What’s Decolonizing the curriculum got to do with it? Reflecting on Inclusivity from the perspective of engaging with non-western pedagogies in teaching practice.

By Divine Charura

In my experience, the whole subject of decolonising the curriculum is often misinterpreted. I have noticed many a time some educators interpreting ‘decolonising the curriculum’ to mean including a few authors of Black or global majority authors on reading lists or including a group of Black and ethnic minority participants in research studies (Charura and Lago 2021). Some have gone so far as state to us, ‘We have a module that specifically addresses diversity in the second semester”. I advocate that decolonizing the curriculum can enable us all to work towards inclusivity through engaging with activities/ pedagogies that challenge our thinking around what we may have always accepted as the status quo. This includes examining structures that often support, power inequalities and discrimination within our profession/practice. This also includes analysing how pedagogies, oppression and power can be used to exploit, oppress, and discriminate other groups. Furthermore, it is also about facilitating learning spaces that challenge and enable critical examination of one’s held beliefs/pedagogies about other groups and the process of ‘othering’ (Keating 2020; Charura and Lago 2021).

As a Black British man of African heritage, I have woven through my upbringing aspects of my heritage and Afrocentric values, thereby enabling me to value a wide range of perspectives which include respect for diversity and co-creation. These form through the lens of the African philosophy of Ubuntu perspective, imply that as human beings, we are all unique. In contrast to the Cartesian dictum that I am because I think, Ubuntu philosophy maintains that I am because I belong (Holdstock, 2013). I integrate the following Ubuntu pedagogy components: fostering a safe learning environment and setting boundaries; introducing unifying activities; enabling collaboration and co-creative learning from a position of respect and love, to meet diverse student and colleague needs (Ukpokodu, 2016). Thus, the bedrock of my teaching is this Ubuntu philosophical stance, I am because I belong. Given how diverse our classrooms and learning spaces have become, how can we facilitate learning that offers authentic graduates who will go out into a diverse world and be equipped to deal with the plethora of world worldviews they will encounter. 

In my teaching practice, there is a commitment to inclusivity, to reducing potentially traumatic experiences of not-belonging and to facilitate learning that is open to diversity encountered in the “real world”.

In this blog I am making the case for inclusivity through engaging with Transcultural and diversity informed pedagogies (Charura and Lago 2021). In my case it is Ubuntu philosophy. Personally, for my work as a psychologist and educator, I align with ideas that suggest that to be truly inclusive one has to challenge the pre-eminence given to for example particular Western models for viewing mental health/ill health, even when these don’t apply to or fit other groups (Keating, 2020). Thus, what inclusivity and decolonizing the curriculum is about is challenging oppressive undertones and all forms of ‘isms’ that breed discrimination (Mignolo, 2011; Nyoni, 2019). There should also be a commitment to inclusivity through promoting gender, racial, age equality etc and acknowledging the diversity of cultures and contexts. It is important from this perspective to acknowledge being open to non-Eurocentric concepts, their epistemology generation and learning that they have their own developmental intricacies, which are not secondary to Eurocentric knowledge and assumptions. In engaging with other pedagogies, such as Ubuntu, I have come to accept and value that they are equal knowledge-generation and valuable partners in my decolonised teaching practice (Tillman, 2002; Mignolo, 2011; Nyoni, 2019).

 I end with a reflective question:  How can we begin to encounter each other, value the views of other groups, and other pedagogies as a way of continuing to develop our capacity for inclusivity?

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