University of Sussex
Alderuccio, Michela Chiara.pdf (4.16 MB)

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

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posted on 2023-06-09, 05:18 authored by Michela Chiara Alderuccio
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.


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