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‘Decolonising’ the Curriculum

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk. With Giles Fraser, Matthew Taylor, Melanie Philips and Tim Stanley.

A report, commissioned by the Office for Students, has recommended that universities should “decolonise” the curriculum to end the dominance of western values and beliefs, which “position anything non-European and not white as inferior.” While the regulator hasn’t formally adopted the report as policy, campaigners have long argued that the perpetuation of what they see as a colonial legacy in education is immoral. They argue that a ‘white’ curriculum marginalizes BAME writers and alienates minority students, contributing to their low representation and attainment in higher education. While individual departments at some universities have been reassessing their reading lists, critics warn that it promotes tokenism and presents the works of black or female thinkers as being of equal worth merely by virtue of their colour or gender. Moreover, they argue, in an attempt to tackle racial bias in English literature, history and philosophy, it further entrenches racial thinking. What should we be teaching students in schools and universities? Are there too many dead white men on the curriculum, and if so, is it time to redress the power imbalance? How are we to narrow the education gap for minority students and broaden people’s understanding of those from diverse backgrounds unless we offer an education that engages with their perspectives? Or, in trying to be fair, do we run the risk of belittling important literary and historical figures and binding the curriculum in chains of political correctness?

Producer: Dan Tierney

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43 minutes

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