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Competing knowledges in lifelong education

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This is a discussion paper about access to, and participation in learning opportunities for Māori learners in New Zealand, and Indigenous learners in Australia. Teaching and learning practice in three separate institutional education programmes—one in New Zealand and two in Australia—highlight the problematic nature of inclusion based on competing knowledge systems and frameworks. These systems relate to differing worldviews about how knowledge is privileged and disseminated within society. One view is that whiteness behaviour, through a western worldview, is the erasure of inequality because it presents as the norm in many adult education teaching situations; quite often manifested as indulgent practice, but one that also reinforces the hegemony of normativity. In contrast, an Aboriginal/Indigenous worldview is one that places knowledge within a spiritual realm; constantly resituating the individual into the nexus between individual and cultural ties. The discussion here, is about ideas of whiteness behaviours being present in curriculum delivery, whereby mainstream ideals produce planes of engagement that encapsulate white subjectivities which are both visible and invisible, and represent just one chronology of whiteness. That is, consciously and unconsciously patterned behaviours of delivering curriculum, no matter what the discipline area, have the potential to produce accessibility and achievement, but many would argue that these same behaviours also reproduce inequalities. Ideas from the above theme, take on a whole new perspective with a focus on building workplace and academic skills to the exclusion of cultural identity development. Acquiring skills has the potential to provide another form of competence, yes, but may also undermine learner confidence in being able to transition successfully to further community or higher education programmes. For example, such development alone does little to improve and strengthen literacy, language and numeracy capability for learners to be able to access and undertake tertiary studies, but may do more to compound debates about whiteness behaviours implicit in the post-colonial criticism of ‘whose interest is being served’.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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