Contextualising Classics teaching in Malawi : a comparative study
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The thesis of this study is that Classical studies at the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, has been taught with almost no reference to its African context, yet the Classical world, as Ogilvie (1979:2) observed ‘is far removed in time, geography, and philosophy from the world of Africa’. Classics in Malawi is currently taught as in the West, with which it has immediate ties, but if there are to be meaningful gains on the part of students learning Classics in Malawi, we need to contextualise its teaching. The purpose of this study was to identify ways in which Classics teaching at undergraduate level in Malawi might be strengthened in order to make the learning of Classics more meaningful and relevant to the Malawian context, by bridging the gaps between Classical Antiquity and African cultures. The comparative approaches explored will facilitate revision of the University of Malawi Classical Studies curriculum to fulfil the needs and interests of Malawians with the main purpose of contextualising Classical Studies in Malawi. The thesis consists of five chapters which deal with issues relating to Classics teaching in Malawi, namely: the evolution of Classical Studies in Malawi and its challenges; the need to change with the times; views of Latin/Classics teachers about Latin teaching at secondary level; attitudes and perceptions of undergraduate Classics students at Chancellor College to Classics, their perceptions about skills and Classics teaching in general; and views from Classicists from other universities on Classics teaching in general. The main comparative element in the thesis draws on analysis of similar issues in a wide variety of other institutions, including in the UK, the USA, Asia and Africa. Literature relating to Classics pedagogy and Comparative Education approaches, specifically Bereday’s Model, has been reviewed. In addition, Classical Reception theory and Social Constructivism theory, particularly with regard to pedagogy, have been surveyed. The study used purposive sampling. Five types of samples and their corresponding data capturing instruments were used, broken down in the following categories: two types of interviews (one involving Malawian Latin or Classics teachers at secondary level, and the other universities’ Classics lecturers); review of various documents of international universities’ Classics programmes; lecture observations for Classics; and student questionnaire interviews administered to University of Malawi Classics students. The research was a mixed-method design, combining both quantitative and qualitative data analysis, but overall, the study was more qualitative than quantitative. Quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics and qualitative data were analysed using the thematic analysis method. These analyses were followed by discussions of the findings of both quantitative and qualitative data. The major conclusions and implications of the study point to the need for a curriculum review of all Classics courses to ensure that Classics becomes more relevant in the Malawian context.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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