The Space Beyond – Academic quality renaissance: Case studies within Māori, Mapuche and Mocoví tertiary education organisations
Globally, academic quality is a concept loaded with economic, political, social and cultural connotations. Since the onset of New Public Management and consequent reforms of the late 1980s, the term quality has been pervasive within the complex landscape of tertiary education organisations. Another layer of complexity for Indigenous tertiary education organisations is the imperative for leaders to negotiate quality beyond the unproductive contestation of neoliberal and Indigenous demands.
Culturally Responsive Methodologies such as Critical Theory and Kaupapa Māori Theory are the research paradigm of this qualitative cross-cultural study. Three purposeful chosen case studies in the Indigenous tertiary educational settings of Aotearoa New Zealand, Chile and Argentina were critically examined. The three dimensions of semantic, pragmatic and syntactic within a multiple case study approach, allowed social realities to be critically analysed. Interviews, observations, documentary analysis hui, fieldnotes and photographs, were the data collecting methods employed in the field. Although derived from different histories, each case study shared the experience of neoliberalism, Indigenous renaissance and academic quality that occurred during the 1980s and are still prevalent.
Corresponding models of biculturalism, interculturality and intercultural bilingual education showed different dimensions of an apparent coexistence between neoliberal and Indigenous imperatives of academic quality. The neoliberal and Indigenous coexistance within the third space (Bhabha, 1994), the ethical space (Ermine, 2004; Hammersmith, 2007) and the in-between space (Anderson, 2014), is contested. For instance, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development regards academic quality from a neoliberal perspective that stems from a specific ontology based on privileging economic capital over any other form of capital. Conversely, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples views academic quality from an Indigenous perspective that stems from an ontology based on privileging cultural capital over economic capital.
Indigenous worldviews moved through a series of phases that (L. Smith, 1999, p. 88) termed “1. contact and invasion, 2. genocide and destruction, 3. resistance and survival, 4. recovery as Indigenous peoples” (p. 88). Complementing these phases of L. Smith (1999), my thesis is positioned in a fifth space or space beyond termed Academic Quality Renaissance. From this position, I argue that an ontological conflict or pathology sits behind the neoliberal and Indigenous apparent coexistence, giving rise to a différend or a dispute between two incommensurable language genres (Lyotard, 1988). The thesis in this study provides an alternative view. To lessen the extend of the différend, an ontological shift must take place. By critically examining the data from the case studies, I came to the conclusion that the present preference for marketisation over culturalisation must be reversed to a preference for culturalisation over marketisation. Governments need to acknowledge the United Nations Declaration for Indigenous Peoples’ principles as a guide for making actual policy. Hence, these principles will not be an aspiration but a practical expression in the form of legislation that will allow the Indigenous Academic Quality Renaissance’s core to pulsate the spirituality and sacredness of the Indigenous ontology.