The project 'Developing Discourses: Higher Education and Poverty Reduction in South Africa' explores how university-located professional education might contribute to South Africa's transformation priorities, in particular poverty reduction, which we conceptualize as the expansion of human capabilities. This working paper builds on the idea that the project is developing that 'propoor professionalism' can be identified as a set of professional functional capabilities, encouraged by a range of curriculum and pedagogic indicators, which would educate professionals to function in the interests of the poor. We propose that the discourse of professionalism might be employed as a resource to elaborate and illuminate the task that faces the educators of professionals in a transforming South Africa. Across the world there is evidence that ideal-typical professionalism, defined as working for the public good, is in crisis: self-interest and technical rationality are prevailing, and there are histories of collusion with corrupt states (including apartheid South Africa). Nevertheless, we argue that the integrity of professional life is necessary to the health of civic culture everywhere; and, that there are some grounds for believing that a concept of professionalism that is linked to social functions and the common good can be revived to be of service in any democratic society in the contemporary world, and in South Africa in particular. One of the circumstances that makes possible progressive versions of professionalism is the potential offered by education and training. Professional education university departments are charged with a public mission to educate professionals for performance, for ethical judgment and for a disposition towards society and clients; such departments institutionalize distinctive cultures through their pedagogical and research practices. We make some proposals about pedagogic practices that might indicate human development professional capabilities, or to put it another way, indicate strengthening professionalism for the public good.
Working Paper No.3, Development Discourses: Higher Education and Poverty Reduction in South Africa, October 2008, 15 pp.