Engineering Education in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Why We Need a Society Theory of Education

Event Date: October 16, 2014
Speaker: Nicky Wolmarans
Speaker Affiliation: Academic Development Lecture, Civil Engineering
University of Cape Town
Time: 3:30-4:20pm
Location: ARMS B071
The higher education landscape in South Africa is fraught with challenges inherited from the legacies of apartheid, but also with abundant opportunities.

Within this landscape the engineering programs at UCT have a long history of academic development interventions aimed at disrupting the educational consequences of apartheid. Despite these interventions, the stark differentials in success rates between different racial groups that persist 20 years into democracy have challenged us as engineering education researchers to look towards social theories of education. Within this community of researchers we have variously worked with theories from Pierre Bourdieu, Margaret Archer and Basil Bernstein to supplement engineering education research. My own work in engineering design education draws on Basil Bernstein's (2000) theories of differential knowledge production, transmission and acquisition. In this seminar I will make a case for theory-lead education research as a means to go beyond empirical description in search of causal relations. However, I will locate the theory in the very rich context of an engineering degree program at an elite, research-intensive South African University as we struggle to overcome the persistent social consequence of apartheid.


Nicky Wolmarans is an Academic Development Lecturer in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Cape Town. She holds a BSc and MSc in Mechanical Engineering and is currently registered for a PhD in the School of Education. Her undergraduate teaching spans fluid mechanics, solid mechanics and design, but with a particular interest in making explicit the discourse of engineering. She also contributes to a postgraduate course in knowledge and curriculum in a Higher Education Studies Program.