VIEW: It’s time to decolonise the school curriculum

Priyanka Bromhead is a Head Teacher of English and believes the way school curriculums are developed, maintained and delivered needs a major shake-up.

She explains, “My biggest priority as HT English was to shift culture by decolonising the curriculum. As a brown woman it’s important that all students, whether they are people of colour or not, have access to texts and experiences that are intersectionally feminist in nature as well as anti-racist.”

Bromhead believes that as well as changing the curriculum itself, teachers need to take a proactive stance on teaching children how to think for themselves and question what is being put in front of them in a classroom.

“I want students to be challenged so that they too can challenge existing narratives, so that they don’t just go with the flow, but so that they are part of a generation of conscious consumers and citizens who work to dismantle systems of oppression and injustice,” she says.

“Life should not be just about the #selflove and #selfempowerment movements but about #selflessness, #communitycare and #creationcare. It is a very counter-cultural way of thinking in an individualistic, post-Colonial, capitalist world, but I’m passionate about continually teaching and learning about how to reclaim, rewrite and re-right existing narratives through language and education.”

“As a brown woman it’s important that all students, whether they are people of colour or not, have access to texts and experiences that are intersectionally feminist in nature as well as anti-racist.”

The influx of testing in schools in the last five years, Bromhead argues, is further limiting teachers’ to inspire students and engage them in class materials.

She recalls, “When I first started teaching just over ten years ago, my students and I turned my classroom into a medieval medical chamber: stained glass windows, skeletons and the odd-limb hanging from the ceiling to reflect what we were learning across English (Frankenstein) and HSIE (Medieval Europe). Who has time to do that these days?”

For genuine change to happen, she believes there needs to be changes across all industries, which will ensure a more holistic approach to improving and modernising the way students are educated.

Bromhead explains, “Policy makers need to have a good hard think about school starting age, why so many families can’t afford to keep their kids home until they’re a little older and how this impacts the child’s development long term. There is a lot of talk about Australia being among the best in the world re education but the reality is that we are failing our kids in many ways and slipping further and further behind and becoming more and more like the US.”

To any new professionals in the industry, Bromhead warns, “Don’t be a slave to the system. Do your hours at work, some prep time at home and work your butt off when you’re with your students. But don’t overdo it. The system, the hours, our pay will never change if we just put up with whatever it is we are ‘expected to do’.”


About the expert

Priyanka Bromhead is a Head Teacher English at the NSW Department of Education. Her approach to English, teaching and learning and life in general is counter-cultural, while understanding and experiencing the demands of 21st Century education for the last decade. Her aim is not to pump out robot-like numbers, but to nurture minds that are critical, creative and conscious in the way that they engage with society.