Founding Congress European Association of Professors Emeriti
Athens, Greece. 30. September – 1. October 2016.
Learning for the Future: From Hand to Mind and Back again.
The relationship between the conceptual world of academic education, untouched by realities of the practical world, and the practice-oriented world of vocational and professional education with its roots in actual work, is a classic theme both in sociology of knowledge and educational theory. The trajectories of educational systems up to the present have produced hegemonic dichotomies where both academic and vocational education separate knowledge from experience, theory from practice, thought from action. The remoteness of the academic world from the world of work demands new solutions. The traditional contradictions between the work of the hand and the work of the mind, between intellectual and manual labour both in general and inside different professions, face new challenges today. The technological revolution based on ICT is restructuring production at an accelerating speed and is constantly changing labour processes both on the intellectual and manual labour market. This creates new needs for skills in all trades and professions. Old trades vanish, and new trades develop. These developments also lay the groundwork for challenging traditional practices in teaching and learning in educational institutions
Honoured presidents, dear colleagues.
I am very pleased to be here today and share some of my reflections with you after many years of research and participatory experiences in the everyday world of vocational school students and apprentices. This lived experience, together with being a professor emeritus over the past five years, constitutes the basis for the reflections I want to share with you this evening.
I am a sociologist by training, specialised in the sociology of education. I have been studying the changing relations between vocational and general education from a multitude of angles: From a psychological perspective, how individuals learn; from a didactic perspective, learning traditions in workshops with their roots in apprenticeships in feudal times versus learning in the academic classroom from the cathedral traditions of the Middle Ages; thirdly, from a sociological perspective, the division of manual and mental labour as it has manifested itself under industrial capitalism. Of particular inspiration for me in understanding the development and contradictions within the development of educational systems has been the work of two scientists in the beginning of last century, Lev Vygotsky in the Soviet Union and John Dewey in the USA.
One of my research fields has also been gender divisions as they are observable in vocational education, between male and female fields, in relation to movements on the manual labour market and in family ideology as manifested during the development of industrial capitalism. I have been working with these questions for decades, first as a counsellor practising in a big vocational school in Oslo while simultaneously conducting research in the field. I received the first Professorship in Vocational Pedagogy in Norway in 1990. I have since been teaching, mentoring and examining master and doctoral students in Scandinavia, Uganda and South Sudan in the area of technical and vocational education as well as doing research and writing in the complex field of learning in schools compared to learning in work places. I have also been practicing a workshop model as a professor of vocational pedagogy– students share and cooperate in their research and writing from Day 1 to the completion of their thesis. Mentoring from the Master and mentoring each other are the central aspect of this process, the motto being: “All for one and one for all, nobody left behind”. Human beings learn through activity and social relations.
I look upon my research as an exploration of a new field of study. Twenty years ago, working knowledge, vocational education and apprenticeship traditions were neither on the public agenda nor a topic in the science of education, nor were they found in history of education, in pedagogy or in sociology of education. Educational debates in Norway went on as if the manual labour market, working class education and apprenticeship traditions did not exist.
I have done research both in vocational schools and workplaces about the social division of knowledge as, for the past century, it has manifested itself training vocational students and apprentices for the labour market. In schools, the training involves a tripartite division between practical learning in workshops, the learning of vocational theory, that is theory connected to specific trades, and third, academic subjects taught in separate classrooms. The empirical data I collected made me pose new questions about my own academic educational traditions and assumption about the contradictions within our formal educational systems. I started to grasp the depth of the problematic when I began to work with the political economy of knowledge, to work with the texts of Adam Smith and Karl Marx and Alfred Sohn–Rethel. Both Adam Smith and Karl Marx treated the social division of knowledge in their major works. Alfred Sohn Rethel made me understand the longevity and fundamental nature of these divisions within in our abstractions: (pp.2)
“One must take into consideration that the philosophical tradition in itself is a product of the division between intellectual and manual labour and that since its inception, starting with Pythagoras, Herodotus and Parmenides, it has been safeguarded by intellectuals for intellectuals, inaccessible to manual labourers”.
The Greek/French professor of law at La Sorbonne, Paris 8, Nicos Poulantsas has also inspired me with his writings on the division between mental and manual labour and the development of class society during the past hundred years. My empirical work lately has led me to documentary analysis to gain insights in how this has operated in praxis in the curriculum for the working classes in the expansion of formal learning in schools in Scandinavia.
The reason for me stressing these points at this founding congress is that these complexities will be of major concern in all educational systems of the future. I do hope that we as professors emeriti can have an influence on the developments in this time of crisis and social change.
New questions are being posed both in relation to the crisis in the educational systems as well as in the scientific world. A common metaphor for science is a cone of light illuminating or enlightening an expanding area of brightness on a dark map. This image of science, delineated and dismantled by Thomas Kuhn back in 1962, still persists. In this view, the scientist has no personal location and is invisible, signifying disembodied objectivity and scientific freedom.
The scientific perceptions which evolved in Western Europe in the 17th century separated hand, mind and heart. Such separations are facing new challenges. One of Rene Descartes’ philosophical reflections is the accentuation of a dualistic concept of the human being, stating first, that the human mind consists of non-matter. (res cogitas) in other words, it is immaterial and that the body consists of matter, (res extansa) and second, that these two are not only different, but also separate entities. Human reasoning was thus established as independent of the body. The understanding of the body was based on a biological model that separated body and mind. This has disconnected us from the essential interrelation existing between hand, mind and heart. It allowed the natural scientist to explore the body, not to mention the realm of nature, while leaving the human “soul” and subjectivity or let us call it “mind” to the church1.
One problematic is how to transcend Cartesian thinking and view human beings as subjects, as whole human beings, whether they are patients meeting the health practioners or students in schools and universities and when we do our research. Lived experience and qualitative research are central concepts in this matter. Another problematic is ways of seeing. We all have ways of seeing, depending on our own learning and memory. We can talk about “a situated gaze”2. Evidence-based medicine has consequently been a powerful and influential movement within health services and medicinal training during the past decades. The concept of evidence, however, is widely debated and enters in to the general battle over ideas.
1 Mjølstad. 2015
2 See Mjølstad, Bente Prytz, Anna Luise Kirkengen, Linn Getz, Irene Hetlevik 2016:
The battle is fierce. But developments in the natural and social sciences during the past decades are transcending old truths and questioning how the history of science itself relies on dichotomous knowledge traditions, distinguishing theoretical from practical ways of knowing in all kind of professions. New brain research are bringing forth new knowledge about human learning. Eric Kandels researched the sea slug, Aplysia californica, 50 years ago and saw a gemlike formal simplicity, which he used to help build the foundations of modern neuroscience. Kandel revealed that we learn not by altering neurons, but by strengthening or building new synapses between them. He elucidated the basic mechanisms underlying this vital process, including how this synaptic remodeling embodies the concept we now know as gene-expression: it occurs because genes, along with shaping our bodies and colouring our hair, constantly alter our brains by responding to experience. “We are who we are, because of what we have learned and what we remember”. This mirrors the great scientific work and insight of Lev Vygotsky, Aleksei Leontiev and Alexander Luria a hundred years ago. They laid the groundwork for an understanding of how human beings learn through activity and cooperation. As Vygotsky said, inspired by Francis Bacon: Neither the mind nor the hand can do much alone. The deed is brought to fruition through activity and cooperation.
New knowledge and new practices are evolving. New concepts are developing both in social and natural sciences. In pedagogy, one of the new words is that all changes in schools should be based on scientific evidence, so called “research-based changes”, thus educational changes should be followed up by research. New concepts are vocational pedagogy and vocational didactics, concepts I have been working with. The concept pedagogy of professions has developed in relation to these contradictions in higher education.
To sum up: The remoteness of the academic world from the world of work in education cries out for new solutions. The traditional contradictions between work of hand and work of mind, between intellectual and manual labour both in general and inside different professions face colossal challenges. The technological revolution based on ICT is changing labour processes and restructuring production at an accelerating speed creating constantly new needs for skills in all trades and professions. Old professions die and new ones are created. I would like to end with a citation from research colleagues in Trondheim: Investigatore mementote vos generis humanis veritatis speciem effingere. Researchers! You are creating mankind’s definition of reality.
Noma Seminar: Building Education for the Future
Dhaka, Bangladesh. November 4–5, 2008.
Dr. Liv Mjelde:
Creating a Space for Gender Thinking
How to crate space for Gender Theoretical Thinking in the Noma Projects and how to deal with equitable access to Noma Funded Programmes by Women and Marginalized Groups. (Socio-economic and Ethnic/religious Marginalized Peoples)
Chairman, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to share my reflections with you on the complex questions on how to deal with gender problematics in general from a scientific point of view in the Noma Projects and how to deal with women and marginalized groups. How do we secure equitable access to Noma funded projects for women and marginalized groups? By marginalized groups we mean, of course, both men and women from disadvantaged socio-economic strata. Yet another concern is that the programmes should secure non-discriminatory practices on the basis of ethnicity and religion.
I am particularly pleased to address these questions here today because my own scientific research and writings are profoundly connected to these very complex questions and I am sure that I will be inspired to further develop my research in the field through working with good colleagues from the North and the South through the Noma projects.
I am a sociologist by training, specialised in the sociology of education. I have been studying the changing relations between vocational and general education from psychological (forms of knowledge), didactic (workshop and classroom learning) and sociological (division of manual and mental labour) perspectives. One of my research fields has been the gender divisions as they may be observed directly in vocational education, in male and female fields, in relation to movements on the manual labour marked and in family ideology in the development of industrial capitalism. I have been working with these questions for decades, first as a counsellor practising in a big vocational school in Oslo while at the same time conducting research in the field. I received the first professorship in Vocational Pedagogy in Norway in 1990 and I have since been teaching and mentoring Master degree students in the area of technical and vocational education as well as doing research and writing in the complex field of learning in schools and learning in work places.
I have also been involved in critical thinking from a gender point of view over the past 30 years. I think women in the 1960’ began to present new points of view both on the academic and the political level, questioning the hegemonic Western way of thinking. Much new knowledge and new questions have been put forward during the past decades. An inspiration for me have been epistemological debates in general as they have been raised by critical thinkers and doers of both genders in the North and as well as in the South. I am referring to such persons as Franz Fanon and Edvard Zaid, to the works and activities of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, to Arundatha Roy, Vandana Schiva and Women Nobel Price winners, such as Rigoberta Menchu from Guatemala and Maathai Wanagri from Kenya. And last, but not the least, the Nobel Peace Price winner of last year, Mohammed Yunus, from Bangladesh, where we have been received today. I have also been inspired by critical feminist thinkers in my own field of sociology as well as in philosophy from both the North and the South.
Also part of my background are my visits and extensive cooperation with peoples from the South, mainly human beings from Latin America and Africa, both in the South, but also marginalized peoples in Norway and Canada. The first time I visited vocational schools and factories in Africa was in Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania in 1980. This was still the time of Julius Nyerere and I remember well his analysis of development/underdevelopment/ North/South problematic. He told the story of how much more hemp it was necessary to produce in Tanzania in order to buy a tractor made in the North. He pointed out that they had to produce 5 times as much in 1980 as in 1970. I think we are all aware of the complex economic problematics within which we exist, both in the South and the North and it is the backdrop to all we do, also in the Noma projects. We are all under the scourge of international financial politics and as we all know today are in deep crisis.
But they main topic here today is, however, how to secure a development within the Noma projects that gives hope to marginalized groups, both men and women, groups that often are marginalized because of lack of work opportunities and lack of education. How can the Noma Master projects create new hope for human beings and new knowledge about the complexities around the relation between production and our educational efforts?
I am involved in the Noma project at Kyambogo university in Kampala, Uganda. I am the Norwegian project coordinator and Dr. Habib Kato is my Ugandan counterpart. It is a trilateral project, Uganda, Norway and South Sudan. The aim of the undertaking is to develop a Masters programme in Vocational Pedagogy at Kyambogo University (KyU) in relation to labour market developments in Uganda and Southern Sudan with focus on building up sustainable living conditions and economic growth for the populations in these regions.
KyU is the only university in Uganda with fully fledged vocational studies; it offers bachelor degrees in food processing technology, art and design, human nutrition and dietetics, agriculture, business management, mechanics, the electro fields, construction and information and communication technology (ICT). These bachelor programmes are part of the vocational teacher education. (Lutalo-Bosa 2006), The Ugandan “Poverty Eradiation Action Plan 2004/5-2007/08” (p.159-162) emphasizes the need for strengthening vocational education in relationship to the economy’s need for skills and this project can been seen as a direct response to this need.
Both KyU and Akershus University College have years of experience in training vocational teachers at the Bachelor level. South Sudan is in a different situation after decades of war, but according to assessment of the situation, vocational education and training for youth and adults is urgently needed to address the skills’ deficit in the south of Sudan. The importance of vocational education and training is stressed for social integration. One aim is to include demobilized soldiers; this is to be given emphasis because peaceful reintegration of soldiers into civilian life is critical to establish social stability. The programme describes plans for establishing vocational training centres, acknowledges the critical role of women and girls in the development of society and raises awareness to promote training geared towards sustainable development.
The Department of Vocational and Technical Teacher Education at my institute has been developing and delivering a Masters Programme in Vocational Pedagogy over the past 30 years, a programme that has created new knowledge of the complex field of vocational education, education specifically related to the ebbs and flows of the manual labour market, and hence the specific educational requirements needed to meet the challenges of changing market conditions and demands. What is characteristic of vocational education is that it takes place both in schools and in workplaces and that it is directly related to the economy’s need for skills (Mjelde 1993).
A point of departure for developing the Masters programme at KyU is the experience with the work-based learning approaches that HiAk has developed in vocational pedagogy and vocational didactics (Mjelde 2006). This has been developed as result of a wide range of development projects in cooperation with business and industry in Norway and through research projects carried out by vocational school teachers at the postgraduate level. Vocational school teachers learned trades, developed their qualifications, and were part of the manual labour market before they trained as teachers and researchers. As a background to their teaching, this experience provides a basis for understanding the dynamics of change in the labour market; such changes are taken up as the starting point for training and education; in other words, people’s need for skills in relationship to sustainable development are given central emphasis. This has also led to innovative ways of understanding general dynamics of teaching and learning. We can talk about “a master/apprentice” learning model where the central task may be making a table, learning about products and sales or writing a Masters thesis. The activities itself are at the core of the learning process. This is a social, “learning by doing” model that is well known in the everyday life of people both in Norway and the African countries concerned. This also challenges traditional ways of thinking about indigenous knowledge and the integration of knowledge systems (Broch-Utne 2000, Hoppers 2002, Smith 1999). And what knowledge is and of course how humans beings acquire knowledge. (Dårlig setning?)
In relation to this problematic: Our Ugandan colleague, Dr. James Lutalu Bosa alleged in a speech in 2006 that “In Africa in general the most desirable trait one can have is to be practical and social and in the West the star qualities are to be philosophical, theoretical, individualistic and inventive”. Maybe this is very categorical, but maybe we can see it also as part of what we can call ”the social organization of knowledge” as it has developed in Western hegemonic thinking in the past 300 years. Among the most central aspects of this line of thought is that technological rationalism and ego-oriented individualism are principal characteristics of human existence. Ego-oriented individualism assumes that what makes us into human beings is freedom from dependence on the will of others and our capacity for entering into ego-oriented relations with other people. Human society is first and foremost regarded as a set of market relations between individuals as possessors of their own person and capacities. ”Buying and selling yourself” is what pays off and gives ”the greatest amount of good to the greatest number of people”. And to days mantra: Everything can be solved through competition.
This is of course a value system that ha been contested terrain during the past centuries. By insightful analysis, critical science theoreticians have shown how the presumption of human technological rationalism and ego-oriented individualism have suffused western and political thinking in the last few centuries and has been regarded as part of the ”natural order”, to use one of the Antonio Gramsci’s concepts. One may well ask if this way of thinking does not permeate today’s power structure. For those scientists who work within this tradition, knowledge is often regarded as logical lines of thought, relatively independent of people’s every day life at home and at work. There are many of these scientists practicing to this day, both men and women. And of course many feminist theoreticians who do not pose these fundamental questions.
Indigenous populations and marginalized groups have risen up and made their demands both in the North and the South. Workers have organized and put their demands forward for a more human world. Post-colonial thinkers and women researchers have put new questions on the table both in the North and the South. The Nigerian professor Mary E. Modupe Kolavole has posed fundamental epistemological question in relation to these complex matters in her book “Womanism and African Consciousness” and she calls for a re-conceptualization of African Gender Theory. She says that sexualitiy and gender issues in African Societies have often been subsumed under various discourses, local and international, that do not adequately recognize the complexities and specificities of the reality of African Societies. And I will add here the variations of traditions on this huge continent from Sahara in the North to the Western Cape of South Africa. I am here talking of Africa, but I am of course not excluding the complexities of the Latin America and the Asian World.
Other Nigerian researchers, Ifi Amidiane and Oyeronke Oyewumi oppose the French Philosopher Simone the Beauvoir’s famous thesis about women as “the Second Sex”. Simone de Beauvoir’s famous words have influenced bourgious feminist thinker during the past decades, but I have this way of thinking not satisfactory for me, neither on a personal level, nor as a researcher in relation to girls situation in vocational education- be it in schools or in workplaces. So I feel close to the African critique. In my own research it has been difficult to make sense of women as “second sex” in relation to working women’s everyday live in Norway and how they perceive their lives. The Danish Sociologist Signe Arnfred points out that concepts developed for Africa are fruitful not only in an African context, but also as sources of inspiration for feminists in the West for developing new concepts and opening up alternative ways of thinking in Western contexts as well. One of the thinkers who has been much influenced by African thinking is the philosopher Sandra Harding. In her thorough book, ”The Science Question in Feminism”, Sandra Harding takes up these problems from a general and feminist point of view. As a point of departure she analyses feminist criticism that has come about during the past decades against traditional ways of thinking in western scientific theory and she sums up the criticism. Another point of departure is that the social structure of science, its areas of application and technologies, the way in which it defines research problems and makes research designs, is not only culturally determined, it is also racist as well as class- and gender discriminating.
Sandra Harding goes into different approaches in feminist scientific criticism and creates fertile ground for critical perspectives that suggest a relationship between knowledge and being, between epistemology and metaphysics, which are alternatives to the dominant epistemologies that have developed to justify science’s truth-seeking and ways of being in the western world and which of course have influence all over the world today.
Sandra Harding draws up the differences between a reformist and a revolutionary feminist science criticism and it is only natural that reformist criticism is the least threatening to existing science. Equality and quota regulations do not threaten ”the natural order”. More threatening to what Dorothy E. Smith calls ”the ruling apparatus” is female scientists posing critical questions about what a scientific problem is and show how you can conduct research and development in cooperation with people and not about people.
Both Dorothy Smith and Sandra Harding have an understanding of history that is fundamental to their scientific thinking. Sandra Harding discusses how the organization of labour which produces scientific knowledge has changed in ways parallel to industrial division of labour, whether one produces bread or chairs, from a crafts oriented to an industrial organization of labour and with a new division between intellectual and manual labour. Under feudalism in Europe there was a strong division of labour between intellectuals and the aristocracy on one side and those who performed practical labour on the other. These divisions of labour were weakened with the arrival of a new type of social being whose work demanded an education in both reading and writing and knowledge about raw materials and instruments. These were artisans, such as ship- and church builders, sailors, mine workers, masons and carpenters. Without school education they invented the compass and guns, they constructed mills and mining equipment. They were pioneers of empirical observation, experimentation and casuistic research (Zilsel 1942). The great artist Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 –1519) was a great inventor and multi-craftsman. The new scientific movement of the Age of Enlightenment also had a humanistic orientation. Galileo Galilei maintained that science should serve ”the people” and it should be used to redistribute knowledge and wealth. These were heretical thoughts in the Middle Ages and perhaps also today. Another dimension of this problematic is brought forward in the work of Alfred Sohn Rethell. He says in his book. “Intellectual and Manual Labour. A critique of Epistemology”
Admittedly it must be taken into consideration that the philosophical tradition is itself a product of the division between mental and manual labour, and since the beginning with Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Parminedes has been a preserve of intellectuals for intellectuals, inassessible to manual workers”.
Alfred Sohn Rethell worked on this book from 1917 till it was published in 1974. I admire this kind of thorough working and his work has really helped me to grasp the complexities in the educational systems with the specific division of knowledge as you see it – between general and vocational education and between different curriculum and value systems.
Why do I make such an emphasis on these questions here to day? What impact does these epistemological questions have for the Noma projects? I think our educational institutions, whether you are in the South or North are living with the heritage, dilemmas and contradictions I have stressed here in this time of globalization and social change. And we need to transcend them. I am an optimist. We are in a period of crisis and that may form the basis for constructive changes in both education with its divisions between vocational fields and general fields, contradictions between mental and manual labour, as well as in scientific thinking.
The relationship between the individual and the collective, between self-interests and collective interests are complex questions and the reason I bring them up here is to open up for discussion how this view came about and at the same time show that it is not necessarily a fact of nature, but part of western development over the past 300 years. Is it possible that these viewsare contrary to human nature? And how can we deal with these questions from a critical point of view in the Noma projects?
And how have to deal with the gender questions? In Norad’s programme for Master Studies one of the overall objectives is to enhance gender equality in all programme activities.
The easiest is of course to secure to secure equal opportunity for access to both male and female applicants. We have a very clear goal of having 50% women and 50% men both from Southern Sudan and Uganda. I think we will manage to fullfill that goal. But another thing is how to weave a gender understanding into the curriculum that is neither euro-centric nor ethno-centric or male–hegemonic oriented? How to integrate these perspectives into the modules and our own practice?
In our Noma Master project in Vocational Pedagogy at Kyambogo gender is a central question in relation to the curriculum. A specific trait in vocational education has also been the gender traditions in relation to development on the labour market and in family ideology (Mjelde 2004, 2005). We can trace similarities in gender traditions in the field of vocational education in the North and the South. Women are in home economics and men in the technical trades, but I think it is also differences. This is a field that has been little explored in a “North-South” perspective, yet it is a field that gives new and interesting possibilities for comparative research in a number of areas (Arnfred 2004). We will try to give special attention to the specific gender traditions and divisions on the labour market throughout the whole masters programme in order to deepen our understanding of the conditions pertaining to gender relations. The role of women in these processes will be central. One of the aims of the project is to discuss and be aware of gender equity matters, and to do so in a manner that addresses the specific needs in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan.
But I am aware of that these are complex questions with no easy answers. We have actually a module called “Gender, Vocational Pedagogy and Multicultural Perspectives” and the students can write their Master Thesis within this field. I find often that we find new knowledge in Masters thesis and Doctoral dissertations. My Masters Students work is a deep inspiration for me in my own research and I am sure that that will also happen working together with colleagues and students in Uganda. I am of the opinion that we have to create new and more complex knowledge that takes peoples everyday life as a point of departure seen in relation to the restraints institutions in our societies place on peoples’ activities.
I am also asked to reflect on the complexities around ethnicity and religion in relation to the Noma projects. These questions are of course huge topics in themselves, and from my point of view ethnic and religious questions are deeply interwoven in political and economic questions.
I would like to draw your attention to an excellent PHD dissertation from the University of Live Sciences at Ås, Norway, a thesis that examines the development dilemmas of the indigenous people – the Adivasis of Kerala, India. The analysis shows that the underdevelopment and marginalization of adivasis is the product of the political economic processes in which they were forced to participate as unequal players, from a position of disadvantage. The nature of the conditions of their participation has been changing thorough history with the changing character of political economy at the local, national and global level. Darley Jose Kjosavik shows how the political economic processes that create wealth for some simultaneously produce poverty and deprivation for others. It is a very complex and rich dissertation that makes you wiser. I think my work with students make me wiser.
I usually tell students that I hope to be an inspiration for good conversation ”which will start new internal dialogues” in all of us. To ask questions about established truths is important for everyone in general and for teachers/ researchers/ students it is part of their job – as we use our time in creative effort which we all hope will be transcending and give new insight into our complex existence. We must go beyond today’s contradictory clichés and I see the Noma projects and the cooperation between the North and the South as a good possibility of getting a deeper understanding of each other and the possibility of creating new and more complex knowledge within the field of education together. Another complex question we also face in the Noma projects are the variation in religious beliefs. My point of departure in this matter is actually that religious feelings or our relation to spirituality in this world are very much a personal matter. It is something that we all carry in our hearts and minds. I hope we can take it as a matter of course that religious faith must not favour or stop anyone from participating in the Noma Projects. I hope that religious and political tolerance for other human beings points of view will be part and parcel of the Noma Educational Projects.
I had a mother who said: “Knowledge is not heavy to carry.” I think these words from her have inspired my curiosity and my eagerness to always seek new knowledge and be ready for good conversations that make me understand more of the complex and wonderful world we are living in. But as we know, what is useful knowledge in our time and age is a very complex question. Dr. B.D. Mpandey, the vice chancellor of Kyambogo University, quoted the following in a Stakeholder meeting we had in Kampala in February:
“In a post-industrial society, with a complex mix of democratic procedures and highly centralised organisations, knowledge becomes the core instrument of development and progress, the touchstone to social mobility and national power, the instruments of knowledge are in constant tension, the broadest dissemination of skills and ideas is balanced against the restraints of government and managerial elites. Knowledge becomes both a resource of human liberation and a primary device to ensure control among agitated masses.”
I feel we live in the midst of these contradictions and complexities and our tasks are not easy, neither in the North nor in the South. But I feel extremely privileged to be part of the Noma Projects and to be able to share knowledge and experience with colleagues from both the North and the South who are all interested in working for a better world for all human beings.
I thank you for having listened to me.
But one general question is whether the scientific perceptions which have been encapsulated in the traditions that evolved in the 16th century in Western Europe, and which gained an increasing dominance in Western society, are perhaps dominant today in spite of the complex development of science and the criticism of positivism.
Rationalism presumes that humans being are first and foremost rational creatures and that by systematic use of human reasoning one can arrive at the laws that govern human existence. The systematic use of the ability to think is regarded as having brought forth large amounts of scientific knowledge, many technological advances and a continuous development of society without posing any questions about what that development is. Technological rationalism takes institutional structures and procedures in scientific and technological practice for granted as the only legitimate, systematic use of the human ability to think and regards such institutionalized forms as necessary to the continued development of society.
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