Curriculum innovations and the ‘politics of legitimacy’ in teachers’ discourse and practice in a Mozambican primary school

Alderuccio, Michela Chiara (2017) Curriculum innovations and the ‘politics of legitimacy’ in teachers’ discourse and practice in a Mozambican primary school. Doctoral thesis (EdD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

In 2004, Mozambique introduced a new competency-based curriculum framed around the
principles of culturally responsive pedagogy. Teachers need to strategically use local languages,
traditions and culture to build on what children bring from home and share with their families to
bridge the gap between schools and communities.

This study is a qualitative ethnography of the teaching and learning process in one suburban
primary school in Mozambique. The aims of the study were to explore teachers’ ideas, values, and
understanding about the teaching and learning process, and to reflect on how these views, which
are manifested in their classroom practices, influenced the implementation of curriculum changes
at the classroom level. The study conceptualised the new educational policy in Mozambique as a
discourse that has introduced in the field of teachers’ practices new pedagogic possibilities and
frame of references.

Informal conversations, interviews, and observations of lessons and school dynamics were the
main methods used for the process of data collection. Teachers, students, parents and community
members participated in the study. Ethnography as methodology offered the possibility to gain
multi-layered insights into those contextual, social, and cultural realities around which teachers
create meanings for their roles and actions, attribute significance to them, and build relations with
students, parents, and community members. Understanding how these realities were represented
and reproduced in teachers’ discourse and practice was regarded as a precondition to interrogating
teachers’ interpretations of changes.

The study combined a Bourdieusian sociological analysis of the teaching and learning process with
a postcolonial critique. Whereas Bourdieu’s tools of field, habitus and capital supported an
understanding of the ‘whys’ behind what is going on at classroom level and the cultural and
ideological assumptions underpinning teachers’ practices, a postcolonial critique exposed the rules
of classification and exclusion underpinning the ‘hows’ of teachers’ pedagogies.

The findings of the study showed that the pedagogic discourse of the new curriculum does not
resonate with teachers’ understanding of their roles, practices and professional identities. The
conception of ‘schooling as an extractive process’ and the construction of Portuguese as the most
important symbolic cultural capital legitimised the process of alienation between schooling and
home socialisation and sustained the power relations, determining the separation between inschool
and out-of-school languages and knowledges.

If, on the one side, teachers dismissed their responsibility to transform and integrate local
knowledges into the official curriculum by constructing themselves as implementers of an
educational policy that they did not fully grasp, then on the other side, in the process of making
sense of the new curriculum, the socio-cultural values that teachers attached to it were challenging
their field positions and maintenance. Teachers maintained their distinction through their
‘Portugueseness’. The ‘Portuguese-only discourse’ was the most dominant ‘doxa’, taken-forgranted
by teachers in their practices, despite the fact that Portuguese as Language of Learning
and Teaching was perceived as one of the main challenges for student learning.

The implication of the study relates to the cultural micro-politics of teachers’ identities. To attend to
the introduction of curriculum changes as a technical matter fails to address the power-relations
embedded in the teaching and learning process. The new pedagogic possibilities fostered by the
curriculum are not succeeding. Without the re-narrativisation of how teachers think about them in
order to build new field positions and meanings that resonate with changes, the reform seems
unlikely to succeed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary education
L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia. Africa. Oceania) > LG401 Africa > LG641 Portuguese Africa (Former)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2017 11:56
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2017 11:56
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/66924

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