principle, it also disturb traditional authority relations between and pupils, though in practice teachers resist change. The power of the hidden curriculum and the manner in which schools modify ‘progressive’ in practice suggest that pedagogical practices remain fundamentally conservative.

In this interesting work, Mandisa Mndela in her own unique way re-joins thee discourse on pedagogy in a didactical way. She does so, in a practical and/or pragmatic way by attempting to actualise theoretical and conceptual frameworks of analysis on the discourse.

Of importance here, is that she eschews methodological debates on the subject but rather uses her own personal experiences as child of privileged to a neglected and abused youngster, a teenage mother, a failed marriage and a single parent provider, coming from Umtata in South Africa Mandisa has endured and analysed vast dimensions of life, acquiring insights which have propelled her to inhabit her role as an author, life enthusiast, a significant contributor to the body of knowledge, and an education thought leader.

In more than many ways her work, is an interesting piece of art for those interested in curriculum development/advancement and the dynamics thereof.

Leslie Dikeni:

Urban Sociologist and Author of South African Development in Question, Habitat and Struggle and co-editor Poverty of Ideas: The Retreat of Intellectuals in New democracies