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What is Decolonisation?
Curriculum decolonisation is about identifying and challenging the ways in which colonialism and imperialism have impacted upon perceived knowledge, learning, and society. It means acknowledging, reflecting upon, and addressing the legacy of disadvantage, injustice and racism from historic global domination by ‘the West’, and the consequent inherent ‘whiteness’ of our STEM disciplines. Advances in science and engineering have benefitted from injustices brought about by imperialism, to which many of our disciplines have also contributed. Decolonisation seeks to recognise this legacy and to re-balance the dominant Eurocentric and Anglo-American structures within curricula by integrating a much wider range of perspectives.
Why is it Important to Decolonise our Curricula?
“We must ensure that every course and every curriculum at our University allows all students an equal opportunity to thrive” (Stories from Scholars)
Aside from the self-evident moral and ethical justifications for decolonising our curricula, there are several other practical, educational reasons and benefits for doing so, including:
- Our highly diverse modern student cohorts are not reflected in predominantly white, middle-class teaching methods and content. This is at odds with our aim to provide an authentic, learner-centred pedagogy that reflects the lived experience our learners (Shay 2016).
- A curriculum that reflects our student cohort and which integrates much greater awareness of diversity may help eradicate ethnicity-based disparities that exist in several educational outcomes (e.g. ‘good honours’ awards and graduate employment, see section 2.3).
- Including new and challenging perspectives within curricula both enriches learning and enhances critical thinking (Liyanage 2020).
- Decolonisation complements the University’s strategic aims for inclusive, diversified, and sustainable education.
- Greater opportunities are afforded for knowledge production from non-traditional sources (i.e. not Western-dominated), broadening our intellectual vision and enabling more rounded research outcomes.
- Students and staff are empowered and enabled to understand their own positionality in social, economic, political contexts, and this aligns with the University’s strategic priorities in relation to sustainability and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
KEY RESOURCE: Decolonising the STEM Curriculum Toolkit This comprehensive resource was developed at Manchester Metropolitan University by a team led by Theresa Nicholson. The resource includes numerous examples of guidance, discussion commentaries, peer-reviewed papers, and reference data, with a particular focus on STEM disciplines including the geosciences. https://www.mmu.ac.uk/about-us/professional-services/uta/reducing-awarding-gaps/decolonising-the-curriculum-toolkit
Beauchamp, Z. (2015). 500 Years of European Colonialism in one Animated Map. Online at: https://www.vox.com/2014/5/8/5691954/colonialism-collapse-gif-imperialism
Bonnett, A. (1997). Geography, ‘race’ and Whiteness: Invisible traditions and current challenges. Area 29(3), 193-199. Online at: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.1997.tb00022.x.
Cartier, K.M.S. (2021). Teaching Geoscience History in Context. Eos 102. Online at: https://doi.org/10.1029/2021EO155621 Earth and Space Science News, American Geophysical Union.
The Decolonial Atlas. Online at: https://decolonialatlas.wordpress.com/
Department of Animal and Plant Sciences (2019). Applying A Decolonial Framework To Teaching And Research In Ecology And Evolution. University of Sheffield. The original resource does not appear to be available any longer, however, you can access a PDF version available here: https://stummuac.sharepoint.com/:b:/s/SciEngDecolonisingCurricula/ERlYZJISasNOqH-Z8xjShhcBvSwvgnt5gpXJ6D4TS3a1PQ?e=CFofLL. This resource includes examples of decolonised teaching in animal behaviour, biodiversity, ecosystem science, global change, and conservation management.
Esson, J. (2020). “The why and the white”: Racism and curriculum reform in British Geography. Area, 52(4), 708-715. Online at: https://rgs-ibg.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/area.12475
Esson, J. and Last, A. (2020). Anti‐racist learning and teaching in British Geography. Area, 52(4), 668-677. Online at: https://rgs-ibg.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/area.12658
Koyama, N. (2022). Decolonising the Curriculum: Steps To Decolonise The Curriculum Within The School. Liverpool John Moore’s University. Online at: https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/about-us/faculties/faculty-of-science/school-of-biological-and-environmental-sciences/decoloniality
Mahtani, M. (2006). Challenging the ivory tower: Proposing anti-racist geographies within the academy. Gender, Place and Culture 13(1), 21-25. https://doi.org/10.1080/09663690500530909.
Menon, K.R.B. (2021). The missing colours of chemistry. Nature Chemistry 13, 101-106. Online at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41557-020-00632-8#citeas
Norman, M. (2021). Steps towards decolonising the school geography curriculum. In: M. Moncrieffe (Ed). Decolonising the Curriculum: Teaching and Learning About Race Equality 4, 15-16. University of Brighton. Online at: https://cris.brighton.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/24019407/Decolonising_the_Curriculum_Teaching_and_Learning_about_Race_Equality_Issue_4_May_2021_MONCRIEFFE_et_al.pdf
Noxolo, P. (2017). Introduction: Decolonising geography knowledge in a colonised and re-colonising post-colonial world. Area 49(3), 317-319. https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12370.
Radcliffe, S.A. (2017). Decolonising geographical knowledges. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 42(3), 329-333. Online at: https://doi.org/10.1111/tran.12195 This is the opening editorial for a themed journal issue containing five papers on decolonising geography.
Rogers, S., Dowey, N., Lau, L., Sheikh, H. and Williams, R. (2021). Geology uprooted! Decolonising the curriculum for geologists. Geoscience Communication (preprint, in review). Online at: https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2021-35
Royal Geographical Society (undated). 60-Second Guide to Global North-South Divide (online at: https://www.rgs.org/schools/teaching-resources/60-second-guide-to-global-north-south-divide/)
Rupprecht, A. (2019). Towards Decolonising the BA Humanities Programme Core Module, ‘Critical Traditions in Western Thought’. In: M. Moncrieffe, Y. Asare, R. Dunford, and H. Youssef (Eds.). Decolonising the Curriculum: Teaching and Learning About Race Equality 1, 16-17. University of Brighton. Online at: https://cris.brighton.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/6443632/Decolonising_the_curriculum_MONCRIEFFE_32_pages_4th_July.pdf
General Decolonising Resources
1001 Inventions https://www.1001inventions.com/discover/ 1001 Inventions is an award-winning, British based, science and cultural heritage organisation that creates international educational initiatives to raise awareness of the cultural roots of science and technology. On the ‘Discover’ page they highlight the contributions to advancement in science and technology of numerous lesser-known and overlooked pioneering individuals from non-Western countries.
Arshad, R. (2021a). Decolonising the Curriculum – How do I get started? The Campus, Times Higher Education, September 2021. Online at: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/campus/decolonising-curriculum-how-do-i-get-started?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=campus-weekly&mc_cid=c0f6991ac2&mc_eid=5115ceb94d
Arshad, R. (2021b). From Inclusion to Transformation to Decolonisation. Teaching Matters Blog. Online at: https://www.teaching-matters-blog.ed.ac.uk/from-inclusion-to-transformation-to-decolonisation/
Biggs, N. (2020). Towards decolonising research processes. In: M. Moncrieffe (Ed). Decolonising the Curriculum: Teaching and Learning About Race Equality 3, 12-13. Univ. of Brighton. Online at: https://cris.brighton.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/14207553/Decolonising_the_Curriculum_Issue_3_Teaching_and_Learning_about_Race_Equality_July_2020.pdf
Black History Month (2021). Black History Month Online at: https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/
Brooks, E. and Patel B. (2020). Decolonising science research education and practices. In: M. Moncrieffe, Y. Asare and R. Dunford (Eds.). Decolonising the Curriculum: Teaching and Learning About Race Equality 3, 14-16. Online at: https://cris.brighton.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/14207553/Decolonising_the_Curriculum_Issue_3_Teaching_and_Learning_about_Race_Equality_July_2020.pdf
Carbon Literacy Project (2021). The Extraordinary Work of Black Environmentalists. Online at: https://carbonliteracy.com/the-extraordinary-work-of-black-environmentalists/
González-Ruibal, A. (2021). Scholars from the Global South must be helped to make a splash, Times Higher Education (Opinion 28th October 2021). Online at: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/opinion/scholars-global-south-must-be-helped-make-asplash
Gowers, J. (2020). Science Curricula Must Be Decolonised Too. Broadcast News Items, June 2020. Online at: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/52188 A short exploration of how injustice can be found in almost every scientific discipline while giving examples of such injustices and how they can be used by scientists in academia to discuss race in the context of their subject.
Hack, K. (2020). Decolonisation of the Curriculum – A Conversation. AdvanceHE. Online at: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/news-and-views/decolonisation-curriculum-conversation
Hall, J., Velickovic, V. and Rajapillai, V. (2021). Students as Partners in Decolonising the Curriculum. The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, 7(1). Available online at: https://cris.brighton.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/23970078/1036_4643_1_PB.pdf
Keval, H. (2019). Navigating the ‘decolonising’ process: avoiding pitfalls and some do’s and don’t’s. Discover Society, 65. https://archive.discoversociety.org/2019/02/06/navigating-the-decolonising-process-avoiding-pitfalls-and-some-dos-and-donts/
Nicholson, D.T. (2021). Links Between Decarbonising and Decolonising. Some notes and observations from the SOS (Students Organising for Sustainability) and UCU (University and College Union) workshop on ‘Decarbonising and Decolonising: Education for Climate Justice’ (October 2021). https://sway.office.com/2DiHI84FqWnODCEK?ref=Link
Roy, R. (2018). Decolonise science – time to end another imperial era. The Conversation, April 2018. Online at: https://theconversation.com/decolonise-science-time-to-end-another-imperial-era-89189
Stone, R. and Ashton, S. (2021). How not to decolonise your curriculum. Wonkhe April 2021. Online at: https://wonkhe.com/blogs/how-not-to-decolonise-your-curriculum/
Universities UK and NUS. (2019). Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Student Attainment at UK Universities: Closing The Gap. Universities UK and National Union of Students: London. Online at: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/sites/default/files/field/downloads/2021-07/bame-student-attainment.pdf
Buford, M. (2021). Covert Racism and Black Erasure in the UK. 25-minute YouTube video online at: https://youtu.be/Nwwtnsf1evM.