Decolonizing History Curriculum for Children

A recent concept that has garnered much attention from educators, activists, and youth is decolonizing history. According to Meera Sabaratnam, chair of the Decolonising SOAS Working Group and a senior lecturer in international relations at SOAS University of London, the campaign to decolonise history calls for a greater representation of non-European thinkers, as well as better historical awareness of the contexts in which scholarly knowledge has been produced. In other words, it refers to looking at the history curriculum taught to individuals and asking them to look at our shared assumptions about how the world is and question why it is so.

What does this mean for children and adolescents living in Inter-American states? Essentially, this educational approach would entail allowing children to not only learn whatever is taught to them from a textbook, but also question:

  • Who wrote/published/provided this textbook/passage/video?
  • What are their values/points of belief?
  • Is this passage written by someone who is impartial, or by someone who is on a particular view’s side?
  • This is an interesting historical conflict. What is the full point of view from both sides? I want to hear from both equally.

Decolonizing historical education for children has already been reinforced into curriculums across numerous Inter-American states. For example, in Canada, nationwide revisions to the educational curriculum and its coverage on Indigenous history – a prime example of revealing an alternative side to the treaties, conflicts and disagreements that have plagued Canada’s 152 years of history – began to take place in 2015 after the swearing in of the Liberal government lead by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. For example, in the province of Ontario where over 40% of all Canadians live, the first round of revisions focused on Grade 4-6 social studies, Grade 7-8 history and Grade 10 history began to take place and included the addition of lessons explaining in detail why the actions of Canada’s earliest settlers against the Indigenous population – often unspoken of in the past at such a young level – were damaging. 

The Ministry of Education reported that in September 2018, curriculum revisions made Indigenous course content mandatory for students in Grade 4-8 and Grade 10, where subjects such as residential schools and treaty violation by Anglo-European settlers are discussed with students. Incredibly, these sources of historical information were not exposed to students of the same age range in the past, for example in the 1980s. This change thus marked an incredibly intellectually stimulating approach for Canadian students to begin. Additionally, another example of a Canadian province that began taking such measures in 2016 was Nova Scotia. Teachers, elders, the Mi’kmaq school board and public schools collaborated on the framework for primary grades to Grade 12 in early 2016, with age appropriate content for each grade level. Jacob Gale, director of Mi’kmaq Services with the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, said the framework helps bring in more Indigenous content and resources into classrooms each school year.

These are only some examples of successful implementations of decolonizing historical curriculum among children and adolescents in IIN-OAS states. Thus, policy makers at the IIN-OAS must instruct member States to complete such revisions in their curriculum. This is because this approach allows for children to intellectually question and act with respect to the rights of others and always understand there is much more that they need to know before they take actions that may conflict with the rights of others, thus reducing conflicts and discrimination from occurring in the future and preventing them from being receptive to the divisive attempts of others.


Written by:

Shifa Sarker

CORIA Canada