Can decolonisation and globalisation
co-exist in education?

            01. Where are we?

Decolonisation is the removal of colonialism in society. As the significance of decolonisation is growing in education, it encourages a transformative action of educational agencies to avoid improper understanding of the colonised by romanticising the colonial practices in educational contexts (Tuck & Yang, 2012). Therefore, decolonisation strategies are often considered as the dismantling of the existing knowledge and norm framed by settler society (Booysen, 2016). In this situation, the growing trend of globalisation in education has both positive and negative impacts on decolonisation.

While globalisation provides various resources that are not limited to the Western idea so that it promotes more critical thinking of educational context, the Western context is still a strong centre of globalisation and it could be a method to expand the Western dominance and to threaten the decolonising agenda in the educational field by distributing Western resources to periphery countries. Therefore, it is significant to look closely at the influence of decolonisation and its limitation on each educational agency to better understand the complex implication of decolonisation in society. Especially, the limitation of the current decolonisation agenda is vital to be discussed with the analysis of agencies to truly understand the value and definition of decolonisation in our society. This would provide a comprehensive picture of decolonisation in academia and offer suggestions to tackle the continuous power of Western hegemony observed in education.

Therefore, this writing aims to explore the influence of decolonisation through the analysis of practices in two major educational agencies, individual students and institutions, with the consideration of possible limitations.


            02. How do we react?


Students are the major actors of academia. Sometimes they are the leader of academic transformation but also they are the vulnerable ones that are controlled by the educational policies. Freire (2000) criticises the banking structure of the traditional teaching system which considers students as passive recipients of ‘deposited’ knowledge from instructors. He then suggests the problem-solving structure in the education system that helps students to think critically about their experience of learning and take the lead of the academic environment by creative thinking processes. The critical epistemology of Freire is closely linked to decolonisation as it allows students to view society more critically and independently. Decolonisation allows the ‘epistemic disobedience’ of students that refuses to passively accept colonial knowledge, usually the Western knowledge (W. Mignolo, 2011, 2009). Epistemic disobedience can emerge in different formats, however, on an individual level, it allows students to critically think about their learnings in relation to the Euro-American hegemony of knowledge. Therefore, this encourages students to keep questioning the world to recognise colonial elements in education as well as understand the decolonial context independently. Moreover, the epistemic disobedience from decolonisation can lead to the students’ self-formation by helping them understand various international experiences with their critical thinking of the world. Self-formation is complex as it is conducted through multiple influences including cultural factors, international experience, and institutional influences (Marginson, 2014). If the student’s self-formation is generated from the questioning of the world, decolonial thinking can be a foundation of the self-formation process and this decolonial thinking of individual students can be expanded through the global network.

As more students are studying abroad, students encounter multiple cultures of knowledge. This could be a hardship for foreign students to deal with crashing knowledge between national and international but it adds another filter for students to critically refine various knowledge. For example, the increased participation of Muslim women in international higher education allows problematising the homogenous image of Muslim womanhood framed by Western power (Shah & Khurshid, 2019). Then, their voice will be echoed in the educational communities that will also enlighten local students. The epistemic disobedience of students is possible through exposure to knowledge from various communities. The descending power of Western knowledge is still influential but globalisation plays a critical role in introducing periphery voices in the core academia. With the rapid flow of knowledge from high participation and active student mobility, the knowledge is not only contained in the centre but more students have access to decolonised thinking and knowledge in a global network.

However, under the capitalist system, students’ independence and freedom of thought are hindered by the power of funding and scholarship from colonial heritages. Individual students’ awareness of colonial influence has a strong impact when it has structural support of collective movements such as the #RhodesMustFall. The critical thinking of students, however, is still under the danger of colonial context unless there is structural support or massive awareness. Due to this, without reforming the society that utilises students as scapegoats of the economic and political benefit of other agencies, it is difficult to maximise the benefits of globalisation that boost decolonisation in education (Majee & Ress, 2020).


Higher education institutions aim to offer knowledge required for students to become independent citizens with proper moral values (Joseph Mbembe, 2016). The curriculum and agenda illustrate institutions’ mission, which is deeply influenced by social trends, such as globalisation. Globalisation forms a global network between institutions and this allows the broader flow of knowledge. Due to this, global knowledge is no longer contained in the physical space of universities or specific regions of power (Hoffman & Välimaa, 2016). The interconnection of universities activates student mobility and participation in education to expand its access to higher education. However, the internationalisation of institutions through global networks is criticised by the dehumanisation that prefers Western resources and monopolises international academic language, English. Due to this, global networks become a method for increasing competition between institutions and the few privileged and networked universities gain the advantages of diverse knowledge (Burris, 2004). The increased student mobility also shows a strong pattern of students moving to centre countries and the periphery countries become the sender. Without careful curriculum design, this becomes another method for distributing centre knowledge to periphery countries through international students and making internationalisation equals to adapting the centre’s knowledge. This maintains the privilege of the Euro-American hegemony and dehumanises the marginalised cultures, including indigenous knowledge (Dawson, 2020). To avoid internationalisation without thinking, the decolonisation of institutions is vital as it reforms the perspectives on colonial context and helps critical understanding of knowledge.

According to du Preez (2018), a decolonisation is a systematic approach of higher education institutions to challenge injustices and Western hegemony in academia, as well as to question the colonial context in curricula. As more and more students are questioning the colonised curriculum of higher education institutions, they begin to reconsider their mission and value shown through the curriculum. This includes redirecting the focus of education away from Western epistemology (Jansen, 2017). For example, in the context of South Africa, Jansen (2017) suggests the implication of decolonisation as decentering the Western knowledge in curricula by putting African ideas at the centre of knowledge production in universities. Moreover, this can be stretched to encourage institutions to use diverse resources and language in the curricula. In 2005, students of the Chinese University of Hong Kong protested for the increased use of English in courses (Choi, 2010). Students criticised higher education institutions selling out their mission and value to academic capitalism under the name of internationalisation. Decolonisation prevents the situation by supporting higher education institutions to rethink the mission, and to respect national language as well as diverse language and resources as mediums of teaching to decenter Western dominance. Therefore, one of the futures imagined from decolonisation is the concept of “pluriversity” which is a knowledge-production process open to epistemic diversity (Joseph Mbembe, 2016; Boidin et al., 2012). Through pluriversity, globalisation is no longer the commercial expansion of Western knowledge but a pedagogical strategy that creates a diversified flow of knowledge all around the world through higher education.

However, the idea of pluriversalism is challenging under the current structure of the global education system. In the system, the demand for epistemic diversity is often replaced by the internationalisation agenda that expands the power of Western hegemony (Dawson, 2020; Choi, 2010). Moreover, academic capitalism considers educational agencies as marketable products which intensify the competition between institutions. Global competition, such as university ranking, is a strong element that strengthens the Western hegemony in education and it is difficult to remove the colonial framework in education unless the concept of competition is relieved in academia. As Majee & Ress, (2020) suggest, universities are hesitating between the global competition and institutional reform for equity and decolonisation. When the social structure is supporting epistemic diversity through systemic reform, the transformative progress of higher education institutions would become possible.

            03. What are we missing?

                                                                                 Source: Everlyn Corr
Concept of decolonisation

The current understanding of decolonising practices is close to the removal of the colonial framework. Therefore, #Fallism is often mentioned as an example of decolonisation which destroys the colonial residue in the educational context. #RhodesMustFall of South Africa is one of the famous movements that impacted educational agencies and further made people think of the value of education and possible issues around the colonial framework of education. Instead of focusing on eliminating the colonial aspect, the #RhodesMustFall movement was a process of acknowledgement of colonialism in academia and suggests a new path to replace the colonial framework, such as changing the name of the university or reforming the recruitment structure (Ahmed, 2017). This means that decolonisation is not about removing the colonial framework but is for recognising the existence of the colonial framework and suggests a new path. Le Grange, (2016) also mentioned that “[decolonisation] involves a process of change that does not necessarily involve destroying Western knowledge but in decentering it or perhaps deterritorialising it.” Therefore, reforming the conception of decolonisation that focuses on creating new rather than fighting the old is a significant factor to consider to deal with current challenges of decolonisation in education (Tavernaro-Haidarian, 2019).

Conflicts in colonial history

It is impossible to talk about decolonisation without the discussion of history as the decolonising process contains the acknowledgement of ugly history. However, when each country has different memories of history, the situation gets complicated. Throughout history, historical memories were reconstructed for stronger countries. Especially during colonialism, the colonised countries suffered from the dehumanisation of language eradication and fabrication of culture and history. Even after the independence, the colonised countries are struggling from the wrong knowledge of history descending with the colonial framework. Therefore, the memories related to the colonial experience rely on power relations, and some critical memories are silenced. In this situation, it is significant to understand the pluralism in knowledge and collecting different memories to have discussions about uncomfortable historical contexts between countries with more diversity and less hierarchical power (Boidin et al., 2012). For example, Meneses (2011) introduces the forgetting and silencing of colonialism through the contrasting narratives of Portugal and Mozambique on the Mozambican independence movement. The settlers' knowledge of colonialism can be very different from the colonised and this creates difficulties for mutual recognition required for decolonisation. In this context, the plurality of knowledge can be a solution to consider as it welcomes different perspectives and opinions on the table and encourages critical discussion with epistemic diversity. This idea was also supported by the comparison of Suh et al. (2013) on the analysis of the Korean War in the history textbook of China, Japan, Korea, and the United States. They emphasise the significance of recognising the complexity and controversies of colonialism by reviewing the contrasting historical interpretation in history textbooks. Due to this, decolonisation needs to understand the complex historical conflicts between countries and explore the method to encourage their discussion with diverse international knowledge.

Regional decolonisation

Decolonisation is often discussed in the context of Western hegemony and white supremacy implemented in academia. However, the meaning of decolonisation can be different in the various regional situations in the world. Countries in the same region share a long history together. The history contains numerous rotations of power and continuous imperialistic practices that caused conflicts between these countries. Therefore, the meaning of decolonisation can be varied by regional history. Regions like East and South Asia have a long history of complicated internal colonialism that generates historical entanglement within the region. In this case, the meaning and value of colonialism do not rely on the Western intervention of epistemology only but also on the remaining influence of internal colonialism in the past. For example, South Korea is continuously reforming its educational structure and contexts to decenter the Japanese colonial impacts that were deeply implemented in education and history (Lee et al., 2019; Peng & Chu, 2017). Fabrication of history and culture was one of the colonial practice during the Japanese colonial period and Korea regard it significant to promote critical thinking of Korean students with reformed and corrected knowledge. Therefore, the decolonisation in the global education system needs to be understood more broadly to collect diverse knowledge from many different countries, including the peripheries that we don’t often hear from.

            04. Conclusion

Decolonisation is often seen as the destruction of colonial elements in education. Therefore, the decolonial movement promotes critical thinking of students that encourages them to question the world as well as decenter the Western hegemony in the curricula of higher education institutions by refocusing on the local and national knowledge. However, the current understanding of decolonisation has lots of challenges through globalisation and internationalisation under the capitalist social structure that regards higher education as a marketing product and method to ensure the preservation of the current centre-periphery structure. Therefore, it calls attention to revisit the scope and definition of decolonisation. Decolonisation is not just focusing on the removal of colonial context but more on the critical acknowledgement of colonial elements to create a new path for decolonised education. Moreover, the scope of education is not limited to Western hegemony or white supremacy but also covers other regions like Asia and their internal colonial aspects to have a broader understanding of the need for decolonisation as well as expand the implication of decolonisation to the globe. To tackle the challenges of the current decolonial agenda of higher education, it is significant to recognise the power of plurifying knowledge to provide new perspectives in education and to promote a critical discussion on the conflicting topics. The epistemic diversity not only supports decolonisation through decentering the hegemonic Western knowledge but also maximises the benefits of globalisation by disseminating the real “international” knowledge to the globe that includes the marginalised and unheard voices in the global network. Decolonisation is a long journey of fight and cooperation. Even though it encounters few challenges, decolonisation would continuously influence the major educational agencies by critical debate and cooperation of global networks through epistemic diversity.