The term ‘decolonising the curriculum’ has become popularised within UK higher education. Initially adopted by student activists critiquing Eurocentricity, in recent years the term has been appropriated by higher education institutions as an integral component of their corporate repertoire alongside ‘diversity’; depoliticizing, distorting its original meaning and disconnecting it from the cause of social justice.
The origins of decolonisation are far removed from the Ivory Tower, since ‘Decoloniality is a critical standpoint and movement with origins in south and Latin America, led by indigenous and Afro-descendant scholar-activists. Their key objectives are not only to challenge Eurocentric modes of thinking inextricably linked to slavery, colonialism and modernity, but to construct and advance new ways of thinking, knowing and doing from the intellectual production that emerges from the lived experience of the colonized’ (Gabriel, 2019:1461).
In common with ‘diversity’, ‘decolonisation’ is inconsequential unless it forms part of an institution-wide programme of strategic measures delivering infrastructural changes to educational and academic practice that include policy reform and accountability at faculty and departmental level. These critical interventions are essential to disrupt dominant norms that privilege White, European identity and perpetuate racial inequality in higher education.
Social transformation can only be achieved through the adoption of an integrated approach involving both staff and students like the 3D Pedagogy Framework), a tripartite model that advances cultural democracy, diversification of content, teaching styles and teaching personnel.
When the lecture halls, seminar rooms, staff rooms, course handbooks, reading lists and library shelves are more reflective of the racial and ethnic diversity in the wider society, then educational equity and inclusive excellence will be a reality and social justice will truly prevail.
Dr Deborah Gabriel