Resolution on: Decolonising Education

published 6 August 2019 updated 7 August 2019

The 8th Education International (EI) World Congress meeting in Bangkok, Thailand from 21st to 26th July 2019:

(1) Reaffirms that education is a human right and a public good, and that every person has a fundamental right to an education that will enable them to achieve their own maximum potential and become a responsible citizen;

(2) Recalls the EI resolutions: on the rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the 1st EI World Congress in 1995, on education in cultural diversity adopted by the 4th EI World Congress in 2004, on cultural diversity adopted by the 5th EI World Congress in 2007, and on language diversity adopted by the 7th EI World Congress in 2015;

(3) Notes that the United Nations General Assembly declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages; and that most of the languages spoken around the world that are in danger of disappearing are Indigenous languages, which puts the cultures and knowledge systems to which those languages belong at risk;

(4) Recalls that a rights-based approach guides the work of Education International and informs the policies and programmes that are implemented to promote individual and collective rights, as outlined in the Human and Trade Union Rights Policy Paper adopted by the 7th EI World Congress in 2015, and that in this rights-based approach human beings are not considered as mere passive beneficiaries of human rights, but as active and assertive holders of rights;

(5) Recognises that the question of what constitutes knowledge, how it is produced, and how it is taught (ways of learning) is inextricably linked to socio-political, economic and historical contexts, as well as the entrenched structural social inequalities that characterise them, and that knowledge can be a weapon of domination, and can also be harnessed in pursuit of democracy and justice for all;

(6) Recognises further that knowledge and ways of learning can be considered ‘colonised’ in the sense that knowledge systems produced and ways of learning valued by colonising powers have historically been, and continue to be, powerful and often dominant over knowledge systems produced and ways of learning valued by (previously or currently) colonised peoples and Indigenous Peoples;

(7) Welcomes the emergence of new social movements in different parts of the world that are calling for the decolonisation of education, meaning for the relationships between power, knowledge and learning to be acknowledged and addressed by and within educational institutions, for knowledge to be democratised, and for there to be social justice within and through education in the form of recognition, redistribution and representation of knowledge systems and ways of learning that do not originate from previous or current colonising powers;

(8) Determines that:

(i) Educational institutions should accept that there is a variety of knowledge and ways of learning that can and should be considered, and that their relevance depends on the questions being asked, on the processes adopted to reach answers, which include social and ethical considerations – both implicit and explicit - as well as those that are academic/technical/scientific;

(ii) Sustainable Development Goal 4.1 seeks to ensure that ‘all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education, leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes’; and SDG 4.2 seeks to ensure that ‘all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education’.This must be understood by States, policymakers, educators and education support personnel in the broader sense as including local, non-dominant knowledges, epistemologies, pedagogical and educational traditions, as well as those of colonised and Indigenous communities;

(iii) Education unions, as the organised collective voice of the teaching profession, and in line with their social justice mandate in and through education, have a unique role to play in furthering the decolonisation of education around the world;

(iv) The language of the coloniser has always been a means of domination and enslavement. Languages, even minority languages, are important markers of the culture and diversity of peoples. They must be recognised by the authorities and taught from an early age. It is both recognising their history and their culture and preserving a linguistic heritage that is the richness of humanity;

(9) Calls on Education International and all member organisations to:

(i) Develop partnerships with global, national and local Indigenous organisations in order to seek the best paths forward to decolonise education;

(ii) Use every opportunity to raise awareness amongst their members of the efforts of [context-specific] movements and processes to decolonise education, and to work with such movements;

(iii) Develop and mainstream policy language to advance these issues within programmatic and advocacy work, and within and through campaigns, including the ongoing the EI Global Response to Privatisation in Education campaign;

(iv) Make all efforts to ensure that research commissioned, experts consulted, and speakers invited to EI sponsored events and activities at national, regional and global events represent a wide variety of perspectives, bodies of knowledge and approaches.