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What do we mean by decolonising and diversifying the curriculum?

This article explores what we mean by ‘Decolonising and Diversifying the Curriculum’.
Stack of books with a question mark in a thought bubble
© University of York

This article explores what we mean by ‘Decolonising and Diversifying the Curriculum’, thinking about what we mean by ‘decolonising’ and then taking a closer look at what the process of decolonising and diversifying the curriculum might involve.

‘Decolonising’ refers to a process of undoing and dismantling colonialist power. This can be used in relation to the decolonisation of a state or nation, e.g African states after the Second World War. It has also come to be used in relation to transforming culture and education.

As Hesandi introduced in the previous video, decolonising and diversifying the curriculum refers to a process which addresses the colonial legacies that shape our curriculum, and the ways in which our curriculum reflects and reproduces those legacies. This can be applied to a wide range of subject matters, including sources of information, ways of thinking, reading lists, curriculum content and teaching and learning practices. It also aims to develop a diverse, inclusive curriculum through critical engagement with the existing curriculum content to identify how marginal voices, identities and perspectives can be heard and represented. This includes thinking about, for example, representations of diverse perspectives around gender, disability, class and LGBTQ+ experiences in the curriculum.

Decolonising and diversifying the curriculum involves questioning sources of knowledge, theories and intellectual traditions and the power dynamics in knowledge production (what is the historical context of our different disciplinary fields of study? Who produces the content that we study and what are its origins?).

It also involves thinking about and questioning whether the curriculum presents some perspectives, theories or approaches as ‘standard’ (and with that in mind, whether other perspectives, theories or approaches are regarded as ‘other’ or marginalised/ excluded), and to what extent the curriculum is relevant to all students and reflects their interests and lived experiences.

Decolonising and diversifying the curriculum can also take place at a subject-specific level; historical perspectives, including colonial legacies, influence different disciplines in different ways, and it is useful to critically examine how decolonising and diversifying the curriculum affects particular disciplines.

As part of the process of addressing the power dynamics involved in knowledge production, it is particularly important to think about the ways in which processes of decolonising and diversifying the curriculum are carried out through co-construction by staff and students, and the ways in which students and staff can become active partners and collaborators in the design, delivery and evaluation of the curriculum at every level and throughout the learning life cycle.

In seeking to decolonise and diversify the curriculum, new perspectives can emerge and marginal voices, identities and perspectives can be heard in order to make it more inclusive and intersectional. In challenging the status quo of what is taught, we can promote more representative content and more diverse ideas. Decolonising and diversifying the curriculum is a process that takes time; as a largely student-initiated movement, it is a crucial part of inclusive learning. We hope you enjoy discovering more about this movement as you move through the following steps.

© University of York
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