Welcome to Issue 4 of Decolonising the Curriculum – Teaching and Learning about Race Equality.
High interest in our previous issues have called for the opportunity to share wider views,
interpretations and experiences of the concept. This interest demonstrates the broad impact of our
work in research and knowledge exchange. Issue 4 offers a multidisciplinary voice for decolonising
the curriculum given by academics and students from across five UK Higher Education institutions.
Lambros Fatsis (School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Brighton) raises concerns with the
implementation of black scholarship into the curriculum without black people included in the power
structure of universities taking a lead on this intellectually, culturally and materially. Olga Lidia
Saavedra Montes de Oca (School of Media, Arts and Humanities, University of Sussex) voices her
scepticism with the decolonisation process taking place within UK institutions, due its disconnection
from people’s real struggles. This is a tension against what she sees as the need to maintain
ownership of this academic platform for strengthening and broadening networks between scholars,
activists and artists all committed to dismantling structural racism in academia and society. Next,
Shreya Savadia, Chelsea Priscila Gomes Da Costa and Holly Jackson (Nottingham Trent University
BA Hons. Education students) reflect on their experiences of teaching and learning through the
school national curriculum. They call for action and commitment with decolonising the curriculum by
improving design and delivery of course and module content to make this more ethnically and
culturally representative of all pupils in the classroom. In her article, Lisa Opoku (Masters of
Education student, University of East London and primary school teacher) argues that change and
positive action with decolonising the curriculum can only be effective when school leaders face up
to the negative existence of racism. Melanie Norman (formerly a Geography tutor, School of
Education, University of Brighton) offers an overview of how she sees geography teachers are
working towards eliminating the dominance of whiteness in teaching and learning, allowing for more
broader and inclusive educational opportunities. Finally, Katherine Rostron (Salford Business School,
University of Salford) shares her account of decolonising the curriculum through course review and
changes implemented to a level five cross cultural communication module of teaching and learning.
All in all, another fabulous collection of unique responses to the concept which can support with
advancing thinking and action for transforming policy and practice.
Dr Marlon Moncrieffe
School of Education
University of Brighton
LAMBROS FATSIS, Black Tools for White Schools?....................................................................... 4-6
OLGA LIDIA SAAVEDRA MONTES DE OCA, A Black scholar emerging from the closet of otherness ... 7-8
SHREYA SAVADIA, CHELSEA PRISCILA GOMES DA COSTA & HOLLY JACKSON, Is the National
Curriculum inclusive? The perspectives of three undergraduate students regarding the current
UK education system. ............................................................................................................... 9-11
LISA OPOKU, Decolonising Education: A Black Female Teacher’s Perspective .................................. 13-14
MELANIE NORMAN, Steps towards decolonising the school geography curriculum .......................... 15-16
KATHERINE ROSTRON, First steps for module leaders: Decolonising a module in Salford
Business School ..................................................................................................................... 18-22
Black Tools for White Schools?
School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Brighton
In the aftermath of the 2020 wave of Black Lives Matter protests, renewed calls to decolonise
university and school curricula became mainstream. UK universities quickly responded with fresh
declarations of their commitment to the cause, giving new impetus to such debates. My provocation
enters the fray by arguing that decolonisation must move beyond the curriculum to achieve racial
and social justice. Drawing on my own discipline— Criminology—I open my thoughts up as an
invitation to decolonise what and how we know and think, what and how we teach, as well as where
we work, who we work with and what we work towards.
In the summer of 2020—as temperatures soared and the Covid-19 pandemic brought the national
death toll to a Grenfell a day—a rebellion over the value of black lives forced many to confront what
makes black and minority ethnic groups disproportionately vulnerable to the virus as well as to the
policing against it. 'Race' was discovered as a social factor rather than a biological or cultural
attribute, and 'racism' was identified as the cause (see Lawrence, 2020; Moncrieffe, 2020; Nazroo
and Becares, 2020; Patel et al. 2020; Razai et al. 2021). Racism-deniers aside, this (belated)
realisation came after the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests educated the mainstream about
defunding the police and decolonising our relationship to Britain’s national—that is to say, imperial-
colonial—history through the institutions that educate us into it.
UK universities - or rather, a fifth of them (Batty, 2020) - pledged to ‘decolonise’, urging us to rethink
whether we can decolonise without undoing institutional barriers and power relationships that stand
in the way. Decolonisation is overdue, but limiting our discussion to the curriculum risks addressing
what racism produces without shortening its institutional shelf-life. What follows, therefore, is an
invitation to restore epistemic justice without divorcing racism from its power source. Using the
metaphor of ‘black tools’ for ‘white schools’, I voice some concerns about bringing black*
scholarship into the curriculum without ensuring that black people are included in the power
structure of universities to ‘un-whiten’ them intellectually, culturally and materially. In doing so, I
draw on my own discipline— Criminology—to reflect on decolonising what and how we know and
think, what we teach— as well as where we work, who we work with and what we work towards.
This inevitably involves rethinking the object of decolonisation (=curriculum) in terms of the
institution where it lives (=university) and the people who shape how life is lived within it (=
academic staff and university management). Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan (2019, pp 81-82) reminds us
*‘Black’ is used here in the coalitional sense of ‘political Blackness’ to include all visible minority ethnic communities
who are oppressed by racism. But is also refers to ‘thinking Black’ (Fryer, 1984: xiii) in opposition to ‘whiteness’— not as
skin colour, but as a (racist) worldview.
that decolonisation cannot be limited to what is on the menu. It involves considerations of who is
invited to the table, to do what? as what? for whom? and for what? Is the banquet of decolonisation
organised just to ‘unwhiten’ syllabi, or is it aimed at encouraging anti-racist teaching, developing
Black or Critical Race studies programmes, funding anti-racist and black led research, hiring,
retaining and promoting non white candidates, supporting non white employees with a living wage
and environmentally safe working conditions, and evaluating investment portfolios to ensure that we
are not funding systemic racism through partnerships with organisations or companies that profit
from racial inequalities? When the ethnicity pay gap or the BAME attainment gap are discussed, is
this to meet numerical diversity quotas or to genuinely ensure the welfare of non-white colleagues
Thinking about such questions in relation to Criminology involves rethinking not just what we teach,
but where we stand in relation to the intellectual history, professional identity and ideological agenda
of the discipline itself. This requires a head-on confrontation with the racism of/in our discipline,
having learned to see and think our subject matter through the whiteness of its eyes.
An indicative roll call of pressing concerns is therefore offered here as a guide to some of our
discipline’s sullen silences on its racism. Starting with the absent presence of Black scholars in the
teaching of criminological “classics”, we might need to pause and think why the ethnography of the
Chicago School is prioritised over W.E.B. Du Bois’ (1973) pioneering criminological writings in The
Philadelphia Negro. Or, wonder why Robert Park’s heinous racist remarks in the School’s
foundational text; Introduction to the Science of Sociology, are rarely mentioned — to say nothing
about the volume’s paeans to eugenics. This is not simply a case of replacing one set of texts with
another, but to reflect on why certain texts are canonised and their prejudices internalised.
Teaching about racism in Criminology, makes little sense unless we also teach about racism within
Criminology. This is best illustrated in the way that racism in the criminal legal system is often
taught as a system error, rather than a default setting — thereby ignoring the colonial roots of
policing and erasing the legacy and afterlives of colonial slavery; as an ideology and practice of
racial discrimination which is alive and well in all aspects of the criminal legal system. Similar
attention ought to be placed on whether 'race', racialisation and racism are afforded the same weight
as class, gender and sexuality in what we teach, or whether an intersectional perspective is adopted
— to discuss how forms of oppression cross-hatch to disempower those who are disproportionately
affected by them. A few lectures on 'race', racialisation and crime or institutional racism here and
there cannot do justice to the issue, especially when stand-alone modules on such issues are rare.
Equally, a commitment to decolonisation means little if we encourage — instead of reassessing —
partnerships and placements with criminal legal institutions. The same goes for research, prompting
us to rethink where we stand when we conduct research with or for the criminal legal system — or
when we participate in conferences (e.g. European Society of Criminology Annual Conference) that
are funded by companies (e.g. G4S, Securitas and Seris Security) that profit from mass incarceration
and immigration detention centres, where violence, abuse and misconduct are rife. While this is only
a perfunctory nod to blind spots within Criminology, there is no reason why it could not kick-start a
pledge to eradicating racism from our institutions. Decolonising Criminology, therefore, involves
decolonising the whiteness of our minds and our school walls. Will we tear them apart, or simply
give them a splash of colour?
Batty, D. (2020) ‘Only a fifth of UK universities say they are 'decolonising' curriculum’ The Guardian.
Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/11/only-fifth-of-uk-
universities-have-said-they-will-decolonise-curriculum [Accessed 25 May 2021]
Du Bois, W.E.B. (1973) The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. Philadelphia: University of
Fryer, P. (1984) Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain. London: Pluto.
Manzoor-Khan, S. (2019) Postcolonial Banter. Birmingham: Verve Poetry Press.
Moncrieffe, M.L. (2020) Decolonising the History Curriculum, Euro-centrism and Primary Schooling,
London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Park, R.E., and Burgess, E.W. (1921) Introduction to the Science of Sociology. Chicago:
Chicago University Press.
Nazroo, J. and Becares, L. (2020) ‘Racism is the key to understanding ethnic inequalities in COVID-
19 – despite what UK government says’. The Conversation. Available from:
despite-what-uk-government-says-148838 [Accessed 25 May 2021]
Patel, P., Kapoor, A. and Treloar, N. (2020) ‘Ethnic inequalities in Covid-19 are playing out again –
how can we stop them?’. IPPR and Runnymede Trust. Available from:
stop-them [Accessed 25 May 2021]
Razai, M., Kankam, H.K.N., Majeed, A., Esmail, A. and Williams, D. (2021) ‘Mitigating ethnic
disparities in covid-19 and beyond’, BMJ 2021; 372:m4921
http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4921 [Accessed 25 May 2021]
A Black scholar emerging from the closet of otherness
OLGA LIDIA SAAVEDRA MONTES DE OCA
School of Media, Arts and Humanities. University of Sussex.
I will start this article by acknowledging my scepticism about the decolonisation process taking
place within UK institutions, because of what I identify as their disconnection from black people’s
real struggles in these spaces. Yet I recognise that we need to use any academic platform, given,
reclaimed or created to strengthen and broaden networks between scholars, activists and artists
that: interrogates the legacy of colonialism in higher education; fights structural racism in academia
and society; and is critically engaged with the production of postcolonial knowledge on race, and in
relation to class, the non-gender binary, and to sexuality.
Coming out from the closet of otherness
How can I relate my personal experience to decolonising teaching and learning on race? To start this
conversation, I need to come out from the closet of otherness. This means putting my knowledge,
my education, my family and my humanity first, before I think of my racialised body, of my
blackness. It’s also stating that, having been a scholar from a non-western background and having
had a precarious employment history in the UK academy is also connected with knowledge
production. This paper intertwines my experiences as a student and academic staff, within UK
universities. It also entangles earlier memories of Cuba a socialist state, once a colonised country
and of the UK as a capitalist and former colonising country. In both contexts the knowledge
contribution in the academy is associated with whiteness.
Black and white scholars’ relationships to knowledge
The killing of the black man George Floyd by a white policeman in Minneapolis, USA sparked
worldwide protests in May 2020 against police brutality, racism, colonial histories and current
injustices. Here in the UK, demonstrations against racism swept the country. As a result the privilege
of whiteness has been re-located within the discussion of race. However, the narrative that equates
whiteness with privilege is conveniently fragmented and separated from its origins. Hence
decolonising in education requires an un-earthing of white privileges to see their roots i.e. the
practices of colonialism, imperialism, racism, enslavement, displacement, genocide, apartheid,
global poverty ... (Mantz, 2019)
Black people in academia are subject to systematic racism (Arday and Mirza, 2018). So it is clear
that a socio-political analysis needs to be brought into discussions of race and decolonisation but
without putting aside the real intellectual contributions of black and minority-ethnic scholars to the
creation of knowledge. I see that by portraying them only as ‘disadvantaged’ victims of racial
discrimination reinforces colonial narratives about blackness.
Therefore we need to critique the deficit model (Harry and Klingner, 2007). In this black scholars and
students are still perceived as lacking the cultural capital for academic success while white scholars
are seen as having ‘cultural capacity’ (Bourdieu, 1986). Here race remains uncontested and un-
problematised, leaving us with no means to confront the racialised atmosphere of the university
(Gilyard, 1996). We need to dismantle the master tool that keeps blackness and knowledge
separated. The percentage of black academics is a minority in relation to the white scholars (Adams,
2020) and fewer than 1% of UK university professors are black. But a greater awareness of that
small percentage needs to be shared, and their contributions to knowledge cited. More names need
to be added to the list of Stuart Hall, Sonia Boyce, Steve McQueen, Lubaina Himid, Nelarine
Cornelius, Harry Goulbourne and Avtar Brah…
It is not enough to make black academic contributions to knowledge visible. We also need to change
the academic and social structure, and to reflect on the ways in which our own individual behaviour
reinforces colonial mentalities in academia and in the world today. There is still a long way to go - as
Stuart Hall says, this is an ‘unfinished conversation’. And is it as part of this ongoing conversation
towards decolonisation that I place my question? Are we black scholars a powerless workforce, or
are we critical holders of knowledge in the classroom and in academia?
Adams, R. (2020) Fewer than 1% of UK university professors are black, figures show. The Guardian,
27th February, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/feb/27/fewer-than-1-of-uk-
Arday, J., & Mirza, H. S. (Eds.) (2018) Dismantling race in higher education: Racism, whiteness and
decolonising the academy. Springer.
Bourdieu, B. (1986) 'The forms of capital'. In Richardson, J., (Ed.) Handbook of Theory and Research
for the Sociology of Education. New York: Greenwood.
Gilyard, K. (1996) “Higher Learning: Composition’s Racialized Reflection.” Watson Conference on
Rhetoric and Composition. Louisville, KY.
Mantz, F. (2019) ‘Decolonizing the IPE syllabus: Eurocentrism and the coloniality of knowledge’ in
International Political Economy, Review of International Political Economy, 26 (6),
pp. 1361-1378.DOI: 10.1080/09692290.2019.1647870 [Accessed 11th December 2020].
Is the National Curriculum inclusive? The perspectives of three
undergraduate students regarding the current UK education
SHREYA SAVADIA, CHELSEA PRISCILA GOMES DA COSTA, HOLLY JACKSON
Nottingham Trent University: School of Social Sciences: Nottingham Institute of Education.
During our undergraduate Education degree, we, Shreya (British Asian), Chelsea (Black African
immigrant) and Holly (White British), reflected on our contrasting personal experiences of schooling.
This short paper intends to express our shared viewpoint of the lack of ethnically diverse
representation in the current national curriculum which has continued to prevail in education
(Joseph-Salisbury, 2020; McCarthy, 1990) and particularly, within History and Religious Education
(RE) whereby areas in which research highlights the marginalisation of minority groups in education
(Alexander and Weekes-Bernard, 2017; Gearon, 2001; Hannam and Biesta, 2019; Moncrieffe, 2020).
As a result, this article argues that the current national curriculum aims and contents (DfE, 2013)
can marginalise people. We give suggestions of how the national curriculum can be decolonised by
creating a more inclusive approach to aims and contents which gives narrative acknowledgement
through a broader range of ethnicities and cultures in Britain (Charles, 2019; Moncrieffe, 2020).
Shreya: As a Jain, I felt that there was a lack of representation in my secondary school within RE, as
the curriculum focused only on the core religions to teach pupils; these included Islam, Christianity
and Hinduism (DCSF, 2010). This meant that teaching about Jainism was absent. Every time I spoke
or wrote about my views as a Jain, my RE teacher would always listen. However, I was never
awarded any marks in assessments for writing about my own religion, even though I wanted people
to be educated about my beliefs. This impacted me negatively as I felt that my religion was
unappreciated and devalued; I felt invisible. Consequently, this affected my sense of belonging
within education. Research has indicated that religion plays a role in forming cultural identity, which
can positively impact psychological wellbeing and development (St-Amand, Girard and Smith, 2017;
Ysseldyk, Matheson, and Anisman, 2010). In my secondary school, Jainism was also perceived to be
a part of Hinduism by my peers, despite our spiritual practices differing. For this reason, I would
have liked people to be educated about my culture and religion to avoid misconceptions such as
these. Specifically education could have been given about our key Jain Festival, Paryushan. This is a
time where we purify our thoughts and soul thus, we practice asceticism (Babb, 2015). As a result, I
believe that the RE curriculum must become more inclusive and diverse to reflect the demographic
of the local community, so that all pupils’ religions are equally valued and respected, to support
Britain’s claim of being diverse (Arday, Belluigi and Thomas, 2020).
Chelsea: Aligning with Shreya’s views, I also believe that minority-ethnic people are under-
represented within the national curriculum. This is particularly evident within the subject of history
(see Moncrieffe, 2020), in which many Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) perspectives and
connections to Britain appear to be filtered out (Bush, Glover and Sood, 2006). This is shown through
the great absence of non-western European heritage in the Key Stage 3 and 4 non-statutory curricula,
evidenced by a limited selection of only three diverse studies (including Britain’s transatlantic slave
trade), compared to the extensive list of white British studies (DfE, 2014). Thus, the history
curriculum taught at my secondary school was very Eurocentric, nullifying the fundamental purpose
of the subject, which intends for individuals to gain an understanding of Britain’s past relationship
with and the wider world (DfE, 2013). Though at the time I was not as consciously aware of the
impact of not learning about colonialism, the absence of content and conversations regarding British
colonies was still strange to me. It created a sense of ‘when are we going to address the elephant in
the room?’ considering it was one of most significant occurrences and catalysts in modern day
history (AHRC, 2018; Walters, 2012). As an immigrant, it felt intrusive to even question why
colonialism in Africa was not incorporated into my school’s curriculum, so I passively ignored it. In
retrospect, I consider the absence of content and educative acknowledgement towards British
colonies a contributing factor towards microaggressions and racism that I have experienced, due to
the lack of cultural knowledge and deficit beliefs regarding people of African heritage (Nelson and
Holly: Upon reflection and through meeting other people, the difference gap between my educational
experiences and those of my peers is noticeable. In contrast to Shreya’s experience, contrastingly, I
felt a sense of belonging in education as my religion (Christianity) was embedded into the curriculum
(DCFS, 2010). Although this may be because 59% of England’s population identifies as Christian
(ONS, 2020), education placing primary importance on Christianity is nothing new, as it has always
been a significant part of the RE curriculum (Fancourt, 2016). Evident by my time at secondary
school, Reverends from local churches were invited to host assemblies to highlight Christianity’s
beliefs and, despite the diverse community within the school, this invitation was not extended to a
more broader range of leaders from different religious faiths. My experience of monoculturalism in
RE extends to teaching and learning history where the national curriculum content focuses totally on
the white British experience (Mansfield, 2018; Moncrieffe, 2020). Although this continued emphasis
appears to give greater value to my white British identity by predominantly learning teaching about
the history of my ancestors, this also appears to conflict with the purpose of the subject, which
intends for students to learn about ‘the diversity of societies and relationships between different
groups, as well as their own identity’ (DfE, 2014, p. 245). I would like educational policymakers to
make statutory the teaching and learning of Britain's ethnically diverse histories in the national
curriculum. Particularly, by incorporating and placing an equal focus on teaching about wider scope
of religions, as well as including more world history case studies, ensuring that the curriculum
content is broad and inclusive for all who engage with this.
Collectively, we believe that the culture and lives of minority ethnic people in the UK are under-
represented within the national curriculum. We see that this omission could result in a decreased
sense of belonging to the macro community of nation through the lack of relevant cultural
knowledge being shared and taught (Celeste et al. 2019). Therefore, to decolonise the curriculum
and create inclusive environments, it is important to acknowledge the positive contributions of
BAME groups within education. We believe that this is achievable if schools commit to transforming
their design and delivery of subject content, making it more representative of all pupils and cultures
(Charles, 2019; Moody and Thomas, 2020; Moncrieffe, 2020). Educationalists should also aim to
include multicultural writers with varying perspectives that challenge current dominant white British
narratives (Moncrieffe, 2020; Sabaratnam, 2017) allowing teachers to deliver a more diverse and
authentic national curriculum.
Alexander, C., and Weekes-Bernard, D. (2017) History lessons: inequality, diversity and the national
curriculum. Race Ethnicity and Education [online], 20 (4) (February), 478-494. DOI:
10.1080/13613324.2017.1294571 [Accessed 15 December 2020].
Babb, L.A. (2015) Understanding Jainism [eBook]. Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press Limited.
Available via: ProQuest Ebook Central [Accessed 10 February 2021].
Charles, E., (2019). Decolonizing the curriculum. Insights [online], 32 (1) (September), 1-7. DOI:
10.1629/uksg.475 [Accessed 12 December 2020].
Fancourt, N. (2016) Teaching about Christianity: a configurative review of research in English
schools. Journal of Beliefs and Values [online], 38 (1) (October), 121-133. DOI:
10.1080/13617672.2016.1229469 [Accessed 14 February 2021].
Moody, J. and Thomas, L. (2020) Increasing Diversity [online]. United Kingdom: Advance Higher
[Accessed 12 December 2020].
Nelson, S.W. and Guerra, P.L. (2014) Educator beliefs and cultural knowledge: Implications for
school improvement efforts. Educational Administration Quarterly [online], 50 (1) (May), 67-95.
DOI:10.1177/0013161X13488595 [Accessed 15 February 2021].
Sabaratnam, M. (2017) Decolonising Intervention [eBook]. London: Rowman and Littlefield
International Limited. Available via: ProQuest Ebook Central [Accessed 21 December 2020].
St-Amand, J., Girard, S. and Smith, J. (2017) Sense of Belonging at School: Defining Attributes,
Determinants, and Sustaining Strategies. The International Academic Forum Journal of
Education [online], 5 (2), 105-119. Available at: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1156289.pdf
[Accessed 11 February 2021].
Decolonising Education: A Black Female Teacher’s Perspective
Master of Arts in Education student, University of East London
Being a black woman, teaching in inner-city London, in the same area that I grew up in, has led me to
view the children that I teach as younger versions of myself. I was born to Ghanaian parents, who
moved to England in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
For me, the question, “Where are you from?” has never had a simple answer. “Do they mean where
was I born?”, “Do they mean the area that I live in?”, or “Do they mean where my parents are from?”.
The answer is simply not straightforward. This is a small snippet into my multifaceted identity,
which many children that I teach share. However, some individuals struggle to be proud of their
diverse backgrounds as whiteness and Britishness are made to be synonymous, and are viewed as
goodness (Beckles‐Raymond, 2020).
My cultural identity led me to be an advocate of multiculturalism as I wanted children to embrace the
various aspects of who they were. This drastically changed after the horrific death of George Floyd,
which occurred in May 2020 at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic; where many black people
died due to the deadly virus (Public Health England, 2020).The depth and issues of racism had been
brought to a global forefront as black people seemed to be facing two pandemics – racism and
coronavirus (Godlee, 2020; Moncrieffe, 2020a).
As a primary school teacher, I recognised the impact of education in tackling racism; as a final year
Masters student I had been immersing myself in research which looked at the impact of colonisation
and racism in education. Some argue that primary school children are too young to learn about race
or racism (Troyna and Hatcher, 1992). However, it is my belief that the earlier children are introduced
and supported in addressing racism, this will enable them to become better members of society in
the future. My belief led to a strong conviction in using education to address issues of race and
I see that multiculturalism is an ineffective tool to tackle racism as it often includes stereotypical
and superficial activities (Shay, 2018) such as singing songs or cultural or ethnic foods (Ladson-
Billings and Tate, 2006). Some educators also believe that racism can be challenged through
diversifying the curriculum (Atkinson et al., 2018; Bird and Pitman, 2020). But diversification is not
the same as decolonising the curriculum (Moncrieffe, 2020b; Moncrieffe and Harris, 2020), and one
must argue that this does not lead to real change. Multiculturalism and diversification fail to
challenge the racial status quo. In order to decolonise the curriculum, pedagogy must be
decolonised (Atkinson et al., 2018; Miller et al., 2020). Therefore, the structures of power rooted
within the educational institutions must be dismantled and severely engage with the knowledge that
is generated (Atkinson et al., 2018). This is because whiteness simultaneously perpetuates a façade
of equality, neutrality and compassion, whilst also maintaining and legitimising the status quo
(Castagno, 2014). So, a purposeful, conscious and reflective action must be taken by schools, senior
leaders and teachers to implement change.
To implement change, schools must recognise there is a problem, and work to solve it (Carter et al.,
2016). This can be challenging as senior leaders and teachers may be fearful of the response,
reluctant to acknowledge the existence of racism, or lack effective training (Kennedy, 2014; Lander,
2015; Elton-Chalcraft, 2017). The dominance of whiteness in the teacher workforce further
exacerbates this as many teachers and senior leaders lack experience and knowledge on such topics
(Bain, 2018; Flintoff and Dowling, 2017; Lander, 2015). Furthermore, there is an avoidance in
discussing race and whiteness; leading to unaddressed biases, negative stereotypes and the
adoption of a colourblind lens (Bain, 2018; Doharty, 2019, Lander, 2015).
Schools must address the beliefs, hearts and minds of their teachers or the issues of racial
inequality and racism will continue to be perpetuated through the education system (Miller et al.,
2020). Schools must get to the crux of the problem, and leaders must be courageous to dismantle
the structures they have put in place. All educators must recognise their pivotal roles and start the
necessary steps in dismantling racism and white supremacy.
Atkinson H., Bardgett S., Budd A., Finn, M., Kissane, C., Qureshi, S., Saha, J., Siblon, J., and
Sivasundaram, S. (2018) Race, ethnicity & equality in UK history: A report and resource for
change. London: Royal Historical Society.
Bain, Z. (2018) ‘Is there such a thing as ‘white ignorance’ in British education?’, Ethics and Education,
Beckles‐Raymond, G. (2020) Implicit Bias,(Global) White Ignorance, and Bad Faith: The Problem of
Whiteness and Anti‐black Racism. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 37(2), pp.169-189.
Moncrieffe, M. L. (2020a) #BlackLivesMatter in education. 11th June 2020, BERA Blog. BERA:
Moncrieffe, M. L. (2020b) How to support white British trainee teachers in their thinking and
teaching about black British histories. 30th September, The Conversation Trust (UK).
Moncrieffe, M., & Harris, R. (2020). Repositioning curriculum teaching and learning through
Black-British history. 15th September, Research Intelligence, Issue 144. BERA: London.
Case studies involving a critical approach to geographical knowledge e.g. examining the
impacts of colonialism and apartheid on contemporary racial inequalities in South Africa.
At classroom level, drawing on students’ own knowledge and experiences to diversify the
knowledge production process.
Adopting an enquiry based approach to enable students to develop critical awareness,
necessary for tackling issues of misrepresentation. (Milner, 2020)
Steps towards decolonising the school geography curriculum
Formerly Geography Tutor, School of Education, University of Brighton
Geography engages with topics under the umbrella terms of social, cultural, environmental and
economic change, it should be at the forefront of tackling its inherent whiteness but has been slow
to take action. Pat Noxolo (2017) points out the discipline has a 'well documented, persistent and
overwhelming whiteness' and 'displays little practical contemporary openness to difference and
diversity in its knowledge production process' (p.317). The whiteness of geography in Higher
Education (HE) is the subject of ongoing research by Pat Noxolo and colleagues, many of whom are
part of the Royal Geographical Society’s (RGS) Race Culture and Equality (RACE) working group. This
article focuses on parallel activities in regard to the school geography curriculum and how teachers
are working towards change to eliminate the subject’s whiteness.
Morgan & Lambert suggested the ‘whiteness of geography’ is probably ‘invisible’ and maybe
‘unintended’ (2003, p.17) given that school geography offered students a view of the world as
apparently neutral, which of course it is not. Invisibility and unintended consequences are no excuse
for permitting it to remain unaddressed. There has been some progress in school geography to
address the issue for example in the last 30 years textbooks that used caricatures and images of
people living in mud huts have been abandoned. The dangers of ‘the single story’ are well
documented and the journal I edit, Teaching Geography, is conscious to promote equality, diversity
and critical thinking in regard to teaching and learning in geography. A recent article in this journal
outlined strategies by which secondary school geography teachers could tackle the whiteness of the
Prompted by the killing of George Floyd, the Geographical Association's (GA) International Special
Interest Group (ISIG) set up 'The Decolonising of the Geography Curriculum WhatsApp group' in May
2020. Within a couple of weeks the group had attracted 80 educational professionals from the
primary and secondary age phases, Initial Teacher Education (ITE) tutors and researchers in HE.
They planned to focus on ways that the secondary geography curriculum can be decolonised at Key
Stages 3 and 4 for example by contextualizing case studies, looking at the historical context to
Contacting the exam boards. One has responded and asked the group to help with future planning
A sub-group is looking at decolonising the curriculum in the early years phase
Discussion and debate about choice of language and terminology (Black; BAME; Global Majority)
Google drive established to house academic research articles; resources for primary and
position the geographical knowledge. An example suggested in terms of asking students more
Could you link Bangladesh’s imperial and colonial history as part of the British Empire, to the
present challenges and opportunities of the rapid urban growth of Dhaka as a megacity today in
2020? If so, explain how (Ali, 2020, pp.14).
The group has suggested that decolonising the curriculum also involves decolonising teaching
practices across many stakeholders including publishers of textbooks and other resources, ITE
providers, exam boards, in other words a massive task. The group has achieved a great deal in a very
short space of time including:
The geography national curriculum is only a framework, not a prescription of content, geography
teachers have autonomy in regard to curriculum making and decisions about what to teach and how to
teach it. Exam specifications are more prescriptive but the underpinning Assessment Objectives at
both GCSE and A-level are broad. It is the Exam Boards that specify content. If the geography teaching
community can work with the Exam Boards, progress towards decolonising the geography curriculum
would be effected more rapidly than has been evident in the past 30 years.
Ali, R. (2020) ‘Decolonising the Geography Curriculum WhatsApp group: supporting geography
teachers’. GA Magazine 46, p.14.
Milner, C. (2020) ‘Classroom strategies for tackling the whiteness of geography’.Teaching
Geography 45(3), pp. 105-107.
Morgan, A., and Lambert, D. (2003) Place,’Race’ and teaching Geography. Sheffield: Geographical
Noxolo, P. (2017) ‘Decolonising geographical knowledge in a colonised and re-colonising post
colonial world’. Area 49(3), pp. 317-131.
Pirbhai-Illich, F., and Martin, F. (2020) ‘Fundamental British Values: Geography’s contribution to
understanding difference’. Primary Geography 103, pp. 23-25.
Puttick, S., and Murrey, A. (2020) ‘Confronting the deafening silence on race in geography education
in England: learning from anti-racist, decolonial and Black geographies’. Geography 105, pp. 126-
First steps for module leaders: Decolonising a module in Salford
Salford Business School, University of Salford
Despite a high proportion of Black, Mixed Race and Asian students entering Higher Education (HE)
they are less likely to complete and more likely to regret their HE choices. Black students are less
likely to graduate with a first or a 2:1 than other groups (Office for Students, 2019a). Increasing
awareness of these issues and the HE BAME attainment gap and calls from the BAME community to
decolonise curriculums across education (Zephaniah, 2019) coincided with an uneasiness with
teaching about the diversity across people’s cultures and prompted me to review and make changes
to a level five cross cultural communication module in Salford Business School.
The Cross Cultural Communication module is part of the International Business programme and
explores the topics of culture and communication in the context of international business. Industry
scenarios around relationship building, marketing promotions and leadership provide opportunities
for students to apply their knowledge. Learning takes place in through interactive lectures, group
discussion, skills building activities and problem solving and is assessed in a portfolio and a group
I started by identifying best practice and industry guidance in this area via the Dean (Dr. Janice
Allan), the University’s Athena Swan lead (Dr. Francine Morris) and the school librarian (Sue Barker-
Matthews). This led me to some key documents; Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter (REC), a 2019
presentation from The Office for Students’ titled ‘Strategy to Overcome Barriers to BAME Students’
and the Higher Education Policy Institute’s 2019 report into reducing racial inequalities in higher
education which describes the wider context (Advance HE, 2019, Johnson, 2019, HEPI, 2019). I also
found the first issue of Decolonising The Curriculum published by the University of Brighton
(Moncrieffe, et.al., 2019), now in its fourth issue, which provided practitioners’ experiences and
I based my review on the advice from Section 8 of the Advance HE Race Equality Charter (Advance
HE, 2020) and parts of The Office for Students’ Strategy to Overcome Barriers to BAME Students
(Johnson, 2019). They say that both inclusive curriculum (what is taught and who is referenced) and
inclusive pedagogy (how it is taught and how it is assessed) will help support BAME students. In
addition the Office for students recommend deconstructed assessments and providing meaningful
interactions and Advance HE recommend empowering students (Johnson, 2019, Advance HE, 2020).
I reviewed the module looking to; 1. include more BAME academics and non-western perspectives in
teaching material and reading lists, 2. use a culturally diverse range of case studies and examples in
learning materials, 3. provide choice for students where possible (to empower and promote
meaningful/inclusive learning for all), 4. encourage students to reflect on their own culture and
identity, to engage with literature about it and challenge it where necessary (empowering students,
encouraging critical analysis, encouraging meaningful learning and discussion).
Change: I had already begun to question the positioning of the module and begun to move from a
cross cultural (emphasis on comparing cultures) to an intercultural (emphasis on self-awareness
and human communication) approach to studying culture in business. An intercultural approach
supports the idea that to become a skilled communicator in international business you need to be
highly self-aware above all else as opposed to having a high level of knowledge about a range of
cultures. Class discussion included the effects of poor communication and the relationship between
generalisations, stereotyping and racism.
Outcomes: Consolidating this change means students focus more on their own cultural identity and
identifying their own communication styles. This is more empowering than being taught about
culture (sometimes the students’ own culture) from the ‘outside’. Learners focus on what learning
means to them from the outset making it easier for them to reflect on the value that learning may
have. The cross cultural approach does demonstrate that cultural differences exist and hence the
importance of intercultural communication skills. Alongside this students learn about the pitfalls of
making assumptions about an individual’s background, communication style and business culture
preferences and the importance of developing self-awareness.
This approach ‘felt’ better. Students made fewer generalisations in their assessments ‘... the MD will
prefer this because he Chinese..’ and demonstrated a more sophisticated and self-aware
understanding of the modules concepts ‘... Imran cannot assume that Marie shares the dominant
cultural values of France but he may consider known cultural differences in his initial approach to
relationship building.’ Some students also made connections between the culture of their home
country and its international history e.g. the wars in Somalia, or the impact of the Colonial history of
their home country. This learning was meaningful to the students and of value to them in the future.
Discussion of culture and heritage in class activities led to students challenging theory based on the
representation of women, minorities, region and class, helped them understand the complexities of
the subject and obtain higher marks.
3. Reading list
Process: The reading list review and referenced academics was undertaken to improve the
representation of BAME academics and non-western perspectives. I focused on the central concepts
of culture and communication. I found this review time consuming, probably due to continual citing
of the same white male academics in these areas for many years.
Change: I wanted to find a non-white cultural theorist, I couldn’t find anyone in textbooks. I asked the
contact authors at the University of Brighton and they recommended Stuart Hall – acclaimed cultural
theorist from University of Birmingham. Even better he wrote about Britishness and how it is not
homogenous – leading nicely into discussion of the multiple layers of culture. I now use Stuart Hall
as my first reference in my teaching about cultural theory.
Outcome: All students are exposed to a more diverse range of academics and ideas.
4. Pedagogy – inclusive / meaningful / empowered
Process: I attempted to follow advice to provide inclusive learning, providing meaningful interactions
and empowering students (Advance HE, 2019, Johnson, 2019). I interpreted this to mean that
teaching would be of equal interest and value to all students and that learning activities would
encourage interesting interaction through opportunities to discuss, challenge and reflect. The
module is built on interaction as students took part in skills based practical activities each week,
work in groups in the seminar each week and a group presentation for assessment two. I kept the
interaction and reviewed on the basis of inclusivity and opportunities to improve. To provide equal
interest to all students and to empower them I took every opportunity to enable students to make
choices and personalise their learning and critique what they found. Below are some examples of
Change: students reflect on what makes up their identity and how it changes over time and context.
This activity had been used to explore concept of ‘perception’. This semester I extended this activity
to discussions about the complex nature of identity, culture and nationality – as it highlights
diversity and how we don’t fit into boxes – therefore we learn about the importance of not making
assumptions about individuals based on their colour, nationality, background and the difficulties in
relying on academic theory about culture to make decisions about personal communication in
Change: students get more opportunities to challenge what theorists have said about culture and
communications in their cultures or cultures they are familiar with e.g. Plotting cultural dimensions
before comparing with Hofstede’s data. Students are always given the opportunity to challenge what
the textbooks say about their culture supported by the concept that no outsider can know a culture
better than an insider. The assessment also provides this opportunity, see below:
Change: In week 7 learning focuses on CCC in marketing and one learning point is the concept of
transcreation – you can’t simply translate language in marketing material you have to translate
meaning. I adapted an activity in this week to promote inclusivity and ensure learning was meaningful
to each individual student. Students pair up, ensuring one member has a first language other than
English. They then are given a range of promotional material and one student provides direct
translation – they discuss the result – identify problems – then have a go at transcreation trying to
retain the meaning, humour, nuances of the original.
Outcomes: a greater emphasis personalised / meaningful learning seemed to have a positive impact
i.e. Better engagement and increased acknowledgement of complexity leading to less
oversimplification and higher marks. Emphasises the value of dual heritage, local/cultural knowledge
and languages in marketing activities – builds confidence.
I had already embedded a deconstructed assignment (portfolio) as assessment one in the module so
this already fits the advice I was following. What I have not been able to find out is why this method
of assessment is recommended. I use it because it enables me to build strong engagement and build
assessment skills through the first half of semester. I focused instead on the content and options
within the assessment.
I changed one of the portfolio elements from a comparison of two cultures to a review of a what is
said in the literature about a culture they are familiar with and a critique of how this compares with
their own knowledge. This change is important as it; a) emphasises the value of their own cultural
heritage (an outsider can never understand a culture as well as an insider), b) empowers students to
challenge/reject what others have said about their culture and c) encourages critical analysis.
The second assessment is a group presentation where students work together to offer explanations
and solutions to a problem arising in an industry scenario. As well as assessing their knowledge and
understanding and ability to problem solve, this assessment requires them to work together in a group,
which requires them to use communication skills and be self-aware. There are marks available for
teamwork during the group work and on the day of the assessment.
Outcomes: A little bit of knowledge is worse than none? In previous cohorts I had noticed that
students receiving lower grades would often oversimplify the role of culture in business making
statements that relied on generalisations and assumptions. I was concerned that simply teaching
content about different cultures could be counterproductive and could be offensive. With the changes
to the curriculum and the pedagogy, and an emphasis on self-awareness this was seen much less. The
presentation also provided an opportunity for the panel to ask questions which meant any
generalisations / stereotyping could be challenged before the end of the module.
Continue to make an effort to find, read and use non-white academics
Consider adding racism in business to the curriculum
Continue to engage with the academic community and identify best practice
Student engagement and results for this cohort were an all-time high, with zero non submissions and
100% pass rate. It is not possible to simply attribute this to the changes made but high engagement
leads to high marks. There was full attendance at assessment surgery the week before the final
assessment. The module survey had a high level of student satisfaction and positive comments.
Advance HE. (2020) Race Equality Charter. https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/charters/race-equality-
charter . Accessed 26/06/20.
Moncrieffe, M.L. (Ed.) Asare, Y., Dunford, R., Youssef, H., Burdsey, D., Mapondera, D., Rupprecht, A.,
Stephens, T., Watson, J., & Handley, F. (2019) Decolonising the Curriculum: Teaching and
Learning about Race Equality. (July 2019 ed., Vol. 1, pp. 1). (Decolonising the Curriculum:
Teaching and Learning about Race Equality; No. 1). University of Brighton Press.
HEPI (2019). The White Elephant in the Room: Ideas of Reducing Racial Equalities in Higher
reducing-racial-inequalities-in-higher-education/ . Accessed 26/06/20.
Office for Students. (2019a) https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/data-and-analysis/differences-
in-student-outcomes/ethnicity/ . Accessed 26/06/20.
Office for Students. (2019b) Office for Students Strategy and Work to Overcome the Barriers for
BAME students. Workshop. London. 27th February 2019.
https://www.slideshare.net/secret/8hsbF0xHVuJTAE . Accessed 26/06/20.
Zephaniah, B. (2019) Only Artists. Radio4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0002zbz
[Accessed 26th June 2020].
Issue 4 - Editorial team
Dr Marlon Moncrieffe, School of Education, University of Brighton - Editor and Reviewer of articles.
Dr Yaa Asare, School of Applied Social Science, University of Brighton - Reviewer of articles.
Dr Robin Dunford, School of Humanities, University of Brighton - Reviewer of articles.
Front and back cover photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash.
Inside cover photos by Angus Read on Unsplash.
Pagination and design by Marlon Moncrieffe
To cite this publication use:
Moncrieffe, M. L., (Ed.), Asare, Y., Dunford, R., Fatsis, L., Saavedra Montes De Oca, O. L.,
Savadia, S., Gomes Da Costa, C. P., & Jackson, H., Opoku, L., Norman, M., and Rostron K., (2021)
Decolonising the Curriculum: Teaching and Learning about Race Equality. (Decolonising the
Curriculum: Teaching and Learning about Race-Equality; No. 4). University of Brighton.
To cite articles from this publication use (for example)
Fatsis, L. (2021) Black Tools for White Schools, in Moncrieffe, M.L., (Ed.) Decolonising the
Curriculum: Teaching and Learning about Race Equality. (Decolonising the Curriculum: Teaching
and Learning about Race-Equality; No. 4). University of Brighton.