Pedagogy and Community in Three South African Schools: a classroom study

Paul Dowling & Andrew Brown

Culture Communication & Societies
Institute of Education, University of London


In this paper we report on a small-scale preliminary study which the authors undertook during a British Council/Overseas Development Agency funded visit to South Africa as part of an academic link with the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Colleagues in the School of Education at UCT arranged for us to have access to three state-funded secondary schools and to spend a day in each school, shadowing a Standard 7 (13-14 year-olds [1] ) class. During the visits, we accompanied the class to each of the lessons that it had on that particular day. We sat in the lessons as non-participant observers, taking fieldnotes. In most cases we were able to speak briefly with the teacher after the lesson. We also spoke with the Principals and with other available members of staff at each school. We attended assemblies at two of the schools.

The general methodological orientation that we adopt in the paper derives from work by Dowling (1993, 1995a, 1995b) and Bernstein (1990, 1996) and also by Brown (forthcoming; Brown & Dowling, 1993). A major interest in this work concerns the recontextualising of practices between socially differentiable settings. In this paper we are considering the pedagogic relations and practices within three schools serving communities which occupy very different positions within a society which is only just beginning to emerge from apartheid. The apartheid state had established a gross hierarchy of social class between groups defined in racial terms. Clearly, each of these groups were internally characterised by social class and other hierarchical structures. Although the political will has radically changed, the structuring between and within these groups constitutes a considerable hysteresis in respect of social transformation. We maintain that there can be no easy transplantation of practices between socially distinct contexts. If this is the case, then the development of policy for educational and societal transformation will need to take account of sociological research which examines educational practices with direct reference to and in terms of the social structure of the contexts in which they are elaborated. This paper is an initial attempt at such a sociology which, it is hoped, will raise theoretical and empirical questions for further work. If it is to do this effectively, then its claims will, of necessity, have to be stated with as much clarity as is possible in this early phase. Whilst attempting to produce the paper in these terms, we must emphasise the provisional nature of all of these claims and welcome and intend to engage ourselves in their rigorous empirical and theoretical interrogation.

Our main sources of data are detailed fieldnotes made during the lessons we observed. Both the authors observed the same lessons in all three schools (with a third observer in two of the schools [2]) and made notes in a pre-agreed format. The notes for each session consist of contextual data (for example, notes on the physical organisation of the classroom), an event chronicle in which each observer notes the flow of events in the classroom in as much detail as possible (including verbatim reports of speech where possible), our own analytic notes and supplementary information gathered from conversations with the teacher. In any form of fieldwork there have to be selections. Our initial interest was in the use of texts (broadly defined) in different pedagogic settings, in this case a range of school subjects in three different types of school in a South African city. Our preliminary discussions directed us towards noting the use of resources within the classroom, the organisation of the lesson by the teacher, the forms of activities used, the interaction between the teacher and the students and so on. These initial interests were reflected in the briefing notes drawn up to guide our observations. Having multiple observers enables cross-checking between records and thus increases the level of confidence in the accuracy of our accounts. Discussion of fieldnotes following each day of observation initiates the first stage in the analysis of materials and acts to further refine and focus our subsequent observation.

Taking up this form of non-participant observation obviously associates this work with a rich tradition of ethnographic studies of the classroom. In educational research 'classroom ethnography' signifies an interest in the details of interaction and activity within the classroom and a consequent need to gather rich and complex data that represents, in some sense, these events. Researchers approach the classroom with a variety of interests and bring a range of differing academic resources to bear on the analysis of their data, however. It is important for us to distinguish our interests, as sociologists, and our general methodological approach from some other work adopting similar methods of data collection. We are clearly not, in this work, attempting to produce an account of how the teacher and/or students make sense of classroom events[3] nor are we scrutinising the patterning of classroom discourse[4]. Both these forms of work necessitate the gathering of particular types of data and the development of differing forms analysis. In common with these kinds of studies we do, however, have to attend to the well documented difficulties associated with broadly ethnographic work (discussed, for instance, by Hammersley, 1990; 1992). This is particularly important with respect to the principled movement between the data texts and analytic statements. As a response to this we have chosen, in this paper, to present extensive narrative accounts that act of both ground and illustrate our analysis.

Our study is obviously small in scale and has generated complex but limited texts for analysis. As a consequence our conclusions are tentative. We feel, however, that our analysis opens up possibilities both for more extensive empirical work and for further theoretical development. We also acknowledge that there are elements of the internal structuring of the settings we have studied that require more focused data collection, the most obvious being differentiation on the basis of gender.

We shall begin with a narrative description of the two school assemblies which we believe mark out sharply certain of the major differentiating features in the conditions and practices of these very different schools. We shall then introduce each school in turn, offering a general description of the social context of their communities and their pedagogic relations and practices. We shall illustrate these practices from our observational data and, passim, mark out the main lines of differentiation between the schools. We shall conclude with a summary of our description of the relations and practices obtaining in each school in relation to its social context.

Two school assemblies

The Mont Clair High School assembly was held after the first two lessons. We entered from the back of the gallery of a large hall. Students were sitting in the body of the hall and on the carpeted steps that rake the gallery. We, together with some of the teachers, sat on chairs at the back of the gallery. We were all facing a stage. There were large, upholstered chairs on the stage, arranged in rows. A number of teachers and four or five senior students were sitting on these chairs; there was a desk in front of them and a lectern to one side of the stage. We were all told to stand. The principal, wearing an academic gown, walked onto the stage and stood behind the desk. He addressed the school, 'Good morning, school'. There was a mumbled response of 'Good morning, sir'. The principal announced the name of the 'today's song'. The words of the song were displayed by an overhead projector to a piano accompaniment. One or two teachers appeared to be singing the song; the students and the other teachers either mumbled or mouthed the words.

At the end of the song, we all sat down and the principal introduced the deputy principal, who was to present the lesson. The deputy principal talked about the trouble in Kwa-Zulu Natal. 'What a sad situation in our country', the democratic principle is being undermined by unscrupulous and selfish people. In a democracy, we as individuals must be responsible for government. The deputy principal referred to a discussion about shoplifting that he had had with the manager of a security firm. Again, the emphasis was on individual integrity, I believe in what is right and good and I do it. Corruption in high places is only possible because there is corruption in low places. He appealed to the community of the school by reference to 'we of the Christian faith'. He read an extract from the Gospel of St John and a prayer which was introduced by 'Let us pray'.

Another teacher and a student read notices; a water polo team from Eton-'the most prestigious school in England'-was to play the Mont Clair side that afternoon. The deputy principal returned to talk about a current problem with theft. One of the workers had been dismissed; this may or may not be related to the problem. However, the pupil committee had requested that students should report any instance of another student looking into a bag other than their own. Any student about whom repeated reports were made would be investigated. The deputy principal read out the names of several students who have detention and others who had been given permission to wear long hair because they were to perform in the school play. The principal made a number of celebratory announcements regarding individual sporting and academic successes. Mont Clair students have obtained two out of only seven national scholarships for overseas study. Mont Clair students, the principal said, are so articulate and confident. The principal and teachers and students sitting on the stage left and the school was dismissed by a senior student.

It was the start of the school day at Siyafunda High School. The principal led us out of his office asking a member of staff on the way whether or not it was raining; it wasn't. The principal led us to a space between two of the school buildings where we stood against one of the walls. Another adult[5] stood in front of us and a small group of members of staff stood at the side, mostly out of sight of the students. A number of students had already gathered in the space and were facing us; others joined them, filling up the space. There were about the same number of students as were in the Mont Clair assembly hall, but we were outside; the assembly would have been cancelled had it been raining. We were waiting for the principal or the other adult to address the school, but neither of them did. Instead, a voice from amongst the mass of students started to sing in Xhosa. After a few words, the whole mass of students joined in in multipart harmony. The impact on us was physically emotional.

After the hymn, the man who had positioned himself in front of us read from the Gospel of St Matthew in a highly phatic manner. When he had finished, another voice from the student body began the chant the Lord's Prayer. As with the hymn, the whole school took up the chant in multipart harmony. Apart from us, everyone at the assembly had their eyes closed. Again, the effect on us was staggering.

At the end of the prayer, the principal gave out two notices. He introduced us, announcing that we would be tracking a particular standard seven class for the day and apologising that there had not been time to inform the pupil council. He said that he was sure that we would be welcomed. His second notice concerned a concert that was to be held on the following day. After this, we all left the assembly space.

Mont Clair High School is an ex-model C school[6] in a stunning setting in the Western Cape. It is very well appointed. It comprises a number of buildings, including a sports centre and purpose-built music accommodation. There are also specialised laboratories for science, art and design rooms, and a seminar room for large group teaching. The school has a swimming pool and sports fields. Every classroom is equipped with an overhead projector and every student has a textbook for each subject. The carpeted staffroom is furnished with upholstered armchairs and sofas as well as working areas and there are lunch and tea facilities for the staff. All of the students wear school uniform. There are approximately 900 students in the school and approximately 55 teaching staff. Most classes contain approximately 30 students. South African education is currently undergoing a process of rationalisation which is designed to produce a more even distribution of teachers across all South African schools. Since the target student: staff ratio is 30: 1, Mont Clair is scheduled to lose approximately 20 staff by the year 2000. However, the Parent Teacher Association has agreed to increase the fees from R3600 to R6000 per annum in order to maintain the status quo.

Siyafunda High School is an ex-DET (Department of Education and Training) school in a township which largely comprises shacks of wood and corrugated iron. Siyafunda comprises three rectangular, brick-built blocks; all of the classrooms that we saw were identical in structure. There is a library which houses a small number of books. The teacher responsible for the library-a responsibility which is additional to her teaching and for which she is not paid-was, at the time of our visit, in the process of sorting the books onto the appropriate shelves. The school is surrounded by a security fence and the entrance and all of the windows are fitted with bars. The classrooms are furnished with fewer desks and chairs than there are students in each class. There are few textbooks and no overhead projectors. The staffroom has a bare floor, six tables and about the same number of plastic chairs, one or two of which we observed to be broken. A small proportion of the students wear track suits with the school badge, most wear everyday clothes. There are approximately 1400 students registered at Siyafunda and approximately 40 teaching staff. Class sizes may be up to 50 or 60, although absenteeism is comparatively high. The class that we shadowed contained 44 students on that particular day. Siyafunda is scheduled to gain 4 teachers under the rationalisation process. The head of mathematics informed us that this would, in practice, make no difference to the class sizes.

Mont Clair may not be the best equipped school in the Western Cape and Siyafunda is certainly not the poorest. Nevertheless, they are, respectively, representative of schooling currently available to the most dominant and most dominated groups. Parents of students attending both schools have to pay fees; the fees at Mont Clair are currently more than one-hundred times those payable at Siyafunda and are likely to rise in the face of reductions in state funding. The students of Mont Clair come from a variety of middle class backgrounds and include small numbers of black students. Siyafunda students are very largely living in the township in which the school is situated, although there are a small number of students from another, nearby township-it is considered to be a good school.

Apart from the settings, the most prominent contrast between the two assemblies was in respect of the different orientations with respect to community. Strategies were employed in attempts to constitute the community at Mont Clair. This was apparent in the principal's greeting and in his reflection on the general qualities of Mont Clair students which he extrapolated from the examples provided by the scholarship winners. The references to representative sports teams and the collective act of worship, in particular, the song, were also communal strategies as were the identifications of individual and collective responsibilities made by the deputy principal. That at least some of these strategies were not entirely successful was evidenced by the mumbled responses to the principal's greeting and by the muted singing.

Schooling at Mont Clair must provide its students with access to careers within a highly complex division of labour. This of necessity entails an individualising of its provision. Students, or at least their parents, pay substantial fees for this service. Thus each individual student/parent confronts the school as the purchaser of opportunities for scholastic success which in turn they recognise as being necessary for subsequent access to privileged careers. The relationship between the student/parent and the school is that of client to service provider. Whilst the clients are not necessarily in competition with each other, neither do they constitute a community; they are individualised by their aspirations. The school must market its successes. These are generally individual and team successes which, nevertheless, must be generalised to the entire student body. Hence the school needs to establish its client body as a community. In this sense, the Mont Clair assembly was constituted as a marketing strategy which distributes success and responsibility to each individual via the generalising of exemplars.

Siyafunda must also provide access to educational success for its students. However, here, educational success itself is a generalised attribute. Students must pass matriculation in order to gain access to higher education and the possibility of participating in the region of the division of labour which Mont Clair students must take as given. Success, in other words, is not individualised in the same way as it is at Mont Clair. Furthermore, the students are materially constituted as a community. They participate in a domestic community where they are contained, previously by the apartheid state, now by almost equally effective economic oppression. Their education depends upon the school which is starved of funding. They contribute to this funding through their fees, yet even these may not be individualised; it matters only that a fee is paid, not who pays it. Additional funding may be gained through community action such as the concert that was to be held the day after our visit. There is a sense, then, in which the community is already constituted of this dominated group such that individual routes out of it are possible only through collective action. Under these circumstances, it is unsurprising to find a school assembly constituted as an expression of such collective action.

It should be emphasised that there is no romanticising of the African community, here. In many respects, the social relations of the township are highly agonistic. This is evident, for example, in the widely reported taxi wars in which entrepreneurial groups engage in gun battles in attempts to gain market dominance. The inhabitants of these 'informal settlements' have come, originally, from dispersed origins within the Western Cape and South Africa generally and have been forced together by the oppressive apartheid laws. They have their own political systems and rules of exclusion and inclusion and their hierarchical social structure is apparent in the obvious differentiation in housing. The community is not the explanation of pedagogy, here. Rather it is the question, which is similar to Durkheim's (1984): how is it that, under these essentially agonistic conditions, the community is possible in certain contexts, which include the classroom? We will return to this question in the final section of the paper.

The assemblies have enabled the introduction of key differences in terms of the social structuring of and within these two schools. We shall now provide some description of pedagogic practices within each of these schools which will allow us to elaborate on these differences. We shall then introduce a third school, Protea High School, which provides a contrast with both Siyafunda and Mont Clair and offers further support to the model which is under development in this paper.

The classroom at Siyafunda

We can define two categories of pedagogic relation[7]. Relations of transmission refer to the relations obtaining between transmitter and acquirer. Relations of acquisition refer to the relations between individual acquirers. Relations may be described as vertical or horizontal. Vertical relations are hierarchical; horizontal relations are non-hierarchical. That which is to be transmitted/acquired is the privileged text. Vertical relations imply that the dominant partner has control over the principles of evaluation of the privileged text. We can categorise pedagogic relations in Siyafunda classrooms as vertical in terms of transmission and horizontal in terms of acquisition. The classroom is characterised as a site for the collective production and acquisition of the privileged text. The teacher is clearly the leader in this production and students are largely undifferentiated; we did not, for example, come across a single instance of a teacher referring to a student by name.

In leading the production of the text, a number of resources are available to the teacher. Firstly, the teacher must recruit their own embodiment of the privileged text to the extent that textbooks are unavailable. Where they are available, they may nevertheless be backgrounded. For example, the science teacher said that she had bought her own textbook; she did not, however, remove it from her bag at any point during the lesson. Secondly, the teacher may initiate a sentence to be collectively completed in a choral response. For example, the science teacher, pointing to a diagram on the chalkboard addressed the class with: 'These are said to be ovules'. The last word of the sentence was chorused by the class. The invitation for this chorus being indicated by a rising intonation[8]. Thirdly, the teacher may demand individual responses either in public or in private. In the private form, the teacher writes questions and incomplete sentences to be answered/completed by students in their exercise books. Publicly, the teacher may call upon an individual to answer a question. In each case, these individual reponses affirm the acquisition of the privileged text. Fourthly, the teacher may make reference to a stock of common knowledge. Thus, the science teacher asked if the class had ever seen a 'bird sitting on a flower', ('yes'); the English teacher made reference to current South African national politicians in elaborating on the political structure represented in a play. Finally, although the official medium of instruction is English, the teacher can make use of Xhosa, which is the first language of the students and most of the teachers. It was noted, however, that apart from the Xhosa lesson, Xhosa was used to elaborate upon commonness interpretations, but was not incorporated into the privileged text itself. Other than in Xhosa and Afrikaans lessons, one principle of evaluation of the privileged text was that it should be in English[9].

In three of the lessons that we attended (Geography, Science, Xhosa) the format consisted, firstly, of the collective production of the privileged text as a system of signs which was represented on the chalkboard. Secondly, the teacher would write on the board a number of questions and incomplete sentences which was to constitute the 'classwork'. Thirdly, the teacher would move around the class offering assistance and, finally, marking the work. In the case of the geography lesson, for example, the privileged text consisted of a system of signs relating to maps. These signs included specialised terms and diagrams. In these lessons, the text was produced on the board primarily via the use of teacher exposition and the choral response. Students would actively assist in the completion of the chorus. Thus, if the response was not immediately forthcoming, an individual would offer a suggestion. If the teacher responded positively to the suggestion, the invitation to chorus was repeated and the whole class chorused the suggested expression. However, individuals offering suggestions in this way tended to do so whilst drawing a minimum of attention to themselves, sometimes actually ducking down, giving the appearance of countering the individualising effect of their suggestion by attempting to merge physically into the class. Students also assisted the individual written affirmation of the acquisition of the privileged text by sharing their answers with each other. For example, a student who had completed the written work in the Xhosa lesson passed her book to her colleagues who copied the answers into their own books, the teacher making no move to interfere with this.

It was apparent that chorused expressions were not confined to specialist terms. Hence these examples from the geography lesson: 'When the topographical map is drawn a scale is used'; pointing at diagrams showing contour lines, 'They can be close together, or they can be far apart'. In this geography lesson, the teacher also made use of material texts. She used a single photocopy of an aerial photograph and a number of maps each of which were shared by up to four students.

This format-collective production of the privileged text followed by affirmation of its acquisition-comprised the lesson in each of these cases. In the Xhosa lesson, the sequence had been completed with fifteen minutes of the lesson still remaining. Some students had, in fact, completed the work and had it marked with thirty minutes of the hour long lesson remaining. For the remainder of the period, the students talked to each other and to the teacher. No more pedagogic content was introduced as far as we could tell (none of the observers speaks Xhosa).

The other three lessons that we observed differed from this format, although two of them, English and Mathematics, could still be described as collective productions of the privileged text. The privileged text in the English lesson constituted a knowledge system associated with a play, 'The Prophecy', by Alistair Maythem. The play may be described as an Africanisation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. The teacher handed out copies of an anthology of plays (again, one between up to four students). She announced that she would take the part of the narrator and asked for volunteers to read the other parts. Students volunteered (again minimising the individualising that volunteering achieves) apparently without regard to the gender of the parts to be played; in the first round of parts, but not in the reassignment halfway through the lesson, the gender of the part was the opposite of that of the student reading it. The remainder of the lesson consisted of the reading of the play which was frequently interrupted by the teacher. In some of these interruptions, the teacher would illustrate some aspect of the drama by reference to stock knowledge. For example, the king was identified with 'Mr Mandela' and the treacherous Thane of Cawdor character with 'Tokyo Sexwale' whose ambitions were hypothetically projected beyond Gauteng. In other interruptions, the teacher would act out, in exaggeratedly dramatic style, sections of the play or the projection of sections of the play onto everyday events. Finally, the teacher made interruptions by asking students to explain or pass judgement on decisions made by the characters of the play. For example, at one point she asked if the wife's (the counterpart of Lady Macbeth's) actions were good, a pupil responded that 'it is not good'. When the teacher received no response to 'why?', she asked, 'is it good for the nation as a whole?', 'no', 'Why? ... What would you have done?'

Although the teacher was making less frequent use of the choral response, she was, nevertheless, leading a collective production of a privileged text. In this case, it seemed clear that the origins of the privileged text lay elsewhere than in a textbook. The mathematics teacher produced another variation on lesson format. Her strategy was to put an algebraic expression on the board and ask for suggestions as to its simplified form. She collected several suggestions and asked students to indicate support for one or other of them. The proposers of the suggestions were asked to explain their answers and the class asked to indicate support or otherwise, 'Can he do it like that?' Through asking questions like this and making minimal use of the choral response, the teacher eliminated the idiosyncratic suggestions and established an expression of consensus on each of the examples that she used, writing the correct, answer-the privileged text-on the board. Thus this lesson was constructed as a series of very short privileged texts which were, again, collectively produced. In this case, the series extended for the whole of the time allotted for the lesson.

The mathematics teacher had participated on inservice training courses given by the Mathematics Education Project (MEP) at the University of Cape Town. She indicated that this was the origin of the strategy that she used in this particular lesson. We have no evidence regarding the form in which the strategy was presented by MEP. Nevertheless, it is clear that the form which it took in this lesson conformed with the mode of operation of Siyafunda pedagogic practice, which is to say, the collective production of the privileged text.

The other lesson that we observed was different. This was an Afrikaans lesson. We were informed by the Deputy Principal that this subject was generally resented by students and teachers at Siyafunda. Afrikaans was recognised as the language of the oppressor. Furthermore, there were no occasions when students would make use of this language. The Deputy Principal said that there was a general pattern of failure in this subject throughout the school until students reached Standard 10, when they would pass Afrikaans, which they needed for matriculation. The teacher that we saw was unusual in that Afrikaans was her own first language; this would not be the case for most teachers of Afrikaans in this category of school. The Afrikaans teacher-who was also the class teacher of this particular Standard 7 class-employed a form of pedagogic practice that was highly energetic, highly dramatic and highly unpredictable. She was clearly very well-prepared. There was an exercise already on the board and she had prepared two worksheets for this class. There was also evidence of similar preparation in respect of other classes for that day and the room was heavily decorated with posters relating to Afrikaans and to biology-the teacher's other subject.

In all of the other classes, there was a clear space between teacher and students. Even when the teacher would move around the classroom, she would be standing and carrying a pen for marking, so that the hierarchical division of labour between teacher and students was always apparent. The Afrikaans teacher employed some strategies that questioned this division, but always ambiguously and always subject to sudden change. Thus, in an early interaction with an individual, she moved very close to him, putting her face very close to his and at the same level. He apparently answered her question incorrectly, because she reached behind her, took a ruler from another student's desk and struck the first student on the hand with it. A little later, she slapped another student on the back several times with her hands. Neither of these actions were sufficiently forceful to inflict pain. The effect appeared to be, however, to disorientate the students. Throughout the lesson, the teacher would move very close to students, especially the boys, putting her arm around them and calling them 'darling' and 'sweetheart' and allowing them to whisper answers to her. She would also make sudden, unpredictable moves and call sharply on a number of students in turn to answer the same question. The teacher also made considerable use of exaggerated facial expressions, moving, again rapidly, between a broad smile and a cross look. The lesson itself was moved along at a very fast rate, with a sequence of distinct, well-planned tasks (some in the form of photocopied activity sheets) being introduced by the teacher. It seemed clear that no one in the room had any idea what the teacher might do next. This was particularly apparent in the way in which students would flinch at the teacher's sudden movements and the way in which they would attempt to privatise their interactions with her by whispering answers which, of course, she might, and occasionally did, choose to make public.

There was no real possibility of the collective elaboration of this lesson, because the teacher was very effectively disrupting the community of the classroom and its horizontal relations of acquisition. Each individual was individually, not collectively, subject to the teacher's charismatic authority.

Positioning strategies[10] by Siyafunda teachers generally established a clear and hierarchical division between teacher and students and distributing strategies constituted the teacher as arbiter of the principles of evaluation of the privileged text. The students were positioned as an undifferentiated community and distributed the collective responsibility for the participating in the production of the privileged text and for its acquisition. Thus the pedagogic relations are appropriately described as vertical in terms of transmission and horizontal in terms of acquisition. The single exception to this pattern was found in the Afrikaans lesson. Here, the positioning strategies employed by the teacher constructed her unpredictably in hierarchical and non-hierarchical relations with individual students, thus establishing repeated individual relations of charismatic authority and fragmenting the student community. Transmission and acquisition were thus fused in a set of individual, vertical relations.

The classroom at Mont Clair

We have suggested that schooling in the Siyafunda community is in a number of respects a collective responsibility and the necessary and generally undifferentiated condition for individual success; a student must pass matriculation, but is dependent upon the collective effort in achieving this. Mont Clair, as an institution, stands as a service provider in relation to its students and their parents who are constituted as clients[11]. The service which must be provided is concerned with educational opportunities which will facilitate the development of individual careers. As clients, the students are clearly in an evaluative position in respect of this service. So pedagogic relations at Mont Clair are somewhat ambiguous. The relations of transmission are vertical in the sense that the teacher has control over the principles of evaluation of disciplined knowledge. On the other hand, the teacher is also accountable to the students and their parents in respect of their own embodiment of this knowledge and of their facilitating of its acquisition. Thus, the teacher must gain the consent of the students in order that the vertical relations of transmission can be maintained.

There was no dominant pedagogic style apparent amongst the Mont Clair teachers that we saw. Each teacher drew on whatever resources were available in producing performances as educational opportunities. These resources may include material resources, of which there is no shortage, and the teacher's own body and experiences. The syllabus itself is also a resource to be drawn upon by the teacher. Thus there were frequent references backwards and forwards in time to past and future pedagogic content and to the examination. Students' personal lives are generally not available as resources and nor, in the main, is the choral response, since students are individualised by the client-service provider relationship; there is no collective. This kind of relationship entails that the teacher and their performance must also be constituted as resources by and for the students in maximising their exploitation of the lesson as educational opportunity or, in some cases, for the purposes of critical commentary.

In the geography lesson, for example, the teacher embodied the educational service which, in her case, was very physical. She was dressed casually, in a loose blouse, shorts, and sports shoes and wore her hair short and tied back. The classroom was arranged with students' desks around three walls leaving a large space in the centre of the room in which the teacher could perform. The subject of this lesson was erosion. The teacher made use of physical action in illustrating various geological formations: waterfalls, potholes and so on. The teacher arranged the class into groups of different sizes, combined groups and held plenary discussions. The groups were set tasks which required them to list geological formations that would be caused by given agents of erosion. While they were working, the teacher moved around the class offering suggestions, often in the form of physical encodings. For example, in discussion with the 'water' group, she asked what was going to happen when there was a big rock in the river, gesturing with her hands to signify a waterfall, which the students recognised. Later, she asked the same group what would happen if there was a 'huge rock' and a hole forming in it, gesturing in a circular, drilling motion with her finger, 'what's it going to make? a ...'. One student suggested 'borehole', 'that's not quite right', 'a pothole', the teacher confirmed, 'a pothole'. The groups reported back in a plenary session at the end of the lesson. In the plenary, a student would give one of their suggestions, the teacher would summarise and then show the students an illustration from one of a number of books of photographs of geological formations. The teacher also asked the students if they knew of or had seen examples of these formations.

In this lesson, the teacher's performance was that of a manager of the classroom. The students were required to decode the teacher's representations of geological knowledge. The teacher summarised these decodings introducing a certain amount of technical language and clarifying erosive activity. The pedagogic practice could be described as initiating an apprenticing of the students into geological discourse by drawing on their existing geological and proto-geological knowledge. It was not a privileged text that was being constructed, but a privileged discourse. The teacher employed positioning strategies to establish herself as the dominant voice in the classroom (for example, through the physical arrangement of the room and her positioning within it) and distributing strategies which established her as the manager of class activities and as the embodiment of geological knowledge. Distributing strategies established the students as possessors of yet-to-be-disciplined proto-geological knowledge, thus confirming their potential success.

The English teacher also embodied her educational service. She was smartly dressed and spoke in an 'upper class' accent. Again, she employed positioning strategies to affirm her dominance. For example, the class had to stand when she entered the room and remained standing until she invited them to sit down. The teacher was new to this particular class, having seen them only once or twice before. She had arranged that all of the students had name cards on their desks and referred to them by name. Early on in the lesson, the teacher gave a disciplinary instruction, reminding students of their responsibility to provide themselves with photocopies if they were not in possession of the textbook. Part of the lesson involved the completion of an exercise which entailed inserting apostrophes in a text as appropriate. Students completed the exercise and were then told to exchange books for marking. The students reported their answers, giving explanations for their decisions. The teacher summarised these explanations to constitute general rules which thereby formed a part of the privileged discourse. However, the clear authority of this teacher did not inhibit the students from challenging her answers. Thus, at one point she produced the rule that where possession was to be indicated in respect of a classical name ending in 's', an apostrophe should be added, in all other cases, and apostrophe 's' should be added, thus Moses' as opposed to Boris's. Later, a student raised a question about another item, suggesting that James was a classical name and so should become James'. The teacher established her authority by pointing out that there were a large number of Jameses about. Again, however, this strategy did not inhibit further challenges.

The Accounts teacher was also very smartly dressed and well-groomed. In this case, the privileged discourse consisted of a rule-based system. His performance consisted of a rehearsal of a textbook task that students had (or were presumed to have) completed for homework. The task involved 'opening' journals and ledger accounts and making entries relating to various source documents. The teacher performed the task on the board. He used very neat writing and gave a commentary on the task with reference to the relevant rules. The teacher did not ask any questions until ten minutes into his performance. At this point, the teacher asked why a particular action was being taken. He was satisfied with a single (correct) response. Throughout most of the rest of the lesson, the teacher asked occasional questions, some of which were presented as invitations for a choral response: 'We now that CP {cost price} is always less than SP {selling price}, so we multiply the smaller one and we divide by the bigger one'. Generally, one or a small number of students mumbled correct responses-all of the students' responses were correct-which the teacher restated, emphasising the relevant rule by raising his index finger. On one occasion, the question was addressed to a single, named individual. This seemed to be a control strategy, suggesting, perhaps, that the individual concerned had not been paying attention. However, the student gave the correct answer and the performance continued. At one point, the teacher inserted an incorrect date and was corrected by several students at once.

The English and Geography teachers were, in different ways, apprenticing students into the privileged discourse by way of distributing strategies which served to discipline their proto-specialist knowledge. The accounts teacher, on the other hand, was constructing a privileged text on the chalkboard whilst producing a commentary in the privileged discourse. His questioning of students seemed to serve the purpose of affirming their attention rather than evaluating their knowledge and so are probably best described as positioning rather than distributing strategies. That students were paying attention, even though they were, for the most part, completely silent, was attested to by their correcting of his date error.

In these three lessons, the students appeared to make positive evaluations of the teachers' performances. The teacher was permitted to manage the class and shape students' discourse or to demonstrate and exposit. The students participated fully in the lessons, even where, as in the case of accounts, this entailed silent observation. In the other two lessons that we observed, student evaluation was less positive.

Xhosa, in this school, is an optional subject which was set against art and design-technology. It may be that it is a low status subject, as the language of the oppressed, although we were unable to obtain confirmation of this; several white students that we spoke with did indicate that they wanted to learn the language. The Xhosa teacher was a white male who again embodied his service through his adept movement between Xhosa and English; everything he said was stated in both languages. However, as a service provider, he employed inappropriate strategies. His opening remarks constituted an admission of a failure to provide the required service; he hadn't finished with their diaries, because they are very long (said in both English and Xhosa). The students, several of whom had appealed for silence ('sh') when he started to speak, moaned their disapproval. At a number of points during the lesson the teacher appealed to the class for cooperation: 'Come, guys, you must listen'; 'People, you must use your books. It's all there'; 'people, listen'. His reference to the examination sounded like an appeal, 'This is going to form a big part of our exam'. At one point, he threatened a group of boys, 'Right, these three guys here are starting to annoy me. I'm going to move you in front if ...'. But he didn't move them. These appeals and threats are inappropriate because they deny the teacher's responsibility for his own performance which must constitute educational opportunities. Of necessity, this entails effective management of the class. The teacher would need to obtain support for the use and carrying out of threats, because those being threatened were also clients. In general, it seemed unlikely that such support would be forthcoming, because student non-cooperation was generally private, that is, unlikely to impose upon other students.

There was a certain amount of more public non-cooperation. There was, for example, a certain amount of banging on the desk. At one point the teacher asked for suggestions for the name of a story character represented by an image of a white male on an overhead transparency. The first response was a feminine name, then 'Cuthbert', then 'Cyril', then 'Ramaposa'. These disruptions, however, were transient and not picked up in collective resistance any more than the accounts teacher's invitations to the choral response were picked up collectively. At Mont Clair, participation and resistance are equally individualised.

We spoke briefly to the Xhosa teacher after the lesson. This delayed our arrival at the next lesson, which was mathematics. When we arrived, the mathematics teacher-a comparatively inexperienced teacher-greeted us and said that she hadn't been expecting us, but that the students had told her that she should not begin the lesson until the visitors arrived. She had acquiesced in this and had not started the lesson. Here, we were being recruited by the students in a positioning strategy in which they asserted their authority vis a vis the teacher. It is also possible that we were being recruited by the teacher as alibis for any shortcomings in her performance; she hadn't been expecting us and our (late) appearance would inevitably have introduced a degree of disorder. All of the other teachers had, in fact, known about our visit in advance.

The mathematics lesson was concerned with 'algebraic graphs'. The first part of the lesson consisted of the teacher going over homework tasks which involved completing tables of values for x- and y- coordinates and drawing the relevant straight line graphs. Using an overhead projector and some prepared transparencies, the teacher wrote down the function to be graphed and drew the table. The students chorused the values in the table which had to be computed and the teacher plotted the points and joined them using a ruler. This part of the lesson was similar to the accounts lesson in that the teacher produced a demonstration text, this time with greater participation from the students. However, the teacher's commentary and her responses to questions that students asked did not, this time, constitute a coherent privileged discourse. In some cases, the responses seemed arbitrary. Thus, when asked if the table should always start at -3, the teacher said, 'Yeah, you can choose your own numbers, but -3 is a nice number to start'. The arbitrariness of the choice was underlined later, when the teacher introduced a quadratic graph. This time, the table recorded values for the y-coordinate up to 9, whilst the grid for the graph extended only to 5, 'You can leave the end points off'.

At least one of the students had realised that a straight line was defined by two points, so that constructing a table including seven x-coordinates (integers from -3 to 3) was unnecessary. This student, a girl, suggested drawing just two points. The teacher responded, 'I was just doing them all to show you ... you've got to be sure if you've only done two points'. In general, the teacher's commentary and responses tended, like this one, to deflect possible criticism and stress procedure, thus: 'I must emphasise that you must label the graph'; pointing to the 'c' in the equation, y = mx + c, the number is called a constant because it hasn't got an x'; 'This is a nice question to do in a test, because you know it will form a straight line and if it doesn't form a straight line you know it's wrong and you have to do it again'. This last statement attributed value to the task in terms of examination success, but in fact is a defensive statement in respect of the teacher's choice of lesson content. A defence which is unnecessary in the context of the comparatively rigid curriculum prescription that obtains in South African schools.

Like the Xhosa teacher, the mathematics teacher also made appeals to the students to cooperate: 'Quiet guys, you're not hearing the question'; 'Just bear with me, guys, it's the last graph. I know it's getting long'; 'Sh, guys, don't be rude!' Approximately half of the class were paying close attention to the teacher at any given time, but there was a general background of quiet chatter and some giggling. Two 'Indian' boys did not participate in the lesson at any point after the first few minutes. One of them had asked for a new exercise book. The teacher had not responded to this, nor did she at any time intervene to encourage them to participate, even when she moved directly in front of them and looked straight at them, whilst they were quietly talking to each other. At one point, the teacher said to the class, 'I got stuck on this at school and I was clueless after that on algebraic graphs'. One of the 'Indian' boys said quietly, 'So how do you know it now?'

This lesson was clearly negatively evaluated by many of the students. The teacher's lack of experience was apparent in her use of defensive strategies that deflected or, in the case of her failure to intervene with the two boys, avoided confrontation. Again, resistance from the class was individualised, so that this strategy was effective. The commentaries that the teacher used to accompany her production of the privileged texts (tables and graphs) generally stressed local procedures rather than general rules or discursive principles. This would not constitute apprenticeship into the privileged discourse and this was possibly recognised by the students. As clients, they could refrain from active participation or attempt to make the best of the performance that they were being provided. Again, the fact that the student-clients stood in individual relationship to the teacher-provider militated against collective action which did not occur.

Essentially, Mont Clair parents, and so their children, must consider themselves to be the social superiors of the teachers. Few school teachers would be able to afford the fees at Mont Clair. A career destination in teaching would, for many of the students, be interpreted as downward social mobility. The Mont Clair parents, then, are contracting out the education of their children to the school. Within the context of the classroom, the contract is between the teacher and the student as individual. The relations of transmission at Mont Clair are vertical, but this hierarchy must be achieved in the context of the teacher's provision of a service in the form of high quality educational opportunities for the students as clients. The teacher is accountable both in terms of their embodiment of the privileged discourse and in respect of their management of the class such that acquisition is possible. Where, for one reason or another, the teacher fails to satisfy the student that they are keeping to the contract, then the student may desist from participation in the lesson and, indeed, may express their dissatisfaction in oppositional behaviour. However, because the relations of acquisition are individualised, opposition is also individualised and effectively private. This bears only superficial similarity with the individualised relations between students and teacher in the Afrikaans lesson at Siyafunda. In this latter case, the teacher had to employ strategies to fragment the collective in order to facilitate individual relations.

At Mont Clair, the fragmented class was already established by the contractual nature of relations of transmission, itself constituted by the relationship of the school to the student/parent as service provider to client which, in turn, is established by the nature of the division of labour in which the school and its parents participate and in which its students intend to participate. This division of labour is close to Durkhiem's (1984) organic solidarity. In this mode, the cohesion of the social is affected by interdependence within differentiation, which seems also to characterise the relations of acquisition within these classrooms. In South Africa, it may be that organic solidarity has been facilitated within the dominant race/class through the delegation of forced division of labour to subordinate races/classes and, especially, to the African[12] population.

Mont Clair and Siyafunda are examples of what is perceived to be good schooling at the extremes of the previous apartheid racial hierarchy. We shall turn now to consider the third school that we visited which, in apartheid terms, is in the middle.

The classroom at Protea High School

Protea High School is an ex-HoR (House of Representatives) school situated in a suburb of single storey detached permanent housing and some multi-storey multiple housing. The inhabitants of the suburb were categorised by the apartheid regime as 'coloured', which entails that they were assumed to be of mixed race, in apartheid terms. The school comprises a complex of buildings, mostly two storey and is set in a large grassed area. There are no specialised classrooms, such as laboratories, so that students are shown videoed experiments in some science lessons. The school also arranges local field trips for practical work in science and geography. There is a small staffroom with armchairs, lockers and some desk space. All of the students wore school uniform. In many cases the uniform took the form of the school track suit. We were told that the students came from a wide range of backgrounds, in economic terms. Many of the students lived locally in modest housing and walked to school. Some, however, were delivered by their parents in BMWs. The school is a 'parallel medium' school, which entails that students may opt for either English or Afrikaans as the medium of instruction. The class that we shadowed was in the English medium track. All of the teachers were, as far as we could judge, members of the 'coloured' population; all were bilingual in English and Afrikaans[13].

As is the case with the other schools we visited, Protea is perceived to be a good school of its category and is heavily oversubscribed. There are currently approximately 1400 students and the student: staff ratio is approximately 24: 1. The largest class size is reportedly 47, most classes-including the one that we shadowed for the day-contain about 40 students. Protea is scheduled to lose 19 staff under the rationalisation programme. However, it is also likely to reduce in student population because of its own overcrowding and because of spare capacity at other local schools. This would entail an even more substantial staff loss[14].

The apartheid regime constituted the 'coloured' population as an intermediate group. This meant that they were relatively 'privileged' in comparison with Africans who were, until very recently, banned from the Cape Town area (hence the 'informal settlements' which would be periodically bulldozed by the state). In distinction from the situation of the African population, entrepreneurial and professional activity has been possible for 'coloured' South Africans for some time, so that the division of labour does give some encouragement to individual career aspirations. However, the 'coloured' population was also very substantially in a situation of oppression by the 'white' state which, for example, expelled large numbers of this group from their homes in 'white' suburbs in what might be described as 'ethnic cleansing' programmes. There is a sense, then, in which the 'coloured' population is or, at least, has been under threat from two directions. Thus, there exists material motivation for collective as well as individualised action.

Within this social context, the teacher is a comparatively successful individual in that they have achieved professional status. The students confront the teacher as members of a community who might have aspirations to repeat this success. The teachers' responsibility, as professionals and also as successful members of a subaltern group entailed the transmission of the means of their own success. This position is clearly dependent upon the construction of the school class as a community. Given the diversity of the school class membership, strategies directed at this construction need to be visible, as was the case at Mont Clair. Given the social position of the school population at Protea, however, we might expect these strategies to be more uniformly successful. The class at Protea, then, is constituted as a site for the transmission and acquisition of the privileged discourse within the context of a communal sharing of resources for economic success. The teacher must construct themself as a member of a community and as the possessor of something which is desirable and which they are willing to share. The teacher must therefore employ both pedagogic and communal strategies.

In respect of pedagogic strategies, the teacher may, as in the other schools, employ themselves as embodiments of the privileged discourse. At Protea, there were textbooks being used in some of the lessons, although it was mostly the teacher and not the students who had access to the textbook. In the accounts lesson for example, the teacher did not use the textbook as much as she otherwise might have, because there had been a change in syllabus and the new textbook had not been obtained[15]. In many of the lessons, photocopied worksheets constituted a principal resource. In all of the lessons, the teacher maintained firm control over the pacing of the lesson. Thus, in science, for example, the teacher handed out a photocopied page from a textbook. The page gave information on combustion. The teacher read from the text, adding elaboration, asking questions, and giving instructions, for example: 'Is pollution a good thing?'; 'Can anyone explain "rural areas"?'; 'Underline "respiration"'; 'What is the formula for rust?' The teacher announced that they would not read through the section on 'corrosion' because they had already been through 'rust'. On completion of the read through, the students were told to stick the sheets in their exercise books.

The Afrikaans lesson consisted of the teacher going over a homework exercise with the class. The exercise consisted of filling in blanks on a worksheet. The teacher worked through the sheet asking volunteers to read the answers from their books (in which the worksheet had been pasted). Some of the students were completing their sheets as the answers were read out. The teacher made no attempt to intervene in this.

The geography teacher handed out a photocopied assignment and three photocopied items of text (including two maps) which were needed to answer the assignment. The teacher announced that the students had only two periods to complete this work, 'Waste this period, you only have one period'. Having handed out the sheets, the teacher moved around the class, offering suggestions. These suggestions, following the sequence of the assignment, were made publicly at various points during the lesson. This established a norm for the pacing of the activity. Students' exercise books contained a substantial number of pasted-in worksheets and maps as well as their own work, which was sometimes written in blanks on the worksheets.

Students in the business economics lesson handed out photocopied cheques whilst the teacher drew a cheque on the board. She asked students a number of questions about cash transactions, for example: 'When you sign a cheque it means you're giving permission for what?' She wrote a number of technical terms on the board as labels for her diagram: 'drawer'; 'payee'; 'endorse'; 'third party'; 'counterfoil'. Students copied the labels into their exercise books in which they had pasted the cheques. When this activity was finished, students handed out textbooks and the teacher wrote two questions on the board: '1. Explain the term credit purchases'; '2. There are various forms of credit. Name and explain the 3 forms of credit'. Students were to answer these questions in their books. The teacher suggested, 'If you're clever, you'll turn to page 59 where you'll get a full definition'. This teacher told us that students' books were marked twice per term in terms of their keeping up-to-date with the work and presentation. The marks were included on a sheet which was pasted into the front cover of the exercise books.

The English and mathematics teachers did not use textbooks or photocopied texts in their lessons. However, they did make use of texts which had been produced by the students. In mathematics the students were to have completed for homework a set of tasks involving the simplification of algebraic expressions. The teacher wrote five of these tasks on separate parts of the chalkboard and asked students to come to the board and write down their answers. The teacher corrected the students' responses, asked questions and gave commentaries deriving from the privileged discourse, for example: 'When your index is a negative, it means your number is a denominator'. When the homework task had been completed, the teacher introduced some new examples: 'Now something we touched on last term'. She wrote the following on an overhead transparency:

The teacher suggested, 'We must break it up' and asked a student to simplify the expression, recruiting a second student to help when the first one had difficulties.

The English teacher also made use of student texts. The teacher first introduced the expression, 'slang', asking students what was meant by the term. In the ensuing dialogue between herself and members of the class, the teacher introduced her own formulations to shape the definition, for example: 'Slang is one variety of colloquial language; now build on that'. Having arrived at a definition that marked out a distinction between formal and informal language use, the teacher instructed the class to work in groups of two or three for about fifteen minutes to produce a 'dialogue' using their own slang. During this period, the teacher moved around the class, giving additional control and pedagogic instructions: 'Don't squabble over who's going to be writing, who's not ... you'll be wasting your time ... you have fifteen minutes'; 'You have to write in the slang that you use', if students used Afrikaans words then they should include them. When the fifteen minutes were up, the teacher asked groups who had completed their dialogues to come to the front of the class, in turn, to role play them. Pairs of students came to the front of the class and one or both of them read their dialogue. The teacher wrote some of the words that they used on the board. Students laughed at some of the Afrikaans words being used. The teacher informed us that they would be examining the slang dialogues in the lesson on the following day.

In these lessons, the teacher was recruiting printed or, more usually, photocopied texts and student texts. Student texts were shaped, in the case of the mathematics lesson. In the English lesson, student texts were to be the objects of analysis. With the exception of the English lesson, which was incomplete, the text that was produced was reproduced in each student's book, most commonly by pasting-in a photocopy. Formal procedures, in the form of regular marking, were in place to ensure that this was done correctly.

The texts produced by the students in the English lesson signalled the recruiting by the teacher of students' personal life experiences as resources. It was quite clear that the teacher wanted something that would not, under normal circumstances, be produced in the school context, indicating that, if they were going to understand, then they would have to be spontaneous; they needed to be very free so that it would be possible to understand their slang. Thus, the teacher was marking out a distinction between school and non-school knowledge, but constituting the latter as accessible to the former, as its 'public domain'. The business economics teacher also made reference to non-school knowledge by recruiting her own practices in respect of her bank account. In this case, however, the non-school knowledge was being recruited as school knowledge, as a reservoir of exemplars of the general practices that were the concern of this subject.

This recruiting of the personal lives of the students and teachers is a communal strategy. It happened at Mont Clair only in an abstract way through, for example, the Deputy Principal's lesson about responsibility and in the geography teacher's asking students if they had visited Victoria Falls and other geological sites. At Siyafunda, teachers' and students communal lives were recruited through the reference to stock knowledge and the use of Xhosa within the context of English medium lessons. At Mont Clair, the geography students participated, but, in doing so, emphasised individual achievements (that is, by asserting that they had indeed visited the places mentioned). At Siyafunda, the community was undifferentiated; everyone shares stock knowledge, everyone shares Xhosa. In the English lesson at Protea, the community is achieved via a sharing of individual experience. Thus, 'Don't see me as the teacher ... Remember that we are here to share'.

The accounts teacher differed from the others in making fairly extensive use of the choral response although, unlike the Siyafunda practice, this seemed to be confined to specialised and key terms, thus: 'If you issue a cheque, which journal would you choose? some students answer, 'CPJ' (Cash Payments Journal), 'Why? Because you've made a payment'. The Protea students recognised the practice and participated in it, in contrast with the Mont Clair students in their accounts lesson. However, they did not seem to be as actively concerned as the Siyafunda students to facilitate the response. The accounts teacher produced an exemplary text on the board (comprising journal entries and a table). Unlike the Mont Clair lesson, the production was far less of a demonstration in that it involved students' vocal participation to a much greater extent. The teacher's commentary included communal strategies other than the choral response, for example, the use the first person plural 'we'; '... we are business people ...'. She also made reference to the students' possible use of the accounts resources that she was relaying; '... if the debtor comes into your store ...'.

Communal strategies were very visible at Protea in all of the lessons. Most of the teachers referred to students by their names and most smiled much more than teachers at either of the other schools. The relationship between teacher and students had the appearance of far greater warmth than in the other schools, with the possible exception of the Xhosa teacher at Mont Clair, where his softer mode of interaction was arguably negatively evaluated by the students. A particularly dramatic example of this use of communal strategies was provided by the mathematics teacher. She had collected students' books earlier in the day than had been expected and had discovered that most of the students had not completed their homework. She pointed to two piles of exercise books, one pile being about three times higher than the other. She indicated that the smaller pile contained the books of those students who had completed their homework and the larger pile those of students who had not. She told the class that she felt that they had let her down, that she was providing work for them to do and that they were not taking advantage of it. The students in the room were silent during the teacher's admonition, mostly looking downwards rather than at the teacher. The teacher announced that the students who had not completed their homework would be punished by loss of marks and also they would have to do additional homework. The teacher then recruited some of the students who had completed the homework to put their answers on the board.

Despite the fact that many of the students hadn't completed their homework, it was still necessary for them to record the work in their books. As the students who had done the work were writing their answers on the board, the teacher told the others that they must do it quickly now, so that they could mark it.

The mathematics teacher had initially established a differentiation in the class between the good students and the bad students. This was achieved through her display of the books, which was an anonymous differentiation, and her recruiting of good students to write on the board; this latter strategy identified at least some of the good students. At the start of the lesson, the teacher presented a very grave appearance, attenuated a little when she referred to the good students. During the course of the lesson, she became increasingly relaxed, so that, by the end of the lesson, the whole class was rehabilitated. Right at the end of the lesson, however, the teacher returned to the homework issue, introducing the memory of shame, 'I'm really insulted'. She announced the additional, punishment homework and said that everyone should do it, even those who had done the original homework, because '... it will be good for you'. Individual responsibility had been effectively equated with collective responsibility and the class, which had been divided at the start of the lesson, was reunited at the end. No student uttered any objection.

The reservoir of resources that were potentially available for recruitment by the teacher was more extensive at Protea than at Siyafunda, so that there was less of a need to rely on the teacher as embodiment of the privileged text/discourse. However, the relationship between teacher and student was not that of service provider to client, as obtained at Mont Clair. Rather, it was that of successful to aspiring member of the community. The emphasis was, as at Mont Clair, on the transmission of resources that would be of value in respect of the students' aspirations. However, the communal responsibility of the teacher entailed that this transmission be affirmed. Hence the use of photocopied material not only substitutes for the lack of textbooks, but enabled the teacher to 'write' directly into the students exercise books. These books, then, stood as testaments to the transmission of the privileged discourse and to the communal act of the sharing of knowledge, as well as providing a lasting resources for reference. At Mont Clair, it was the responsibility of the individual student to provide the textbook (or photocopies) and to maximise their exploitation of the teacher as educational resource. Their exercise books (or, in some instances, files of loose-leaf paper) were substantially the students' own resources. At Siyafunda, the privileged text was constructed collectively and presented as knowledge to be acquired by the students intellectually, rather than simply in their exercise books. The chalkboard is where the teacher writes, the exercise book is where the students write. They constitute the visible affirmations of, respectively, the production and acquisition of the privileged text.


Our intention in this paper has been to describe the pedagogic relations and practices at the three schools in such a way as to emphasise their consistency with the location of each school within the more general social structure. In each case, the relations of transmission are vertical. This is to say that the dominant subject-the teacher-controls the principles of evaluation of the privileged discourse or text. However, this hierarchy is not unambiguous in all cases, and there are also variations in the relations of acquisition.

Thus, the social structure of the comparatively affluent 'white' society which contextualises Mont Clair has been described as close to organic solidarity. In this mode, relations are sustained through interdependence rather than through the collective conscience of the community. This, essentially is how we have described the relations within the classroom. The teacher is in the position of service provider vis a vis each individual students as a clients; the relation between them is contractual. The pedagogic practices of the teacher must produce a professional performance as educational opportunities for the students. In order to achieve this, the teacher can draw on a wide range of available resources. These can include their own embodiment of the privileged discourse and of their particular pedagogic style. The students must exploit these performances in order to acquire the privileged discourse, to make sense of the particular game that is being played in each lesson. The verticality of the relations of transmission are, in this case, ambiguous. The teacher's performance must affirm their own embodiment of the privileged discourse and facilitate its acquisition by the students. This is because of the contractual relationship. If there is some uncertainty that the game being played is indeed the correct one, or if the students' access to it is impeded, then they will register their opposition. Because the teacher-student contract is an individualised relationship, however, this opposition is unlikely to be taken-up collectively and opposition will tend to be comparatively private. The relations of acquisition are horizontal, to the extent that students may not interfere with the contractual relations of their colleagues. This, however, is a negative feature. Essentially, acquisition is independent.

The service provider/client relationship between the school and the students was also affirmed in the assembly, which, in many respects, was constituted as a marketing strategy. This involved the generalising of individual and representative successes to the whole school body. In order to achieve this, communal (positioning and distributing) strategies were employed. However, the community that was established was clearly an object rather than a subject. It was being attributed (distributed) qualities and not, in general, being required to act. Indeed, when it was required to act-for example, in the song-it signally failed to do so. The community, then, was a virtual community. It is interesting to note that practices which might be associated with the collective conscience, which is to say, Christianity, were recruited in the communal strategies. This occurred in respect of the collective worship and in the Deputy Principal's lesson, which made reference to 'We, as Christians ...' and included a Bible reading. It is tentatively suggested that these practices could be recruited as resources in this way is a negation of their standing as a collective conscience. In other words, the simple existence of a common set of practices which are sublimated, discursively, as the religious life does not affirm a mechanical form of social solidarity; the opium of the masses can, it seems be recruited as a resource as well as a narcotic.

The township community is internally agonistic in many respects. Quite apart from the divisions that are of necessity entailed within the development of the division of labour, this group, more than any other, was fragmented by the practices of the apartheid state. Nevertheless, it seems clear that a community is established within the school. We have suggested that this may, in part at least, be the product of the constitution of educational success as an undifferentiated and generally guaranteed route into the fringes of the dominant economy. Any individual's educational success is dependent upon the school which is heavily under-resourced and which, therefore, needs community support. Within the classroom, the teacher must affirm the acquisition of the privileged text-their relationship with the students is not contractual, as at Mont Clair. Yet it is also in everyone's interest to maintain the pacing of the transmission, in order to complete the syllabus. There are, therefore, material grounds for the collective action which constituted horizontal relations of acquisition.

The relations of transmission are here unambiguously vertical. There were no challenges to the teachers' control of the principles of evaluation of the privileged text, even where there was no clear relationship between the privileged text and the relevant subject, as in the elaboration of the play by the English teacher. Again, the relationship between teacher and student is not a contractual one. The teacher is, essentially the exclusive embodiment of the privileged text. This embodiment has been officially certified by the state authorities of the economy to which students must aspire. The teacher has thus already justified their claim to their dominant position within the classroom. Furthermore, the teacher has, by their own educational success, established a degree of separation from the 'community', so that they are not necessarily recognised as equals in oppression. To this extent, whilst they can call upon the collective action of the students, they may not so easily be able to insert themselves into the community that is established in the classroom.

We have described the assembly at Siyafunda as an expression of collective action. This is clearly difficult to confirm. The Deputy Principal of the school, in our interview with her, and also a senior education official (also African), who attended a seminar at which we presented some of this work, both impressed upon us that, where Christianity is concerned, 'we' take things very seriously. This may be so, but it clearly warrants further research. In any event, whether or not it represented a collective religious gravitas, the very forceful expression of community which constituted the assembly was entirely consistent with the material basis of schooling as we have described it. Such an expression would certainly not have been motivated by and may, indeed, be inconsistent with the structure of schooling at Mont Clair. It did not occur, despite the fact that Christianity is, by all accounts, taken very seriously in the 'white' community as well.

The 'coloured' sector of the society is also diverse and stratified and doubtless exhibits internal factional agonies. However, this group has been racially subordinated by the dominant 'white' group and remains in comparative economic subordination[16]. There is a sense in which collective action, as a mechanism of defence, might be understood as constituting the conditions for individual aspirations. The Protea teacher, as at Siyafunda, but unlike the Mont Clair teacher, must be recognised as having achieved a substantial degree of personal career success. In contrast with the Siyafunda teacher, however, this success is containable within the 'community', conceived of in broad terms. This is because this 'community' has been allowed greater penetration into professional and entrepreneurial economic activity than the African 'community'. As a consequence, it is possible for the Protea teacher to insert themself into the collective in communal strategies. Hence the avuncular relationships that we observed between the Protea teachers and their students.

Thus the teacher is not constituted as external to the 'community'. Nor are they constituted as service providers, precisely because of their comparatively superior class position. The residual position, then, is that of successful community member. Establishing this position requires the employment of communal strategies in attenuating the bleak hierarchy of the vertical relations of transmission. As member of the community, the responsibility falls far more heavily on the teacher to affirm the sharing of their knowledge, so that there is less demand for collective action in facilitating this transmission. We might suggest, therefore, that the relations of acquisition are less individualised than at Mont Clair and less collective (horizontal) than at Siyafunda.

This paper represents a preliminary piece of research which we hope to follow up with a far more extensive project. There are clearly a substantial number of issues which such a project will need to address. Firstly, it will need to provide the empirical basis for the elaboration of the descriptions that have been offered for the social and political system which contextualises the schools which are studied. Secondly, it will need to extend the empirical base in terms of the number and range of schools studied and the intensity of the study within each school. In the present study, we were able to visit only three schools and only one class for one day in each and our opportunities to interview students and teachers were severely limited. Thirdly, the project will need to extend its focus beyond what is essentially a race/class interest to include other dimensions, in particular that of gender, which is certainly a feature of the educational practices in all three of the schools studied here. Finally, there is clearly considerable scope for theoretical development. None of the claims made in this paper are intended to be definitive, indeed many are acknowledged as highly speculative. However, it is our hope that we have formulated at least some of them with sufficient clarity to provide an interrogative base for further work in what is clearly a politically exciting context.

Paul Dowling

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Andrew Brown

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See also:

DOWLING, P.C., 1996, 'Baudrillard 1 - Piaget 0: cyberspace, subjectivity and The Ascension' public seminar presented at the School of Education, University of Cape Town, 24th April 1996


1Whilst the majority of children in Standard 7 will be within this age range, there might be older children in the class. Promotion from one Standard to the next is achieved by passing end of year examinations in a range of subjects. There might thus be older students in the class who have either failed to gain promotion at some point in their school career or who have started school late or returned to schooling after a period of absence of a year or more.
2We were assisted in this work by Parin Bahl who acted as a third observer in most of the observations recorded here.
3See, for instance, Pollard's (1985) interactionist study of primary school classrooms.
4See Muller (1989) for of a study of verbal exchanges between teachers and pupils in South African classrooms.
5It was not clear whether or not this man was a teacher. The standard of his English apparent in his reading of the Bible suggested that he was not. He may have been a local church minister or lay preacher.
6Apartheid education legislation effectively created three schooling systems to match the partitioning of society along racial lines. Model C schools were for 'white' students, House of Representatives schools for 'coloured' and 'Indian' students and Department of Education and Training schools for 'African' students. Post-apartheid legislation has moved to the establishment of a unified non-racial education system.
7See Bernstein (1996) and Dowling (1995b, 1995c) for further discussion of these categories.
8This mode of pedagogic interaction in South African schools is described by Muller (1989).
9In response to a seminar by Vivien de Klerk, Dowling has speculated that, under certain circumstances, it may be appropriate to understand the use of English within Xhosa-speaking communities in South Africa as dominated by style significations. In this respect, English use may be construed as similar to the use of Latinate or French expressions in European English. There is a resonance between this speculation and the finding that the privileged text in Siyafunda classrooms must be produced in English, whilst its content may be explicated in Xhosa. Thus there is a separation of mode of expression from content, with the former being dominated by style signification. That which is signified here is the academic genre. Academic success facilitates flight from the most dominated position; English-the language of the academic-was also the language of the struggle (de Klerk)
10 See Dowling (1995a) for a full definition of positioning and distributing strategies and for the distinction between strategies and resources.
11 See Brown (forthcoming) for a description of a similar relationship between middle class parents and primary school teachers in UK schools.
12 'African' is the term currently used to index the 'black', which is to say, not 'coloured' population.
13 The staff meeting (see the next fn.) was conducted in English and Afrikaans without translations.
14 On the day of our visit, each lesson was shortened by fifteen minutes in order to allow additional time for a staff meeting to discuss the rationalisation proposals. The principal and staff invited us to attend the staff meeting which ran for three hours. It is worth noting that there appeared to be general agreement that there was a need for rationalisation because of the extreme shortage of teachers in some parts of the country (some schools have student: staff ratios of up to 120: 1). However, there was obvious concern about the likely outcome for Protea, which already had very large classes. The mechanisms of rationalisation were also having an impact on promotions and management. The principal and his deputies were all acting up from head of department level. If the principal were to be appointed permanently and the school reduced in size, he would have to re-apply for his job at a lower salary.
15 The accounts teacher at Mont Clair made use of his own materials, which he had collected together and bound and a copy of which he kindly gave to us. He said that he did not use the new textbook, because it was not sufficiently 'logical'.
16 That race remains a litmus text of the gross class structure was apparent in an observation at a large branch of a supermarket in an affluent 'white' suburb; the manager and senior assistants were 'white' and the checkout operators were 'coloured', the only African staff that we saw were sweeping up outside.


We should acknowledge the work of Parin Bahl as a third observer in most of these observations and for critical discussion of earlier drafts of this paper. We are also grateful to Paula Ensor, Jaamiah Galant and Donald Katz of the University of Cape Town for introducing us to the schools and arranging our visits. We were, of course, entirely dependent on the hospitality of the three school principals and their representatives and the ready cooperation of the teachers and students whose classes we visited. Finally, we should like to thank staff and masters students at the University of the Western Cape and the University of Cape Town for critical comments during our earlier presentation of this material.


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BROWN, A.J., forthcoming, Parental participation, positioning and pedagogy: a sociological study of the IMPACT primary school mathematics project.

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