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SEARCHING FOR WAYS TO DECOLONISE SCIENCE FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE

L. Reddy

University of Johannesburg (SOUTH AFRICA)
Whilst it is a futile attempt to discard generations and generations of knowledge accumulation, it is however, possible to fill intellectual spaces with Pan African solutions to global challenges in science, and in particular physics. Africans can contribute to the global village of knowledge in science by initiating and driving local projects and agendas that could improve the economy and contribute to the world at large. Some of these projects could range from purification of water to green energy, to mention a few. As a developing country, our education system has a global agenda associated with it, in that we pursue an internationally based curriculum, we use a language of instruction that is strictly biased towards English and that we assess out students’ knowledge skills in science through internationally benchmarked tests. In respect to the latter we are placed almost at the bottom of the class in such tests and our students’ competence levels are below our international counterparts per grade level of comparison. To get a sense of some of these issues, and other pertinent questions relating to decolonisation of science, a survey questionnaire has been developed and administered to both staff and university students of a South African university for this research. The conceptual framework for this study is underpinned by globalisation comparisons of both developed and developing nations in the world. For statistical evaluations, staff and students’ responses to the 12 questions of the questionnaire, either as a percentage or in the form of comments were considered. The results reveal that students have a limited idea of what decolonisation of science is compared to the staff. Of the combined 100 staff and students surveyed, 47% of them were not in favour of science being decolonised while 26% of them were in favour. A further 17% of them were totally unsure of what this concept meant. Many of the staff was in affirmation that the current physics examples, units and problems in the textbooks should be revised but not the content. Utterances by a UCT student about the scrapping of science and starting all over again has been vehemently discarded by both staff and students at this university. This paper is an attempt (and not wholly) to search for innovative ways to decolonise science from a South African perspective.