Can 4IR and Decolonisation ideologies co-exist and be of mutual benefit in higher education?

Published On: 5 May 2022|

The emergence of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) could potentially submerge the bellowing of decolonisation in higher education by previously marginalised groups, especially considering the ever-increasing inequality in South Africa. Professor Felix Maringe, of the University of the Witwatersrand, and editor of the recently-published book, Higher Education in the melting pot: Emerging discourses of the 4IR and Decolonisation, told members of Universities South Africa’s Education Deans’ Forum recently.

He also asked: “But what if the convergence of the two were possible and a door to new ways of thinking emerged? Undoubtedly, 4IR and the calls for decolonisation continue to impact the country’s higher education sector. The question is, to what extent?”

Professor Maringe said these and many other concerns over 4IR and decolonisation influences in the sector birthed the idea of the book referred to above. At a colloquium at which Deans of Education explored 4IR and its implications, particularly for teacher education in September 2019, such rich thought leadership was shared that the Deans decided to publish a book out of the deliberations of that day.

Introducing: Higher Education in the melting pot: Emerging discourses of the 4IR and Decolonisation

Explaining the central arguments being made in this book, Professor Maringe said that although 4IR continues to usher in technological and digital developments that impact lives, it is still imperative to look at the core of decolonisation. The latter “seeks to disrupt the edifices of the Western canon and to restore the dignity, values, knowledge and humanness in the world of post-coloniality which is afflicted by the careless, exploitative, marginalising influences of capitalism and neoliberalism,” he asserted.

In particular, he was referring to the ways that the sector currently thinks about its purposes, the contents of what is taught at universities, pedagogies used in the deployment of new purposes and content, to conducting learning assessments and how the various capabilities of the internet may be employed for learning activities in higher education.

The burning question, as detailed by Professor Maringe, was how would these ideologies co-exist in a post-colonial higher education system, and how might emerging thinking and working models embrace both its priorities?

He said Deans of Education published this book with the following aims in mind:

  • To explore the conceptual field of the 4IR and decolonisation to understand the epistemological, the ontological, the axiological and the mythological assumptions which underpin these ideologies in the context of higher education.
  • To provide empirical evidence of ways in which the 4IR and decolonisation are influencing and imparting transformation in higher education.
  • To highlight the affordances and constraints of integrating and working with both ideological assumptions in higher education.

The Higher Education in the melting pot: Emerging discourses of the 4IR and Decolonisation, is a collaborative work of no fewer than 21 eminent scholars in the country. It is divided into two parts, the first being an analysis of the applications and implications of 4IR.

“The opening chapter in the book addresses the central matter of the clash of ideologies in higher education and provides a broad conceptualisation of the two ideas,” he said, adding that the second part looks at similar issues on decolonisation, providing empirical evidence on both ideologies.

Even more significant is the synthesis chapter in the book, which, accordingtoProfessor Maringe, investigates developing themes of the affordances and constraints associated with 4IR and decolonisation. It then provides a set of principles and constructs that the authors called the Possibility of an Afro-Global Episteme, “which could shape a new higher education terrain of post-colonial higher education systems,” he said.

The book tackles subjects of the automation of academic workspaces, the impact of digital divides, the opportunities and constraints of the technologisation of curricula, pedagogies, teaching and learning and the intractable challenges of remote modalities of university instruction.

The EDF is one of nine active communities of practice within Universities South Africa (USAf). This group aims to foster research in the broad field of education towards continuous improvement of teacher education; to promote South Africa’s education interests by providing a platform for deans to discuss matters of common concern in the delivery of teacher education, and, finally, to bring to the attention of policymakers, emerging issues on the Education discipline.

The full book copy may be downloaded here

Nqobile Tembe is a Communication Consultant contracted to Universities South Africa.