C: https://www.flickr.com/people/oireachtas/

Senator Eileen Flynn calls for ‘decolonisation’ of the curriculum 

Independent Senator Eileen Flynn has written to the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to request that it discuss adding ‘decolonisation of the curriculum’ and gender equality as topics which the Committee might examine. 

Senator Flynn, who was nominated for her position by the Taoiseach, also said she wanted to suggest bringing Civic, Social and Political Education back as an exam subject.

For Professor Rowena Arshad, Chair in Multicultural and Anti-Racist Education and Co-Director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality at the University of Edinburgh, the concept of decolonising education first emerged following the 2015 ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign in Cape Town and escalated worldwide in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd:

“Decolonising is not about deleting knowledge or histories that have been developed in the West or colonial nations; rather it is to situate the histories and knowledges that do not originate from the West in the context of imperialism, colonialism and power and to consider why these have been marginalised and decentred.”

However, critics of the concept, such as Joanna Williams, have pointed to the claim that the ‘decolonise the curriculum movement entrenches racial thinking’:

“Truth, when no longer universal, is perspectival. And in today’s university, some perspectives are more worth hearing than others. Decolonise the curriculum asks us to make decisions about knowledge based on biology rather than on intellectual merit. Instead of looking at what Hegel or WEB Du Bois, Audre Lorde or Sylvia Plath, have to offer in terms of their contribution to knowledge, we are asked to make crude judgements based on sex and skin colour with white and male being bad, black and female being better.”

The issue of ‘decolonising the curriculum’ had previously been discussed during a number of meetings of the Joint Committee on Gender Equality in May of this year where it was supported as an important approach to educational policy by Ms Emer Neville, president of Irish Second-Level Students Union, the ISSU.

The issue also received strong backing from Senator Alice-Mary Higgins. Senator Higgins said she was aware that in NUI Galway, “conversations are beginning to happen around the decolonisation of the culture. Similarly, in terms of a real examination of curriculums and those ideas of norms and stereotypes, sometimes, norms and stereotypes have a racial layer or relate to people who are non-binary or intersex.”

As part of her contribution to the Committee debates, Ms Neville stated that decolonisation of education is essential to counter what she termed “a completely male-centred curriculum and it is the same across the board. It is important we recognise it in the review of all these curricula.”

Ms Neville said she believed that if such an approach were adopted it would “play a part in countering toxic masculinity because “we will be open to different views and diverse histories etc.”

“Uniforms should not be confined by gender. If a young boy wants to wear a skirt to school, why should we stop that? If a young woman wants to wear pants, who are we to control what they wear?”

Ms Neville’s remarks on decolonising the curriculum were supported at a later stage of the Committee by her colleague, Ms Saoirse Exton. Ms Exton said:

“In terms of decolonisation, my background is in climate activism so, obviously, that is everything for me. The sole reason the climate crisis is a thing is because of this colonialist attitude where the white, cisgender, heterosexual male is the norm, is the default, and everything else is the other. That is reinforced by the curriculum.”

Decolonising the curriculum also featured heavily in a 2021 submission from the Irish Association of Social Workers Anti-Racism Advisory Group to the Anti-Racism Committee on the Consultation of the proposed National Action Plan against Racism in Ireland:

“We call upon the Government through the Ministries in all education departments to introduce a decolonisation of the curriculum at all levels of education in Ireland.”

“A decolonised education curriculum will also ensure representation of all knowledge systems in the context of current diversity in Irish society and, in so doing, will aid social inclusion of students from Black and Ethnic minority Communities and other marginalised groups – including those from the Roma and Travelling community. We recommend inclusive education which considers Black history and other diverse world views.”

It is unclear at present whether the request submitted by Senator Eileen Flynn will be accepted or rejected by the Oireachtas Committee on Education, and Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

Share mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer mdi-chevron-left Prev Next mdi-chevron-right Related
Comments are open

The biggest problem Ireland faces right now is:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...