Christine Blower, SRtRC Vice-President, told us about the need of anti-racist education. In her opinion, it should be part of the national curriculum.
"At Education International, we believe that education is a human and civil right. We believe public education is a public good. Investing in public education is the best investment Governments can make, because education can change the world. Going to school should open up a world of possibility, dignity and exploration for every child. But as we witness the greatest movement of children across the globe than at any other time in history, we know that we are still too painfully far away from every child in school, every child valued, every child safe.
The goal of education should be to give every child a sense of place and belonging in the classroom, and an appetite to learn, to think and to engage positively with the world around them. Too often, Government Ministers fall into the trap of conflating education with employability.
Children and young people must feel safe, to learn. So schools and classrooms must be inclusive, anti-racist spaces, which value and respect everyone's background and interests and harness the linguistic and cultural differences between pupils, in a way that is positive.
Children come to school in a world that is not equal, where discrimination is still everywhere, and where BME pupils and their families face racism in the streets, in popular culture and in employment. Black girls, and Muslim girls, face both racism and sexism. Education can not ignore and must address issues of sexism, racism, islamophobia and anti-Semitism. We must defend for education a wider purpose than just a narrow versions of English and maths. School success cannot be defined by pupil test scores in a narrow range of subjects, or chasing higher PISA scores in international league tables. We must try harder to address discrimination and prejudice. We must promote the attitudes and values that can help young people to think for themselves and act for others.
This has always been true but is all the more urgent in the UK given the rise in racism and racist attacks since the Brexit vote and the rise of right wing populism we see in so many places, not least, of course the in the election of President Trump. And whilst Gert Wilders did not prevail personally in the Netherlands, his party made gains. We have yet to see what will happen elsewhere in Europe.
Racism is not often discussed in schools, even at a time when racism is worsening within society. Racism is a defining feature of BME teachers lives and deeply affects the experience of young black people and so it is urgent we bring the issue of racism into the open in staff rooms, classrooms and the curriculum.
Given the strait jacket of the curriculum in England, finding curriculum time can be a challenge but it's one to which many schools and teachers manage to rise. In responding to the UK Prevent strategy teachers have had to find a way of ensuring that school is a safe place in which to discuss ideas, human rights and how we handle tensions within society. Only with confident teachers and a flexible curriculum can children and young people discuss their ideas, fears and concerns and cover topics such as prejudice and its links to discrimination, hate crime and social exclusion. Implemented badly, the Prevent strategy has closed down the opportunity for these issues to be explored in many schools - and teachers remain unclear about the expectations on them.
Promoting a sound anti-racist curriculum is not necessarily easy but it is important. It is also much more
easily done when teachers are trained in dealing with these issues and when there are high quality materials for teachers to use. Show Racism the Red Card is well placed to assist teachers in this.
Show Racism the Red Card has existed for 20 years precisely to assist in the struggle against racism in all its forms. It exists too, to work against hate crime perpetrated against a variety of people and communities. It's clear that schools and teachers cannot solve the problems of racism and hate crime alone. It's also true that unless schools have the curriculum space and time to deal with these issues which are critical for society, young people may grow up without the chances to break the chains of racism.
Teachers want young people to think critically and be active in their own learning. Nowhere is this more important than when considering a complex and challenging issue like racism. The world is bewildering at times for young people, and power and opportunities are not shared equally. Developing a school curriculum that deals with the manifestations of racism, its roots and its consequences for communities is vital. We don't want education to prepare young people to live in the world as they find it, but to create the conditions for young people to thrive in a more peaceful, humane and innovation-rich world. "