Why Global Britain needs a diverse and reflective school curriculum

Why Global Britain needs a diverse and reflective school curriculum
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In the wake of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) Report launched this year, Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, recently assembled a group of expert panellists to weigh up the polarisation in the UK’s education system and its impact on race and ethnic disparities.

After an intensive study of the data collected through public engagement, the report is intended to serve as a roadmap to make the UK a fairer place for the people.

The speakers at British Future’s ‘Teaching Modern Britain: How can the curriculum include us all?’ session recently explored aspects such as the inclusion of basic ancestry history of Britain’s ethnic minorities in the curriculum.

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Can the stories of the past really unite pupils and the public today? Would learning about the UK’s uncomfortable relationship with race and Empire help build a shared sense of belonging, or could it bring culture wars into the classroom and leave teachers as the referees? These were some of the questions explored by the think tank.

Scientist and CRED Commissioner Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock highlighted the incorporation of ethnic contributions towards the making of present-day Britain as part of the school syllabus.

“Each story is interesting in its own right but when you weave the different strands together, look at the interaction between the different ethnic groups, you get a fantastic narrative,” said Dr Aderin-Pocock. She believes such a move would inject a sense of belonging among young pupils from diverse background. She went on to dig into the complexity of parental income, geographical location and the variation of attitude that impact upon the education of ethnic groups in the country.

As per a survey conducted by Vote For Schools last year, students in secondary schools in Britain felt a lack of representation in the current curriculum.

Cultural Historian Patrick Vernon came out in support of teaching “the good, the bad and the ugly” segments of the British Empire while he shed some light on the history of enslavement for agricultural plantations in the Caribbean, South America, Africa and India.

‘The Times’ journalist David Aaronovitch touched upon the history of migration. He revealed that he was never taught about the movement of the Jewish community to Britain.

“There is no clarity or attempt to understand how Britain came to be Britain. The British approach to teaching these things is ‘let’s not talk about it.’”

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Dr Samir Puri, author of ‘The Great Imperial Hangover – How Empire Shaped the World’ whose family hails from India, pointed to the importance of addressing the “non-negotiable facts” about Britain as a way of civic education for children.

He noted: “We shouldn’t be pushing our experiences and our views as older people onto another generation nor should we be treating children as a blank slate.”

Dr Puri used the example of how the Germans have responsibly educated their children about the Nazi era and renounced militarism and drew parallels with the study of the history of the British Empire. “It wasn’t a solely murderous entity nor was it a benign diffuser of democracy.”

He further shared his discovery of how Edexcel’s GCSE Geography has discussed India as a British colony and its effects on the economic development after independence, thereby using a range of subjects as a medium of communicating the vital truths.

He concluded: “For the future, I want to equip Britain and our population with the skills and the ability to understand that for all of its faults, Britain does sit at the centre of very influential global networks and some of these outcomes come from historical experiences.”

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