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Critical orientations for humanising health sciences education in South Africa

Pentecost, M.; Gerber, B.; Wainwright, M.; Cousins, T.

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M. Pentecost

B. Gerber

T. Cousins


In this article, the authors make a case for the ’humanisation' and ’decolonisation' of health sciences curricula in South Africa, using integration as a guiding framework. Integration refers to an education that is built on a consolidated conceptual framework that includes and equally values the natural or biomedical sciences as well as the humanities, arts and social sciences, respecting that all of this knowledge has value for the practice of healthcare. An integrated curriculum goes beyond add-on or elective courses in the humanities and social sciences. It is a curriculum that includes previously marginalised sources of knowledge (challenging knowledge hierarchies and decolonising curricula); addresses an appropriate intellectual self-image in health sciences education (challenging the image of the health professional); promotes understanding of history and social context, centring issues of inclusion, access and social justice (cultivating a social ethic) and finally, focuses on care and relatedness as an essential aspect of clinical work (embedding relatedness in practice). The article offers a brief historical overview of challenges in health and health sciences education in South Africa since 1994, followed by a discussion of contemporary developments in critical health sciences pedagogies and the medical and health humanities in South Africa. It then draws on examples from South Africa to outline how these four critical orientations or competencies might be applied in practice, to educate health professionals that can meet the challenges of health and healthcare in contemporary South Africa.


Pentecost, M., Gerber, B., Wainwright, M., & Cousins, T. (2018). Critical orientations for humanising health sciences education in South Africa. Medical Humanities, 44(4), 221-229.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 24, 2018
Online Publication Date Nov 27, 2018
Publication Date Dec 1, 2018
Deposit Date Sep 26, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 4, 2018
Journal Medical humanities.
Print ISSN 1468-215X
Electronic ISSN 1473-4265
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 44
Issue 4
Pages 221-229


Published Journal Article (279 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2018. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ. This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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