Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
Transition or transformation? Negotiating the interim history syllabus in South Africa in the early 1990s
Michelle Friedman

Última modificación: 2017-07-17


During apartheid, the history curriculum in schools was used as a tool of indoctrination in order to justify white supremacy and white domination. In the early 1990s, the period of transition towards a democratic South Africa, many progressive historians, history educators and history teachers were filled with a sense of excitement and possibility of what history education and history teaching could become in a post-apartheid South Africa. They believed that a new school history curriculum would be progressive and expansive and would engage with both new content and current trends within the field of history education. However, when the interim curriculum was presented in 1995, there was little change and the apartheid syllabus remained largely intact. Why did this happen? This paper will argue that the politics of compromise that dictated the terms of political negotiation were replicated in the field of education and particularly in the drawing up of a new history curriculum.  It will highlight the struggle that took place between two dominant but divergent voices as to what a new history curriculum would look like. On the one hand, there was the official voice, represented by existing apartheid bureaucrats from the Department of National Education who supported a transitional curriculum. On the other, there were progressive history educators and historians, representing a democratic and alternative voice, who argued for a transformational curriculum.

Through an examination of the body of literature generated by historians and curriculum developers, policy documents and interviews, this paper will analyse the contestation between these two voices on history education, within the context of a fraught and discordant political situation. What does become clear is that the new history interim curriculum was a product of its time. Transitional politics determined the form and the process of history curriculum reform. During this period, the more conservative forces held-sway and the question of transformation of the history curriculum was left unaddressed.