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Decolonising Education - Kehinde Andrews

Is the answer to unconscious bias or systemic racism towards the black community within the education system to focus on educating its own children?

This was one of Professor Andrew’s main contentions. The current educational system is about maintaining the status quo – it’s not about educating poorer cohorts or weaker minorities to play a powerful role, it’s about protecting white supremacy and just providing skills that enable the system as it is to function. We can’t expect the current system to do the opposite of what it was designed to do.

Not only that, but black children have been made to feel educationally sub-normal within the UK schools system.

That may at first sound like a nihilistic proposition. However, Kehinde reminded us of the 1970s experience of black families taking education into their own hands – with the black Saturday school movement. He talked about navigating through the system so that children unhook themselves from the approval or disapproval they face at school – they make what they choose of the system.

Whether you agree with the system being intrinsically biased or otherwise, this is an exciting idea because of its positivity and the sense of power it engenders.

Assuming, there is some willing to improve the system - another major question is the direction in which we should encourage the curriculum to be expanded. Should it put more time into the colonial period and oppressive histories such as the slave trade? Or should the focus be on internationalising the curriculum? Here Professor Andrews took the view that the former was most important, with Maya de Souza, the moderator, suggesting that in fact the latter could be more empowering.

Professor Andrews argued that we’d be in a better place in the UK if we understood the history of empire. Understanding “what Britain is, is really important – sounds simple but it’s very complicated”. It’s empire that creates Britain – it enriches and allows the country to take it’s place in the world. It was the premier slave trading nation. Rather than ingenuity and capitalism, underlying the industrial revolution, it was imperialism. Slavery gave us the commodities that were turned into products – whether sugar or cotton.

A thought-provoking presentation and discussion! And one that provided some practical suggestions for action.

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