Decolonising the Curriculum
Steps to decolonise the curriculum within the school
School Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Coordinator – Dr Nicola Koyama email@example.com
Decolonising the curriculum is a concept that can be interpreted in many ways depending on experience, background and cultural context. Efforts to decolonise the curriculum originated in the ‘Global South’ several decades ago and whilst decolonisation is about removing colonial structures and influence, it can be relevant to us in terms of intellectual decolonisation (Moosavi 2020). We can use a decolonial lens to identify and address contemporary inequalities in education that are associated with colonial history to ensure our curriculum is fully inclusive to students of all backgrounds.
Bringing a decolonial perspective to our curricula and pedagogy involves a dynamic and continual process of self-reflection, of questioning together with colleagues and students, regardless of background, what we know and how we come to know it and of open dialogue with diverse individuals, cultures and views.
Attacking the gap
One long-term and consistent inequality in higher education has been the ethnicity awarding gap: the percentage of students of white ethnicity who are awarded a 1st or 2.1 degree is consistently higher than the percentage of students of black, Asian and minority ethnicity and has been for the last 20 years. Even when factors such as entry qualifications (e.g. A-Level or BTEC grades), degree subject and age of students are taken into account, there are still significant unexplained differences in awards.
Decolonising the curriculum has been effective in reducing the ethnicity awarding gap at other institutions. It does not simply mean removing white authors and their research from reading lists or discarding scientific theories because of morally questionable provenance but is about viewing knowledge through a decolonial lens. It is a long-term process that requires self-education and personal reflection and includes critical appraisal of our fields of research to recognise and challenge the biases in global knowledge production and barriers to engaging in science. Decolonising the curriculum is not limited to syllabus content but extends to redressing inequality in student recruitment and access, inclusion, continuation, attainment, progression to postgraduate study/employment, the career pipeline and staff diversity.
In January 2021, our School began taking steps to increase staff and student awareness of decolonial thought and to apply this perspective to our curricula. Initial steps have included:
- A School Repository with examples of subject-specific resources for all programmes
- A Seminar Series - Decolonising the science curriculum: Ideas for biological sciences
This was a public seminar series organised by the School of Biological & Environmental Sciences and the LJMU Equality Team to increase awareness and encourage discourse on decolonising the curriculum in the sciences (February - April 2021).
Why do we need to decolonise science?
Daniel Akinbosede is a PhD researcher at the University of Sussex studying a protein that allows Neisseria bacteria to highjack iron from human blood as a nutrient source. He is a keen advocate for anti-racism in STEM teaching and research as well as the academy in general. In 2019, he was a co-founder of the Sussex Race Equity Advocate programme, which is designed to give voice and power to ethnic minority students as they fight to address academia’s many racial inequalities.
Bioprospecting, biopiracy and the impact on indigenous bioresources and medical knowledge
Kaushiki Das is a Doctoral Researcher at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, pursuing her Ph.D on “Bioprospecting And Its Implications For Traditional Medicine”. Her research interests lie in Intellectual Property Rights (especially Pharmaceutical Patenting), Traditional Medical Knowledge, Science and Technology studies and Feminism.
Anne Devan-Song is a field biologist, herpetologist and data scientist from Singapore. She is completing a PhD at Oregon State University and her current research uses network analytic tools to study wildlife and human-wildlife collectives through a lens of disease spread and conservation. She is an activist and community organizer, working towards increased inclusion of under-represented groups in STEM.
- Pettorelli, N., Barlow, J., Nuñez, M. A., Rader, R., Stephens, P. A., Pinfield, T., & Newton, E. (2021). How international journals can support ecology from the Global South.
- Espin, J., Palmas, S., Carrasco-Rueda, F., Riemer, K., Allen, P. E., Berkebile, N., ... & Bruna, E. M. (2017). A persistent lack of international representation on editorial boards in environmental biology. PLoS biology, 15(12), e2002760.
- National Geographic
Decolonising the history of evolutionary biology
Sarah A. Qidwai is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, where she is working on a dissertation on the history of science and Islam in British India. Her research interests include science and colonialism and she has published and provided discourse on what is left out when we use terms such as ‘Darwinism’ to represent the history of evolutionary biology.
Decolonising DNA & science from an Indigenous perspective
Krystal Tsosie (Diné/Navajo), MPH, MA, is currently completing an interdisciplinary PhD in Genomics and Health Disparities at Vanderbilt University. She advocates strongly for genomic and data sovereignty and is a co-founder of the first Indigenous-led biobank for tribes in South Dakota. She has provided commentary on issues related to DNA, gene editing, politics, and identity in a variety of media outlets including NPR, PBS NOVA, NY Times, Boston Globe, and others.
Critical pedagogy and decolonising the curriculum
Ross Dawson is Senior Lecturer in English at Liverpool John Moores University and was previously Associate Dean for Education for the Faculty Arts, Professional and Social Sciences. He studied and taught at Purdue University in the USA for several years before coming to Liverpool. He is currently writing a book on The University in Literature that brings together his interests in the changing nature of Higher Education, contemporary literature, and critical theory. In the past few years he has delivered a range of invited workshops on anti-racist pedagogy and "Unlearning Whiteness" at numerous universities.
- A School-wide audit (using a template the creation of a template based on UCL’s Inclusive Curriculum) of where decolonial approaches appeared in curricula and pedagogy in 2020-21, with detailed plans of how to begin embedding decoloniality within all taught programmes.
Get in touch with us
If you are interested in any of the School’s developing activities, or have questions, please get in touch with the School EDI Coordinator, Dr Nicola Koyama at firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course, we’re always keen to hear about any other activities being developed in the Sciences.