DIVERSITY CALL: Professor Heidi Mirza
A LEADING academic has backed calls for black history to be a mandatory element of the primary school curriculum.
Heidi Safia Mirza, a professor of Race, Faith and Culture at Goldsmiths College, University of London and professor emerita in Equalities Studies at UCL Institute of Education, said it was vital that schools teach black history if the UK is to create a well-adjusted multicultural society.
Mirza was speaking after Birmingham mother of four Stephanie Pitter received 55,000 signatures on her petition to get black history taught in UK primary schools.
Although Pitter did not reach the necessary 100,000 signatures needed to force the issue to be discussed in Parliament, Mirza believes that it is something that education professionals must take a lead on.
Mirza is a keynote speaker at the London Festival of Education which takes place next week (February 28) at UCL Institute of Education. She is expected to raise the issue of diversity at the event.
Mirza told The Voice: “Black history is a really important aspect of British history and it should not be seen as something separate in the curriculum.
It is fundamental to understanding multiculturalism and is integral to understanding ‘Britishness’. It should not be taught to black kids in a way that will make them ashamed. Some black historians have said that it is taught in a demeaning way by white teachers who do not have a sense of seeing it as part of a continuum of British history and so other students start to tease the black ones and say for example ‘you were a slave in the past’. That is the way that it is being taught at the moment without the understanding that every single stately home in this country, our whole banking system, the trading system of Britain, was built on enslavement.”
However, she added that although there had been some progress on the issue with some schools in London incorporating black history into their teaching, attention still needed to be paid to how the material was delivered.
“I think how we train teachers is absolutely fundamental,” she said. “If you have a pedagogic approach that sees other knowledge and other societies as part of a continuum of your own society, then you will be able to embrace that history in a positive way. We have pedagogic practices here where we add on black history. We call it a ‘shake and stir’. You just stir in the black history. We need to have an integrative approach where it is a part of it, not just added. Black people are integral to British and world history.”