UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Placing culture at the centre of the Kenyan curriculum : a participatory action research inquiry Maina, Faith


Most societies around the world strive to transmit their culture and world view to succeeding generations through education. This is important because individuals with strong cultural identities become independent and self-reliant people who are functional in their own environment. People who have little sense of their cultural identity or have been alienated from their culture often become dependent and lack the skills of meaningful survival in their own environment. Societies that have suffered colonial domination in the past can find themselves socializing their children with the cultural values and world view of the colonizing power which obviously undermines their own cultural identity. In the republic of Kenya, this problem has been acknowledged and documented by academics and educators but there seems to be a lack of political will to make effective and lasting changes to the curriculum. This study explored the kind of curriculum that fosters cultural relevance. It examined ways in which curriculum can become a place in which cultural values, knowledge, skills and beliefs that provide foundations for identity can be understood, defined and interpreted. Five teachers and I came together to explore the possibilities of tapping the local resources to enrich the school curriculum in Kenya so that teachers begin to use both material and human resources which are locally available to meet curriculum goals. By using the local resources, the learners began to view the local knowledge and skills as being important to school knowledge. The study employs participatory action research which derives strength from its emphasis on shifting the power balance between the researcher and researched, encouraging dialogical relationships, providing a voice and feelings to disenfranchised peoples and showing commitment to social transformation through action and reflection. The research methods were primarily dialogue and conversations, discussions, creation of discourses and reflections. The thesis documents some of the struggles, tensions and frustrations associated with participatory action research for educational change. This research makes clear that experiential knowing emerges through participation with others and people can learn to be self-reflexive about their world and their actions within it.

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