#LTHEchat 206: Are we really going to decolonise the curriculum? If so, how and when?

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

This week’s host

Frederica Brooksworth @fbrooksworth founder of Fashion Scholar is an International Fashion Educator and Strategist and  author of the forthcoming book Fashion Marketing in Emerging Economies due to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in Summer 2021.

With over a decade of experience lecturing at over 30 institutions including the London College of Fashion, Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design and Hult International Business School, Frederica has experience developing educational content and strategies for the Business of Fashion, FashMash and Style House Files.

Frederica holds a BA in Fashion Marketing, MA in Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education with a focus on EdTech, Knowledge and Skills Gap in addition to Innovating the African Fashion Education system.

#LTHEchat 206 asks Are we really going to decolonise the curriculum? If so, how and when?

With a proliferation of literature on decolonising the curriculum in Higher Education, it is a fundamental topic that must be addressed. Many universities have created ad-hoc initiatives equipping teaching staff with the tools and resources to implement change within their classrooms. However, it is clear to see that to date in the fashion education system it has not been effective as the topic of decolonising the curriculum is rarely covered. The fashion curriculum has a strong focus on European Fashion and does not reflect the Global Fashion Industry. As a result, this conversation aims to get a better viewpoint on the challenges, advantages and potential recommendations. 

Introduction:

This topic is very important to me as a Black Woman who was once a fashion student and now teaches fashion, and sees how in a decade there have been no changes to the curriculum. Black culture has a huge influence on the fashion industry from clothing, to accessories, hair, lingo you name it; yet, we fail to include these references within the curriculum. Black fashion should not only be taught through a trip to a museum in the world costumes department, it should be embedded in the curriculum and taught in our institutions.

It is of paramount importance to draw attention to the verity that fashion education plays a pivotal role in the structure of the fashion landscape and is often perceived as the pathway into the industry. The fashion curriculum requires modification given that fashion has changed rapidly over the years and is continuously evolving due to the advancement of technology, macroeconomic trends and cultural influences, yet our institutions have failed to keep at the same velocity. At present, the fashion curriculum focuses predominantly on European fashion history and designers. This notion of European fashion as the mecca of the industry has infiltrated into the minds of generations. The fashion media itself is still not as diverse, with rarely any press coverage on Black fashion talent and it is these publications that are used in our classrooms to create mood boards, to write case studies and to learn about the contemporary fashion industry.

A great proportion of learning resources e.g. books, journal articles, trade publications are mainly written by European scholars. This poses a significant concern as this may influence one’s mind subconsciously believing that Black academics are not credible, intellectual or qualified to educate on the topic of fashion. According to a report by The Independent Black students are 50 % more likely to drop out of university than their Asian and White counterparts; expressing that contributing factors retaining Black students include a lack of connection to culture in the curriculum, making friends with students and academics due to beliefs, traditions and backgrounds. We must draw attention to the matter that not only is there a diversity issue as it attains to the curriculum, this also the case for academic staff. The Guardian reported that Black academics make up only 2% of those working within UK universities.

See also

Bulman, M., 2021. Black students 50% more likely to drop out of university, new figures reveal. [online] The Independent. 2017.

The Guardian. 2021. Fewer than 1% of UK university professors are black, figures show

Additional links to learn more about decolonising the curriculum

Decolonising the Arts Curriculum

Research Collective for Decoloniality & Fashion

Wakelet

You can revisit this TweetChat via its Wakelet

#LTHEchat 206: Questions

Q1 – What does decolonising the curriculum mean to you?

Q2 – What core steps do you think institutions need to take to decolonise the curriculum?

Q3 – Who do you think is responsible for decolonising the curriculum within institutions?

Q4 – What are the challenges of decolonising the curriculum?

Q5 – How would you assess the impact of decolonising the curriculum?

Q6 – What opportunities do you think decolonising the curriculum brings to HE?

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