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NOTES ON UNITY IN PEDAGOGICS
W.A.Landman & C.A. Swart
Unity in pedagogics does not imply similarity (sameness) but rather the existence of a number of
certainties which can serve as a scientific framework within which various approaches are
possible. These certainties are the following: the education reality that is studied and
practised in a methodologically accountable manner; critical thinking should be practised in
terms of particular categories; education is an exclusively human matter; and the educative aim
is proper adulthood.
S. AfrJ.Educ., 1992, 12(4)
Die eenheid van die pedagogiek dui nie op eendersheid nie, maar op die bestaan van 'n aantal
sekerhede wat kan dien as wetenskaplike raamwerk waarbinne verskillende benaderingswyses moontlik
is. Hierdie sekerhede is die volgende: die opvoedingswerklikheid wat bestudeer word; daar word
metodologies verantwoordbaar gehandel; kritiese denke word beoefen aan die hand van besondere
kategorieŽ; opvoeding is 'n uitsluitlik menslike aangeleentheid; en die opvoedingsdoel is
S.-Afr. Tydskr. Opvoedk., 1992, 12(4)
Every now and then educationists have discussions with each other about unity in pedagogics,
mainly with the presupposition (explicit or implicit) that 'unity' is a special criterion for
evaluating scientific character, something which cannot be reasoned or acted away (Van Rensburg,
The problem is that the concept 'unity' is mainly used in the sense of 'uniformity' and that all
diversity is regarded as violation of the character of science.
The preceding statements compel the thinker who reflects on pedagogics (resp. the science of
education) to bring to light that which can be regarded as either unchangeable (similar) or
That which remains constant (the perennial) in all aspects of the science of education will,
firstly, have to be those aspects of reality which are to be placed under the spotlight and which
will become visible or appear as the education phenomenon in the form of an educative occurrence
within an educative situation. Thinkers occupied with other phenomena do not qualify as
educationists (pedagogicians) (Du Plooy, Griessel & Oberholzer, 1983:1-20).
The various disciplines of pedagogics therefore constitute a unit (whole) since all disciplines
each in its own way centre around the education phenomenon (Van Zyl, 1980:4319).
Fundamental pedagogics (the pedagogic an sich) is concerned with the educative phenomenon
and this gives it the right to declare and demonstrate that it has a guidance function with
regard to the other pedagogical disciplines (Landman, 1984:1-2).
The other disciplines, which are characterized by unity, centres around the education phenomenon
which reveals itself as an education occurrence in
- teaching-learning situations (didactics);
- the actualization of the psychological life of learners (psychology of education);
- situations which have not been successful (orthopedagogics);
- various education systems (comparative education);
- situations in which its realization has to be managed (educational management);
- social situations (sociopedagogics); and
- various historical periods by various historical figures (history of education)
(Landman & Gous, 1969:10).
The following question now arises: What differences, with regard to the field of study just
mentioned, can be regarded as permissible because they do not violate unity? The following
possibilities deserve consideration:
- The presupposition (paradigm) that the observable existence of the education reality
(education phenomenon as education occurrence in education situations) summons the educationist
to reflective and calculated thinking in this regard.
- the conviction (paradigms) that the education reality is a special God-given reality, which
the educationist regards himself as being called upon to study (Schoeman, 1980:136).
The above-mentioned exposition corresponds with that which is defined as a science:
- 'Science is concerned with what is actual and real. The actual is necessarily related to
activity. The activity is that something which was not there before has been brought forth and
revealed. Now it is actual, i.e. present and out in the open. Science is the theory of the actual.
Reverence for actuality evokes the care which strives to let something show itself as it appears.
Science places reality in a position whereby it can be governed by scientific methods. Method has
the decisive priority in such an approach to reality. Method reigns supreme over its scientific
themes' (Kockelmans & Kisiel, 1970: 177-179).
The final part of this definition brings one to the second certainty.
Scientific activities with regard to the education phenomenon must be methodical, that is, occur
in a methodologically accountable manner (Landman & Beckman, 1986:22-23). That this needs to be
so, can be derived from the meaning of the concept 'method'.
'L. Methodus: G. methodos. meta + hodos - way by which: the scientific researcher
(scientist) must select a method permitting access to the phenomenon. The method is determined to
a large extent by the nature of the phenomenon or by the sphere of investigation. Method implies
a systematic procedure in analysing the phenomenon. After having settled the question of the
objectives of scientific practice the scientist's next step is to decide on possible approaches
that can be used to attain these objectives. The history of methodology (the theory of methods)
has familiarised scientists with, amongst others, the following methods: the inductive, deductive,
intuitive, exemplary and the historical methods, to mention only a few' (Van Rensburg & Landman,
Method(s) is/are essential because it (they)
- give(s) access to the education reality
- make(s) systematic analysis possible (to penetrate superficiality)
- bring(s) the investigated reality closer to the science, so that it can be realized (Landman,
The person who ignores and rejects methodology is not capable of practising pedagogics.
The last portion of the definition of the concept 'method' indicates that various methods can be
distinguished. The question is, do methodological differences amongst educationists violate the
unity of pedagogics? This question may be answered by stating that the education reality is an
extremely complicated reality. Its complexity compels the educationist to avoid lapsing into a
method-monism, but to utilize a variety of methods which are true to reality. Educationists
can then, by means of a pedagogical discussion(s) compare the utilization of the various methods
with each other, and, among other things, reflect upon whether the knowledge of the education
reality which has been brought to light, can be integrated (Gerber, 1990:16-22).
The unity of pedagogics (which should primarily be a unity of pedagogicians) may well be
- the existence of a number of perspectives (methodologically grounded) on the complex
education reality is not acknowledged (Landman, 1961:1-10);
- the right of existence of methods other than one's own (chosen) method is denied; and
- there is a subjective (and sometimes emotional) denouncement and deprecation of other methods.
This does not mean that educationists should not be allowed to explain and justify their own
All science is thinking, however, not all thinking is science. The unity of the science of
education is served, because the educationist highly values critical thinking.
The educationist exercises critical thinking in the knowledge that thinking is always thinking
about something (e.g. the education reality) and of necessity is always in terms of something,
because it is impossible to think in terms of nothing. These terms are verbalizations, with a
special characteristic, namely, that they allow the education reality, which is being considered
in terms thereof, to appear in its essentiality (Viljoen & Pienaar, 1971:27-30).
The obvious question which arises is, what differences are permissible on account of not
violating the unity of pedagogics? Meaningful differences exist with regard to the choice of the
'terms' which can also be called elucidating thinking aids (aids to thought) or categories. The
unity of the science of education lies in the fact that educational thinking is categorial
thinking and the difference lies in the choice of categories (Lemmer, 1987:219-239). In this way
some educationists can utilize pedagogic structures and essences categorically while, for others,
Dooyeweerd's modalities have categorical status (Van der Walt, Dekker & Van der Walt, 1985:58-72).
Both of these groups of thinkers will reject the consideration of education in terms of
non-anthropological categories as being unscientific, as human dignity will be violated,
preventing man's humanness from being authentically revealed.
The preceding pronouncement brings one to the following certainty.
The presence (being) of the education phenomenon, which manifests itself as an education
occurrence in education situations, is only possible between human beings. Education is
exclusively a human occurrence. This statement means that educationists should adhere to a view
of man (anthropology) which makes education possible. It is a view that states that only man
educates, can be educated and lends himself to education.
It is therefore not possible for naturalistic anthropological conceptions to be included in the
unity of pedagogics (Oberholzer, 1968:132-152).
Permissible differences lie in the fact that some educationists choose universal pronouncements
about man, which are called ontological-anthropological pronouncements, with the emphasis on
man's ways of being-in-the-world of which education is one (Griessel, Louw & Swart, 1990:36-37).
Other educationists demand that their consideration of the education phenomenon can only be
successful and fruitful if reflective thinking can be exercised against the background of
reformed anthropology (Schoeman, 1979:129-158).
Unity in pedagogics demands that there should be a high degree of agreement with regard to an
educative aim (Van Vuuren, 1976:89-94).
In the first place, it must be accepted that all educative activities are of a teleological
nature. This means that goal directedness (purposefulness) is an inherent characteristic of the
pedagogic (Gunter, 1973:105-119).
In the second place, there exists a workable consensus that the educative aim can be described as
'proper adulthood'. As far as the educative goal is concerned, there is sufficient agreement to
support the case of unity in pedagogics (Van Zyl, 1975:161-164).
Pedagogicians should (in a series of pedagogical discussions) obtain clarity amongst themselves
whether the following differences either violate or not
- adulthood as the upper limit of education; and
- education from the cradle to the grave.
Associated with this is a decision on the following possibilities:
- The science of education = pedagogics
- Agogics = pedagogics + andragogics + gerontagogics
(Oberholzer & Greyling, 1981:25-29).
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Universiteits-uitgewers en -boekhandelaars.
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