Development Agendas in a Changing World
Edited by Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz and Pedro Roffe
Chapter 12: Education and Access to Knowledge in Southern Africa
Andrew Rens, Achal Prabhala and Dick Kawooya1 INTRODUCTION As a concept, knowledge covers vast ground and has multiple meanings. In the present day, it is frequently encountered through the term ‘knowledge economy’, which is usually used to refer to the importance of knowledge as a contemporary commodity – an undeniable fact, even if it puts a big idea in a utilitarian cage. Consequently, it becomes important to acknowledge both the normative and pragmatic foundations of this concept. As Peter Drahos succinctly puts it: ‘Knowledge underpins everything, including economies’.2 It is therefore appropriately difficult to exhaustively list elements of the issues to consider under a campaign for ‘Access to Knowledge’ (‘A2K’). To circumscribe ‘knowledge’ would be a foolhardy exercise; instead, the campaign – as with this chapter – deals with conventionally identifiable elements of curricular and self-administered learning. ‘Access’ is a similarly fraught term. One could begin by considering that knowledge is accrued in different ways, by both the structured system of education and cultural encounters at large. One might consider that access to these resources can be by different means: the printed and spoken word, television, the Internet, and many other media. It is also worth considering that systems of learning must be compliant with learners’ needs, in the case of either disabled learners or distance learners, to name but two possible groupings. Access to learning materials is one aspect of access to knowledge. Although for the purpose of analysis we might divide access to learning materials into issues of bulk access or...
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