Keisha Ann Stewart
In the past decade, a coalition of progressive educators have embarked on a transformative journey to make education more equitable and inclusive for students (Elhinnawy, 2023). The unexpected challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted traditional learning and highlighted increased inequalities in education. Widespread concern about learning loss for disadvantaged students resulted in increased motivation to decolonise the curriculum, a critical strategy to bridge widening achievement gaps.
Decolonising the curriculum might seem like the relatively simple task of substituting taught texts, but that is to confuse the word ‘curriculum’ with content (Elhinnawy, 2023). There is no single template to guide the decolonisation process. It needs to respond to time and place (Pimblott, 2020).
While it might seem a mammoth task, concrete steps can be taken to free education from colonial ideology and make schools more equitable. This goes to the heart of my PhD research.
With the help of the London Borough of Greenwich, I am exploring students’ experiences with GCSE literature texts to gather information that may inform future decisions about curriculum development.
My research dovetails with Greenwich’s multifaceted approach to decolonising the curriculum, embodied in their Educate Against Racism (EAR) partnership which is accessible to all schools within the borough.
The EAR partnership is intended to enable schools and the Local Authority to work together to address racial biases and imbalances across all areas in education. The core foci of EAR are:
- Research informed teaching and learning: EAR emphasises high-quality teaching that promotes diversity in classroom content. An anti-racist curriculum hub, initially comprising 21 primary and secondary schools, is now open to all schools in the borough.
- Creating conditions for change and offering continuous professional development: To develop how diversity is interwoven into the curriculum, schools collaborate with external agencies to audit their curriculum. Staff members also receive training on how to decolonise content, making learning a more equitable experience.
- Career development with focus on leadership: EAR states that it is committed to fostering diversity in recruitment. For example, a data collection exercise identified a representational imbalance between school leadership teams and the broader school population. As a result, aspiring leaders from ethnic minority backgrounds have been encouraged to take on leadership roles. They are invited to a space where they hear about leadership journeys and are provided with occasions to receive further training that would enable achievement of professional goals.
EAR also encourages headteachers to talk about the challenges of diversity in school leadership teams, explore strategies to address this issue, and promotes efforts to make governing bodies more representative by offering governor training to individuals from diverse backgrounds.
The EAR partnership is a holistic approach that recognises that decolonisation is not merely about revising curricula content but also about addressing structural disadvantages and biases that permeate the entire educational system. Initiatives like EAR illustrate that decolonising should be everyone’s responsibility. The process of decolonisation should be continuous in the drive to ‘centre the voices, perspectives, and lived experiences of Indigenous, decolonial and anti-colonial intellectuals, scholars and activists’ (Elhinnawy, 2023:675).
As we continue on this path, let us remember that the task of decolonisation is ongoing, evolving, and central to shaping a brighter, more inclusive future for all students.