In neoliberalism, an emphasis on free markets and fiscal austerity, along with a hostility to the commons and the public, coincide with an insistence on the inevitability of capitalism. In education, neoliberalism is associated with the privatization and marketization of schools and districts at the macro level, and an alienation and fragmentation at the level of curriculum, in which knowledge and teaching are reduced to a mechanized sequence of discrete items and acts. As it erodes the relationship between teachers and their work in the name of efficiency, neoliberalism transforms schools into spaces of epistemological and ontological foreclosure. In this context, an approach to curriculum is necessary that is concerned not just with the common senses that education reinforces but also with the basic possibilities for being, knowing, and agency that it makes available. Thus, the deep imbrication of racism in neoliberalism (expressed in the discourse of color-blindness and in state violence) means that in order to imagine alternatives to the latter we need to understand and interrupt the logic of coloniality that has organized capitalism from its origin, and which is intensified in the neoliberal moment. Furthermore, as the ideological work of schooling increasingly inheres in the ubiquitous rituals themselves of neoliberal accountability’s culture of constant assessment and auditing, a liberatory commitment means staging a public curriculum of collective refusal. These broad emancipatory principles suggest that, in practical terms, teachers ought to move beyond private resistance at the classroom level—a form of subversion that leaves intact the material and institutional practices that secure neoliberal governmentality—and begin to participate in larger actions against privatization, standardized testing, and budget cuts. Likewise, at the level of knowledge production, curriculum for liberation should expose the white and Western technicist rationality that undergirds neoliberal education. Affirming epistemological diversity, liberatory curriculum should prioritize non-Western texts and standpoints; explore the links between politics, culture, and spirituality; and ask what it would look like for society as a whole to start from marginalized values and understandings.
Noah De Lissovoy and Alex J. Armonda
Transnational flows of educational knowledge and research are fundamentally guided by the global geopolitics of knowledge—the historically constituted relations of power born out of the continuing legacy of modernity/coloniality. In the early nation-building stage of the 19th century, state-funded education was at the core of states’ pursuit for economic and social progress. Newly formed nation states actively sought new educational knowledge from countries considered more advanced in the global race toward modernity and industrialization. The transnational lesson drawing in education at the time was guided by the view of modernity as originating in and diffusing from the West. This created the unidirectional flow of educational influence from advanced economies of the West to the rest of the world. Central to the rise of modernity in Western state formation is the use of education as a technology of social regulations. Through the expansion of state-funded education, people were turned into the people, self-governing citizens, and then the population that was amenable to a state’s social and economic calculation and military deployment. But this development was embedded in the geopolitical context of the time, in which Western modernity was deeply entangled with its underside, coloniality in the rest of the world. Various uses of education as a social control were tested out first in colonial peripheries and then brought back to the imperial centers. Today, the use of education for the modernist pursuit of perfecting society has been intensified through the constitution of the globalized education policy space. International organizations such as the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) act as the nodes through which transnational networks of education policy actors are formed, where the power of statistics for social and educational progress is widely shared. Both developed and developing countries are increasingly incorporated into this shared epistemological space, albeit through different channels and due to different factors. The rise of international academic testing such as OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has certainly changed the traditional pattern of education research and knowledge flows, and more lesson drawing from countries and regions outside the Anglo-European context is pursued. And yet, the challenges that PISA poses to the Eurocentric pattern of educational knowledge and research flows are curtailed by the persistence of the colonial legacy. This most clearly crystalizes in the dismissive and derogatory characterization of East Asian PISA high achievers in the recent PISA debate. Hence, the current globalization of education knowledge and research remains entangled with the active legacy of coloniality, the uneven global knowledge structure.
Education was a strategy in the colonization of large parts of the globe by European colonial powers. Postcolonialism, a diverse school of thought, demands that the ongoing destructive consequences of the colonial era be exposed, analyzed, and addressed through action. Postcolonial literature, while illuminating the dehumanizing effects of colonization, has understandably focused on the hegemony of Western culture and its effects on education, but it has been vulnerable to criticism that it ought also to pay attention to colonialism as the capitalist exploitation of colonies and former colonies, for their wealth and labor and as markets for manufactured goods. Postcolonial education addresses cultural imperialism by recognizing and unsettling its legacy in the school curriculum and the Western assumptions about knowledge and the world that underpin it, fostering a pedagogy of critique and transformation in the metropole and the periphery. Globalization in the 21st century has intensified interactions between the metropole and former colonies, in an increasingly integrated world system in which neo-liberal influences have created a new form of empire that embraces education. While demands for the restoration of indigenous forms of education are understandable as a response to cultural dispossession, new directions in postcolonial educational thought will also need to accommodate hybridity and to attend to the material conditions of global inequality.
Advances in different disciplinary traditions suggest that the classification of languages into standard and non-standard, official and popular, and school and home languages has more to do with power relations than factors intrinsic to language as such. Such classifications, in school space and beyond, articulate hierarchical relations constituted through interaction of class, race, and ethnicity in specific historic context. An examination of the process of classification of languages gives us important insights into the interrelation between social and learner identity of students in school and about discourses of power in general. Scholars from a political economic perspective have argued how identification and hierarchical positioning of languages as high and low status in school context contribute to the process of social reproduction of class based inequality through education. In recent years the reproduction framework has been challenged for being too rigidly framed on the grids of class while ignoring the gendered and ethnic identity of students that might influence and constitute the language practice of students. The approaches that view language use in school as an act of identity production have generated a number of interesting insights in this field, but these have also been subjected to criticism because of their tendency to essentialize social identities. Many of these have also been questioned for directly or indirectly employing a cultural deficit theory on the basis of class, race, or ethnicity. Such concerns necessitate a shift of focus toward examination of the process through which the very category of standard languages, considered appropriate for schooling, emerges. In this respect the work of Pierre Bourdieu is significant in highlighting the political economic context of how certain languages come to acquire higher value than the others. Another perspective emerges from critical studies of colonial encounters that relied on classification of languages as one of the techniques of modern governance. Investigations of such colonial pasts explicate how linguistic groups are imagined, identified, and classified in a society. Postcolonial scholars have argued that such colonial classificatory techniques continue to influence much of social science research today. Methods of research, particularly in the field of education, have been affected by these process to such an extent that our attempts at recovery of non-standard, multilingual speech forms are affected by the very process of investigation. Consequently, studying languages in the school context becomes a more complicated exercise as one is trapped in the very categories which one seeks to open up for investigation. The decolonization of school space, therefore, calls for a fresh methodological approach to undertake study of languages in the school context.
Anticolonialism is a revolutionary philosophy, a philosophy of revolution. Simply put, it is the struggle for freedom from slavery, settler colonialism, and imperialism. It is the theory and practice of the decolonization of nation-states, as well as of the decolonization of practices of knowledge production, consumption, dissemination, and the entire enterprise of education. It also works to decolonize minds, bodies, and imaginations. Anticolonialism challenges dominant practices of knowledge (and ignorance) production to highlight the intersection of gender, race, and class in what is known and not known about the past as it plays out in the present in education and beyond. Anticolonial scholarship and activism focus on intersectional accounts of history to investigate class- and gender-based forms of violence in some of the most celebrated nonviolent movements. Highlighting the psychic dimensions of domination and resistance is central to the anticolonial project, which elaborates on the boomerang effects of domination and the perils of privilege. This insight is central to imagining a sustainable world of social solidarity and reciprocity. The success of an anticolonial approach to education lies in creating capacities to critically reflect on colonial discourses, institutional structures, educational policy, practice, and pedagogical strategies. The anticolonial project brings to light the psychic life of domination and resistance, which colludes with flaws in the criminal justice system that work to funnel too many children of color out of school and into juvenile and justice systems. Anticolonial educational strategies begin with an intersectional approach to disrupting the school to prison pipeline—a devastating neocolonial formation. Twenty-first-century anticolonial educators and activists learn from the work of student activists in the Mississippi civil rights movement and their creation of Freedom Schools. The radical conceptions of pedagogy, citizenship, and power developed in Freedom Schools have important implications for thinking about the role of education in building a multiracial/multisexual anticolonial democracy in the 21st century.
Yvonne Poitras Pratt, Dustin W. Louie, Aubrey Jean Hanson, and Jacqueline Ottmann
The need to decolonize and Indigenize education stems from shared experiences of colonialism across the globe. In a world divided by ongoing conflict, and fueled by issues of power and control, the need to closely examine the ways that education has served hegemonic interests will help to inform future educational initiatives as well as serve as a form of reparation for those Indigenous peoples who have endured the dire consequences of colonialism. Present-day efforts to reclaim, restore, and revitalize threatened traditions are supported by international bodies such as the United Nations, in tandem with a range of approaches at national levels. Decolonizing education entails identifying how colonization has impacted education and working to unsettle colonial structures, systems, and dynamics in educational contexts. We use the term education in these descriptions broadly to name the sociocultural task of understanding ways of knowing and being (epistemological and ontological systems) and the ongoing formation and transmission of knowledges: for instance, we mean both formal education as structured through Western schooling and other forms of education such as those traditionally practiced within Indigenous families and communities. Decolonizing education fits within larger understandings of decolonization and Indigenization at socio-political levels. However, these undertakings address in particular the colonization of the mind, of knowledge, language, and culture, and the impacts of colonization at personal and collective levels of physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, and intellectual experience. In this time of transition, the work of decolonizing schooling necessarily precedes that of Indigenizing education for most educators and learners; yet, in keeping with Indigenous knowledge traditions, education must remain in a state of flux as we come to know this work collectively.
Barbara Crossouard and Máiréad Dunne
Education has been a central institution in the installation and legitimation of gender binaries and racialized difference in colonial and postcolonial eras. While the term “postcolonial” can refer to the period after which colonized nations gained their independence, a postcolonial critique also engages with the afterlife of the metaphysics of Western modernity. Notably, the imperial project of Western modernity assumed the superiority of the colonizers and provided the legitimation for the deep injustices of colonization to be framed as a “civilizing mission.” In particular, the processes of colonization imposed a “modern/colonial gender system,” which reconstructed the gender norms of many societies around the world, and which subordinated women by binding them to the domestic sphere. Its “biologic” presumed a heterosexual matrix in ways that were also profoundly racialized. Importantly, education was a critical institution that not only legitimated Western knowledges and values, but also secured women’s regulation and subordination. In postcolonial eras, education was given central importance in ways that have tied it to modern imperatives. For the newly independent postcolonial nation, education was critical in the construction of a national imaginary but this framing has reproduced rather than disrupting colonial gender norms. Harnessing education in support of national development inserted the postcolonial nation in a hierarchy of “developed” and “developing” nations. The focus on development similarly permeated efforts at curricular reform, such that they often reproduced the gendered, racialized, and classed hierarchies of colonial education. What counted as legitimate knowledge remained framed by Western elite institutions and their technologies of power. Importantly, from the moment of their independence, the global reach of multilateral organizations has constantly framed the postcolonial trajectories of “developing” nations and their educational reforms. Although often contradictory, the discourses of such organizations intensified the imperatives of education for national development. This compounded pressures to increase educational access beyond elite groups and to include more females. However, the technologies of power that support these international policy agendas bind such reforms to modern imperatives, so that they have become a critical site for the reinscription of binary understandings of gender. This is also true for contemporary international concerns for “quality” education. This is prosecuted largely through promotion of learner-centered education, a concept that is also infused with Western democratic ideals and values. Interrogation of the “hidden curriculum” further shows that the education in postcolonial contexts remains a key institution through which gender is instantiated in essentialized and binary ways, infused by modern ideals of presumptive heteronormativity. Resisting such binaries requires an understanding of gender as something that we “do,” or that we “perform,” within the contingencies and exigencies of particular social and cultural contexts. In turn, these theoretical understandings call for in-depth qualitative studies that can attend to the particularities of the gender regimes in different educational contexts and other intersecting structures of difference (race, ethnicity, religion, class, sexuality) that are rendered invisible by education’s legitimation of difference as a question of disembodied individual merit and ability.
The landscape of history of education has become transformed by approaches that up-end traditional assumptions of the vertical unidirectionality of power, policy, and discourse. These have been displaced by notions of relational comparison and crisscrossing entanglements that draw on Lefebvrian ideas of space and time. These ideas help to provide a sense of how the landscape of education can be understood as both a material and symbolic space, as apprehended, perceived, and lived space, in which social relations are constituted and constitutive of everyday realities. The history of South African education, and specifically its teacher education colleges, exemplifies how landscape can be defined and understood as such spaces. Its history can first be apprehended through different conceptual and historiographical approaches, taken over time, for understanding it. Second, the emergence of specific types of institutions, within colonial political, economic, and social frameworks that defined their physical location and unequal structure in terms of racially segregated and often gender-differentiated spaces, assists in an understanding of these as colonial remnants. The historical landscape of education remains as restructured and reconfigured spaces, in which institutions live on as much in social relations as in memory and in actual, but highly altered physical conditions. As lived spaces, third, historical landscapes of education also embodied learning spatial imaginaries, deeply ambivalent memories of formal and hidden curricula, of formative and shaping years, and as such become landscapes of memory and identity.