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Vorleben: educational practice beyond prescription

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Within a post-apartheid educational ethos that emphasizes multiculturalism and interculturalism, there is a growing sense in South Africa that prescriptivism is to be avoided. However, the perception of the teacher as moral exemplar entails an interesting ambivalence: the teacher as champion of tolerance, as facilitator but not prescriber of views, values, and behaviour, whose 'comportment' nonetheless encompasses the idea of an ethical identity as well as more technical aspects of intellectual virtue. Does the (German) notion of vorleben—'to live (one's life) as an example or guide'; 'to exemplify (good) practice'—illuminate an understanding of a teacher/facilitator professional identity in the South African post-apartheid context? This study analyses this idea and its intersections and dissonances with role-modelling, modelling and practice, humanistic education, African traditional education and ubuntu, the African principle of human interdependence. Vorleben is argued to be able to enhance our understanding of the duties and obligations of the professional educator.

Keywords: African traditional education; South Africa; educational practice; humanistic education; professionalism

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2008

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