In 2017 Cambridge students called for the decolonisation of their curriculum which was populated by white names and stories with Eurocentric angles.
In 2019, GCSE exam boards added novels from black authors like Benjamin Zephaniah and Malorie Blackman to the curriculum. Different university departments have been seen changing their curriculum to include multiple voices. BBC Three has released a 4-part ‘Alt History’ documentary which highlights the place of black people in UK history beyond what is taught at school. These examples display the gradual progress universities, exam boards and society are making since the initial call. However, the progress observed is largely within humanity- based subjects whilst STEM subjects remain unmarked by the movement.
The naive notion of STEM subjects being exempt from decolonisation results in the erasure of progress, discoveries and contributions from talented scientists and mathematicians of colour.
STEM subjects are applauded and recognised for their objectivity and their position in being rooted upon facts. However, such praise and identifications cannot remain if the narratives, research and voices heard are from one group. A method of investigating the validity of a piece of scientific research is to measure its ability to generalise the results of the study within a wider group. However, scientific research displayed as universally representative of all, remains confined to the voice of the white middle-class man. STEM subjects cannot attain the highest level of objectivity and independence from cognitive bias if information within these fields relies on research from primarily one group.
It is encouraged to applaud the work accomplished to decolonise the predominately Eurocentric and androcentric humanity sectors. Such work has witnessed inclusion of silenced narratives within the curriculum. However, it is ignorant to believe the work ends at this point.
The movement has seen universities such as Warwick University’s sociology department include modules which discuss race and its fundamental position in the affluent West and in the creation of capitalism. The department does well to include lectures and seminars dedicated to sociologists of colour in compulsory modules. However, the ripple effect needs to make its way to other departments. The contribution of black scientists in the development of medicine, treatments and mathematics should be recognised.
Currently within UK universities, black STEM students only make up 6.2 per cent. The general public and university admission tutors tend to highlight this underrepresentation of black students in STEM subjects. However, they fail to include the contributions and achievements of BAME STEM professionals in their lectures and in public discussions. Hanson’s 2009 study revealed that African American students saw race as the barrier to them pursuing a career in science. This displays the difficulty for students to enter sectors where they feel that no one within represents them.
As of 2014, white workers made up 89 per cent of banking and finance roles, whilst BAME workers only made up 11 per cent. Additionally, in engineering, black and Asian people are heavily underrepresented as less than 1 in 25 are entering the field. Although STEM-related companies are doing more to increase the intake of BAME graduates, this is not enough. Until the curriculum undertakes a complete change regarding who is being praised and hailed as the spearheads for change in the scientific and mathematical sectors, we will continue to witness an underrepresentation of BAME individuals in these fields.
The road towards successful decolonisation has begun. However, it will not be fully achieved if we reserve the movement to only one type of curriculum. Yes, we should celebrate how far we have come, but there is still a long road ahead. All aspects of UK education have to be altered to ensure the narratives of all groups of people are heard. It is time we dilute the voice of the white, middle-class man and shift it from the forefront of narratives.