What do we want to achieve?
By decolonising the curriculum, we aim to cultivate an environment which would expand our existing curriculum, by way of embracing intellectual contributions of all authors, white and non-white alike. It aims to create an academic space in which all students can feel that they belong to, and identify with; a space where stereotypes, prejudice and patronising views are broken down to encourage intellectual stimulation for all. This commitment to capture the richness of knowledge in both the global North and South will not compromise academic standards or freedom as the aim is not to replace ‘white’ books by ‘black’ ones. On the contrary, the aim is to offer educational resources which reflect the plurality of views in the production of knowledge for the benefit of both white and minority ethnic students as it will help everyone question what is taught and how it is taught, opening the possibility to question and challenge any knowledge. This in turn will ensure that we provide equal opportunities to, and guarantee the success of, all our students.
The project is linked to the Personal Skills Award (PSA). The PSA is the University of Birmingham's recognised employability programme for undergraduate students. It enables students to develop, recognise and articulate your skills in preparation for real-world recruitment processes.
But what does decolonising the curriculum means?
‘Decolonisation’ can mean different things to different people in different contexts. The Cambridge Dictionary, for instance, refers to ‘decolonisation’ as ‘the political independence received by European colonies (i.e. a country or area controlled politically by a more powerful country) in Africa and Asia after World War II’. From a ‘decolonial’ lens, this very definition calls for a questioning as the wording (‘independence received’) undermines the reality experienced by millions of people, their liberation struggles against oppression, and the fights they won against Eurocentric domination. In other words, independence was never ‘handed-over’ but was fought for, over several centuries. As such the term ‘decolonisation’, although contested, calls for a different ‘way of thinking about the world which takes colonialism, empire and racism as its empirical and discursive objects of study’.
How are we working to decolonise our curriculum?
Years 1 and 2
Building on the pilot phase (20-21) which brought together colleagues from all three departments in the School, during the second year (21-22), Think Diversity reviewed existing compulsory modules delivered as part of the BA Education programme. The modules and programme are reviewed considering all aspects of the curriculum according to Inclusive Curriculum Framework, focused on accessibility, inclusivity and employability. This review involves both staff, leading the module, and students participating in the module.
Think Diversity also prepared a report based on a survey and focus groups with minority ethnic students in the School of Education. The report’s recommendations were presented with an action plan to the School’s Senior Management team in November 2022. The report was prepared by the then leads: Ms Xiaqiuzi Han (now at Columbia) and Ms Ziqi Li (now at UCL). See details below if you’d like to access the report.
Last academic year, Think Diversity have been interviewing students and staff across the University on the meaning of decolonisation for the University of Birmingham. They prepared and launched the video (see outputs and impact below) and a decolonisation ‘toolkit’ during a university-wide event (see event information below).
We are also working with colleagues based in Dubai, who are engaged with local schools in decolonising matters. We are supporting the local schools through guidance and input on a framework that could be used to review the school curriculum with a view to adapting this to the UAE context and age of students. We are also working with colleagues on campus who are working on decolonising the curriculum for our Dubai students.