Decolonise minds before living and learning spaces

As we continue to add to the rhetoric of decolonisation of the curriculum and to paint the canvas any other colour but white, we have to begin with the decolonisation of the mind. Critical issues are emerging within the decolonisation discourse globally, such as the tendency to view decolonisation as a way of obliterating other histories, cultures and knowledges.

In co-constructing new shared knowledges (local and global), reframing our histories and enriching our cultures, we have a commitment to preserve the past so that we do not destroy artefacts and erase other histories. In rewriting your history, you cannot erase mine.

It is only when we decolonise our minds and stop thinking like the colonisers that we can begin to decolonise our shared living and learning spaces. Equity, inclusivity, diversity and sustainability are fundamental criteria for negotiating shared co-construction of our histories and our present and future social engagement and partnership.

Stakeholders, including our leaders, should decolonise their minds to expand thought processes in order to interrogate the demons within – prejudices, stereotypes and discriminatory behaviours.

Other questions are posed within a decolonising discourse. Have we removed the shackles of our historical past or do we walk with the sound of rattling chains in the distance? Are our glocal (local and global) communities open-minded enough to explore new possibilities and confront history, reality and collective futures as one humanity? Are we willing to apply a moral code and plan action to implement change?

Sharing our history, not destroying it

I believe that by destroying the names, places, statues, monuments, artefacts and memories of our painful histories, we shall leave our future generations poorer in wisdom, without a critical consciousness to inquire about and interrogate the atrocities we have suffered; and without the will to work together as one humanity to ensure a sustainable quality of life for all glocal communities.

More worrisome is the fact that we might leave them to become the perpetrators of similar crimes without consideration and concern to protect and enhance the freedoms and rights of their future generations.

In addition to preserving the artefacts of the past, we might want to share our painful histories in other ways. We should approach glocal community building as a respectful alternative to the more oppressive and colonising histories we have survived.

If we destroy the history we have survived, how will our future generations know of the oppression, atrocities, pain and suffering that history imposed?

How will future generations learn to value their freedoms and ensure that they will not perpetrate the same heinous acts or recognise when they are themselves oppressed because of their own limitations?

Dr Fay Patel has 30 years teaching, research and educational development experience in international higher education (in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and South Africa). She contributes to external peer review quality assurance panels in Bangladesh; has made keynote presentations on assessment as learning at Taylor's University and the Online Learning Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and is an education consultant on online and open distance learning and MOOC development at UNESCO Asia forums in Bangkok, Thailand and in Chengdu, China. Patel is also a curriculum transformation facilitator in the World Bank Quality Assurance Training programme (coordinated by HELP University) in Kuala Lumpur. The thoughts expressed here are her own and are an extract from an article in progress for a conference/workshop and international journal. She has contributed to many journals and books on a range of subjects including decolonisation of the curriculum.