EDUCATION IN THE UK
The Museum of British Colonialism believes that improving education about colonial injustices is essential to racial justice in the UK and globally. Despite this, schools are obliged to promote ‘Fundamental British Values’ which, unless accompanied by criticism of Britain’s exploitative colonial past, could equate to a celebration of the British Empire.
The movement to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ in higher education has been gaining considerable ground over recent years, with the overall aim of encouraging critical dialogue around the legacies of colonialism in our current knowledge systems.
As Decolonising SOAS states: “It begins with the assumption that Western colonial domination has had the effect of limiting what counts as authoritative knowledge, whose knowledge is recognised, what universities teach and how they teach it”. Central to this is a more inclusive pedagogy which better deals with dynamics of race and racism in the learning space.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
We believe that ‘decolonising the curriculum’ is equally, if not more, important in schools. We believe that it can raise attainment and a sense of belonging among BME students, and equip a younger generation with the tools to reimagine ‘Britishness’ from an ethnically diverse and anti-racist perspective.
The current UK curriculum provides some opportunities for migration and empire to be taught in schools. The GCSE History module on ‘Migration to Britain’ includes some coverage of empire, but it is an optional module with minimal uptake. Some teachers say they are reticent about addressing the topic, given the challenging nature of the content, and do not feel equipped to confront such things.
Calls to teach British colonial history in schools are, however, increasing. A government petition to teach British children about the realities of British imperialism and colonialism was signed by over 250,000 people. To support awareness and access to resources, we have compiled a non-exhaustive list of organisations and resources which support the movement to decolonise the UK curriculum below. Please feel free to contact us with more suggestions (adam [at] museumofbritishcolonialism.org)!
The Museum of British Colonialism is committed to restoring history and changing the narrative around Britain’s colonial legacy, including in education. We are planning to host an online webinar to discuss what work is currently being done to decolonise the curriculum, and what steps can be taken moving forward. Watch this space!
African Kingdoms: an A level course developed by Dr Toby Green, Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture at King’s College London, which for the first time makes precolonial African history available to A level students.
BAMEed network: a network for BAME educators.
BAME WeTeach: A google drive for resources promoting racial awareness and equality.
Black History 4 Schools: a terrific website with a wide range of resources on Black and Asian British history, from the Romans to Windrush.
BLAM UK: free Black history resources, including a podcast.
Colonial Countryside: The National Trust’s Colonial Countryside project has produced curriculum resources for primary pupils which show how four centuries of empire link to its places.
Colonial Hangover: a new outreach project exploring the legacies of Empire at the University of Warwick.
ConsentedUK: Youth project running weekly sessions on race, class & colonialism in schools in London.
The consciousness gap – an equity imperative: A short TedTalk for educators, urging them to consider the role of race in teaching and learning.
Decolonise the curriculum: a campaign to decolonise the curriculum run by Pran Patel, an education consultant.
Exeter University: Free course about the British Empire.
Fill in the Blanks: campaign led by students from former British colonies seeking to mandate the teaching of colonial history.
The Free Black University: Created by the student who led the ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ campaign at Leeds University.
Global Poverty and its Colonial Roots: a re-education: a lesson plan exploring colonialism and the roots of global poverty aimed at Key Stage 5, developed by Health Poverty Action.
The History Corridor: An amazing Instagram account set up by History teachers in London who have started a series on colonial truths.
The Impact of Omission: A survey created to gather data on the true state of Britain’s curriculum. They also started the parliament petition to teach Britain’s colonial past as part of the UK’s compulsory curriculum.
Justice to History: Podcast of history teachers discussing recent events and the impact on their students.
The National Archives: a virtual exhibition on Black Presence: Asian and Black History in Britain, 1500-1850.
Royal African Society education programme: promotes understanding of Africa in the UK curriculum.
Runnymede Trust: Leading race equality think tank published the report Teaching Migration, Belonging and Empire in Secondary Schools in 2019 which calls on the government to make the teaching of migration, including empire, in secondary schools mandatory.
STeR: Colonialism, Slavery, Trade, Reparations: a University of Essex project which includes links to teaching resources.
Teaching British Histories of Race, Migration and Empire: An outstanding collection of resources for teachers, students and researchers exploring histories of race, migration and Empire.
TIDE project: KS3 teaching resources from a project that aims to investigate how mobility in the age of discovery shaped English perceptions of human identity based on difference.
Understanding Slavery: a comprehensive free online resource for the teaching and learning of transatlantic histories and legacies.
Our Migration Story: an amazing range of teaching resources from a project which presents the often untold stories of migrants who shaped the British Isles.
Zotero: a collection of resources on decolonising the curriculum.