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Decolonising Education: To be made a political issue or not?

This has been inspired by “From The Ruins of the Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia” by Pankaj Mishara. This wasn’t something that was on my ‘to read list’ because it’s kind of outside of my area of interest, however it was a very interesting read - especially considering the most recent debate about the school curriculum and our understanding of history. Half way through reading this, it got me thinking. My thought was that the debate on decolonising education should be political.

Education is supposed to open us up to new ideas, new perspectives, understanding and reasoning. It is the thing that helps us to learn, expand our knowledge and develop new ideas. So why is it, when the conversation about decolonising education was brought up and discussed, so many were against it? I think one of the reasons why is because it's become a way to score political points as the conversation has been taken over by the different political ideologies and the thing that is no longer of concern is education.

Challenging your own thoughts is an incredibly difficult thing to do and I myself fall into the trap of when I’m learning about something that makes me feel uncomfortable, I ignore it, push it to the side and skim over it, if I must have a basic understanding. When it came to writing my dissertation, I was not able to do what made me comfortable, rather I entered uncomfortable territory, but as a result, academically I grew from it. And this is what should be encouraged! We currently live in an era when you can get into an argument with someone over Twitter - and as soon as you get fed up or run out of arguments to defend yourself, you can quite simply hit the ‘block’ button. If we, as a society, are supposed to be better educated than the generation previous then surely the way to do that is to allow others to challenge our thoughts, read things that make us think “ok, maybe I should reconsider” and then from there reflect and move forward.

Decolonising education was part of the Labour Party’s 2019 manifesto. It was a plausible idea, however, I feel that they tried too hard. What I mean by that is, they wanted to be seen as the good people for highlighting what wasn’t so great from the past. If there is going to be a change in the curriculum, it can’t be from a political party. It should be done because it’s the right thing to do. And this is where Pankaj Mishra’s "From The Ruins Of The Empire'' comes in. Mishra’s focus is not Europe, as such, rather the perspective gives a neutral position (if such perspective exists) by talking about the intellectuals who were significantly influenced by the conditions at the time, who then went on to develop their own discipline, which then inspired key intellectuals after them.

If we decolonize education, not for the purpose of it fitting left wing ideals or to annoy the right by being ‘Anti-British.’ Instead, decolonising education should be done to fulfill the purpose of education, which according to Nick Gibb (2015), is us having the “responsibility to educate the next generation of informed citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said.”

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