Dear Nadhim Zahawi,
Before I state the purpose of my letter, I would like to congratulate you on your new appointment as Secretary of State for Education. I believe, if even just going by your excellent and efficient Covid vaccine programme as vaccine deployment minister, you will be a reliable education secretary and this fuss-free style will serve you well in this department.
I am writing this letter to you to urge you to consider the addition of the impacts of the British Empire to the education curriculum. Just as you recently promised that climate change would be at the centre of education at COP26, alongside this should position imperialism and not only its effects on other countries, but about what it did to Britain as well as a key part of education.
Through the duration of my English Literature bachelor’s degree, and more specifically the
Postcolonial module I am studying currently, I am finding myself becoming increasingly embarrassed by my lack of prior knowledge of major events in British history abroad. For example, two weeks ago a girl in my class presented work on the partition of India, due to her Pakistani family heritage, however every word she spoke was entirely and wrongly new to me. Again, due to my recent research project focusing on Jordanian British author Fadia Faqir’s Pillars of Salt, I discovered Britain’s major involvement in the arbitrary creation of Middle Eastern borders and the impacts of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. Whether you believe Britain’s bloody colonial history is good or bad, a case of the railways versus the Bengal famine, it is important to learn for an inclusive understanding of the present. Individuals are doing the best we can to help educate ourselves on our colonial history, but we need the support of your government.
Currently the national curriculum says young people are supposed to learn about “how Britain has influenced, and been influenced by the wider world”, but it would in fact seem that this takes a back seat, contained in one-month of learning, or in the form of optional modules instead of part of the “core curriculum”. I would like to see it play an intrinsic role in our education, providing children with a core knowledge of the history of the Empire, which has and still is shaping communities in Britain and abroad. This will, in turn, provide more answers to the general public as to why we have Black History Month and many more activism occurrences. Whilst I remember briefly covering British colonialism in Africa, this was rushed and did not focus on the effects for the people of Africa and what this might mean for current politics.
Thank you for beginning the change on the curriculum by promising to bring climate change to the forefront of education. What actions can you take to meet the growing need for children to learn important aspects of our British history in our ever-expanding globalised world?
I look forward to hearing your response.