500 Words

Mythbusting… Decolonising the Curriculum

With so much activity and drive around decolonisation of education happening at the moment, we thought it was important to step back and take a look at the basics to get your started in your journey.

This blog is aimed at our readers who have tiptoed around the edge of decolonising literature, who have seen the ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ events but not felt confident enough to attend, or who don’t see it as relevant to them. It’s for those of us who just don’t know where to start or who think decolonising is just about adding more Black scholars to their reading list.

So, let’s start by busting some of the top myths around decolonising the curriculum.

It’s not relevant to my subject.

That isn’t the case – whether you’re a mathematician, musician or medical practitioner, decolonisation is relevant to everyone, and we all have to take part in the process to make real progress as a university and community. 

Decolonisation means different things in different disciplines, but the outcome should be the same for everyone; to create a more inclusive and reflective teaching environment, where the source of knowledge can be questioned and the voices of all- not just those in the Global North- are heard.

I’ve achieved decolonisation: there are non-white scholars on my reading list.

It’s a start but no you haven’t. Including perspectives from across the globe is a really important step in decolonising your unit, but that doesn’t mean it is complete. Arguably, a curriculum might never be truly ‘decolonised’ – it is a continual process of review and self-/reflection. There is a lot of discipline-specific advice, tools and information available online – get in touch with BILT if you’re looking for extra support.

Decolonising the curriculum is about removing anyone with dodgy views from the curriculum.

Depressingly, a lot of core scholars we study had abhorrently racist views… but they also made important discoveries. Decolonising the curriculum creates a space to talk about these views, to recognise what happened but also how we have moved on from this. Decolonising the curriculum recognises where ‘knowledge’ comes from but also seeks to explore what we may not have discovered yet due to the colonial structures in place at the time, or continual colonial legacies still prominent in the Global North.

Decolonising is the same as EDI.

Decolonising looks back through history (as well as at current structures influences by coloniality) to challenge knowledge-production and aims to give voice to those who have been marginalised or erased. EDI aims to include voices from a diverse range of background to create a more equal working and learning environment. They are both mutually supportive but have different aims.

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