Postcolonialism in Education

Postcolonialism can be conceptualized as criticism towards “Western universal knowledge-making” (Lecture slide 20.2.2017). Postcolonial theory also has different strands and one of them is informed by post-structuralism. “This strand recognizes the instability of signification, the location of the subject in language or discourse, and the dynamic operations of power associated with knowledge production.” (Andreotti, 2011, 18.) From this perspective we can examine, for example textbooks, and has there been different significations on different events depending on a culture or a country or a school. What kind of “master” narrative, or narratives, we can find which in turn can shape our knowledge and view of the world to a specific kind of knowledge. This in turn can influence how we view and even control the world (Andreotti, 2011, 20). And if these knowledges and textbook texts are constructed in a way where they serve a master narrative, we can argue that they can be changed. They can be written again in a sense that they serve better equality goals. This links to post-structuralisms recognition of operations of power associated with knowledge production. Who has the power to write textbooks and who has the power to say what is knowledge? This is why we should examine critically different kinds of text, especially school book texts, where the knowledge can be colored by different political aims. This is where the third recognition of location of the subject in language or discourse is important. From a view, where language is seen as an action, a discourse, we can examine how textbooks, knowledge, courses etc. place a subject in it and shapes our view of the world, our actions and maybe even our attitudes. And how the ‘others’ and ‘we’ are constructed, seen, shaped. For example, on the lecture we discussed about how traumatic experience it can be for the children if they’ve grown in a different knowledge system and then must adapt a whole new knowledge system in school. It must be shocking when everything they’ve learned before is useless. In the school they will be informed that their old knowledge system, their families’ knowledge with long traditions, is less true than western universal knowledge system. Therefore they are told that their knowledge and wisdom is less valuable. All in all discourses, master narratives from textbooks can influence our thinking and shape it through political agenda and power where people are seen less equal and thus justify inequality in a way, where some are seen superior and some are not.

There was a talk about the cultural colonization in education. How western knowledge is portrayed as universal knowledge and violence committed by colonialists is explained and justified. Thinking about epistemologies that schools portray as valuable or the knowledge that is relevant, the aim of the curriculum of basic education (Opetushallitus, 2016) is a broad-based learning where knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and the will to form a whole. Thinking and learning skills create a basis for the development of other skills and lifelong learning. Students are directed to consider things from different perspectives, to think critically and to built new knowledge and insight. It is also important to identify and appreciate cultural meanings of the environment, the review of ones own background as well as the reflection on the issues that cannot be accepted because of the contrary to human rights. Multi-literacy skills mean to acquire, merge, edit, produce, present and evaluate information in different forms and in different environments and also to support the development of critical thinking skills. Teaching critical thinking can built a criticism towards western universal knowledge-making and in that sense the aim of the curriculum is supporting the postcolonialism in education.

//Group H


Andreotti, V. (2011, available as an e-book). Actionable postcolonial theory in education. Chapter One (13-24): Contextualizing Postcolonialisms and Postcolonial Theories

Opetushallitus. (2016). Perusopetuksen opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2014.

2 thoughts on “Postcolonialism in Education”

  1. So true! Knowledge in school textbooks, I would suggest, is always political, as in embedded in the context and lives of dominant groups.

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