openDemocracy: Secondary school curriculums remain sorely lacking in diversity
28 June 2018
by Mie Astrup Jensen
“Over the last five years, there has been a remarkable surge in student activism and campaigning aimed at decolonising higher education across the globe. In South Africa, the 2015 #FeesMustFall protests have grown into a movement that is fighting to transform historically Afrikaans universities. While in Chile, the 2011-2013 student demonstrations pressured the government to adopt a tuition-free policy in 2016, with the aim of opening up access to education to students from marginalised communities. In the US, the campaign #BlackOnCampus, spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement, has challenged institutional racism in higher education. Here in the UK, students at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (SOAS) have pushed for the inclusion of more non-European thinkers in their courses as part of the ‘Decolonise the University’ campaign. In November 2017, SOAS’s academic board committed to reviewing both their curriculum and HR practices.
“But while university students have made strides in decolonising higher education, progress has been slower in secondary education. Although the 2010 Equality Act offers some protection to students from discrimination, there is no obligation to ensure that curriculums are representative of the student body. Many secondary school English literature courses remain intrinsically androcentric, heteronormative, cis, able-bodied, European, and white. Change has been incremental and not helped by interventions from conservative figures like former education secretary Michael Gove who in 2014 insisted that “British values” should be taught at all schools. While these values are vague and unspecified, they belie an objective to preserve a power hierarchy based on integration rather than equality and diversity.”