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As calls to decolonise the curriculum grow louder, we should consider what might be lost from the study of English literature if we do, writes Alka Sehgal Cuthbert in the Education Forum’s regular column for Teach Secondary magazine…

Illustration of people

The literature we choose for our curriculums doesn’t need to literally represent people in terms of skin colour or social experience, but it does need to be good enough that it can capture pupils’ imaginations, so that their capacity for vicarious experience – and vicarious relationships with characters – is extended and deepened.

Picture a class of 8- and 9-year-old Bengali boys and girls from inner London, enthralled while reading about the exploits of a white-skinned, red-haired orphaned tearaway called Pippi Longstocking who lives in a Swedish rural idyll.

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In the Education Forum’s column for Teach Secondary magazine, Alka Sehgal Cuthbert calls for a return to educational basics, and a more nuanced critique of optimistic dreams concerning our gleaming, edtech-powered future.

In education, those who do the actual hard work of education, as opposed to the host of ancillary work that enables and supports it, are the teachers and pupils. Technology can certainly bring useful things to education, but there’s nothing intrinsically educational about technology itself per se.

As a young person in the aforementioned video points out, the same technology can be used to play games, pursue hobbies and conduct everyday communications, as well as for educational purposes. It follows, then, that for any technology to be of actual use in the classroom, the ‘education’ side of the equation has to be firmly in place first, so that the technology’s use is distinctively educational.

And here’s the rub – few people among the ranks of politicians, policy makers and academics (and sadly, many teachers) possess a strong enough conception of what education is and what it needs to flourish.

Read the whole article on Teachwire