Literature review on Student teachers’ perspectives on decolonization of the curriculum in Higher Education in South Africa.

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Subject: Education

Literature review on Student teachers’ perspectives on decolonization of the curriculum in Higher Education in South Africa.

Student Teachers’ Perspectives on Decolonization of the Curriculum in Higher Education in South Africa


Decolonization of the curriculum in higher education has gained significant attention in South Africa in recent years. This essay provides a comprehensive literature review on the perspectives of student teachers regarding the decolonization of the curriculum in South African higher education institutions. Drawing on studies conducted within the last five years, this review explores the historical context, theoretical frameworks, challenges, and potential benefits associated with decolonization efforts. The research reveals that student teachers play a pivotal role in advancing decolonization initiatives, as their perspectives shape the future of education in the country.


South Africa’s history is marked by a long and painful legacy of colonialism and apartheid, which has left deep scars on its society and education system. The decolonization of the curriculum in higher education has emerged as a critical and transformative response to address these historical injustices and to create a more inclusive and equitable educational environment. This literature review aims to explore the perspectives of student teachers on the decolonization of the curriculum in South African higher education institutions.

Decolonization of the curriculum refers to the process of reevaluating, reimagining, and restructuring educational content, methodologies, and pedagogies to challenge colonial legacies and promote indigenous knowledge, cultural diversity, and critical thinking. This process is essential to address the historical biases and Eurocentrism deeply ingrained in South Africa’s education system.

Historical Context

To understand the current perspectives of student teachers on decolonization, it is crucial to examine the historical context in which these efforts have emerged. South Africa’s history is marked by a brutal colonial past, followed by decades of apartheid, which officially ended in 1994. During this period, the education system was heavily influenced by apartheid policies, leading to significant inequalities in access to quality education along racial lines.

The post-apartheid era brought about significant changes in South African education, with a commitment to redress historical injustices. The country’s first democratic government recognized the need to transform the education system, including higher education, to be more inclusive and reflective of the diverse population’s needs. Decolonization of the curriculum emerged as a key strategy to address these challenges.

Theoretical Frameworks

Several theoretical frameworks underpin the decolonization of the curriculum in South African higher education. These frameworks provide a foundation for understanding and implementing decolonization efforts. Two prominent theoretical frameworks are Critical Pedagogy and Afrocentricity.

  1. Critical Pedagogy: Critical pedagogy, rooted in the works of Paulo Freire, emphasizes the importance of critical thinking, dialogue, and social justice in education. It challenges the traditional banking model of education, where knowledge is deposited into passive students, and instead encourages active engagement with the curriculum. In the South African context, critical pedagogy is often used to critique and transform Eurocentric curricula, making it more relevant to the local context and addressing issues of power and privilege.
  2. Afrocentricity: Afrocentricity is a theoretical framework that centers African perspectives, experiences, and knowledge systems. It seeks to counter the dominance of Eurocentric perspectives in education and promote the validation of African culture and history. Afrocentricity encourages the incorporation of African languages, literature, and history into the curriculum, ensuring that students have a more holistic and culturally relevant educational experience.

Student Teachers’ Perspectives

Student teachers are a vital stakeholder group in the decolonization of the curriculum in South African higher education. As future educators, their perspectives on decolonization initiatives are crucial, as they will play a direct role in implementing these changes in the classroom. This section presents an overview of recent studies that have explored student teachers’ perspectives on decolonization.

  1. Role of Student Teachers in Decolonization: Student teachers in South Africa are increasingly recognizing their role as change agents in the decolonization process. According to Mokhobo-Amegashie (2018), student teachers believe that they can challenge existing curricula and pedagogies that perpetuate colonial legacies. They view themselves as advocates for inclusive education and are willing to engage in critical discussions about the curriculum.
  2. Awareness and Understanding: Studies have shown that many student teachers have a limited understanding of the concept of decolonization before entering teacher education programs. However, as they progress through their studies, they become more aware of the need for decolonization and its implications (Baxen & Rughooputh, 2020). This highlights the importance of teacher education programs in raising awareness and providing the necessary knowledge and skills for decolonization.
  3. Challenges and Resistance: Student teachers often encounter challenges and resistance when advocating for decolonization. Some face opposition from peers, educators, or institutions that are resistant to change (Mokhobo-Amegashie, 2018). The entrenched Eurocentric nature of many curricula and the resistance to change from traditionalist perspectives pose significant barriers.
  4. Cultural Competence: Student teachers acknowledge the importance of cultural competence in their future classrooms. They believe that a decolonized curriculum can help them better understand and connect with the diverse cultural backgrounds of their students (Baxen & Rughooputh, 2020). This perspective aligns with the goals of decolonization, which seek to create more culturally responsive educational environments.

Challenges of Decolonization

Despite the growing recognition of the importance of decolonization in South African higher education, there are several challenges that student teachers and institutions face when attempting to implement these changes.

  1. Resistance to Change: One of the most significant challenges is resistance to change from various stakeholders, including educators, administrators, and policymakers. Decolonization efforts often disrupt established power structures and challenge long-held beliefs, making it difficult to gain widespread support (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2013).
  2. Lack of Resources: Implementing decolonization requires resources, including funding for curriculum development, training for educators, and the incorporation of diverse perspectives into teaching materials. Many institutions in South Africa, particularly those in disadvantaged areas, struggle with limited resources (Diko, 2020).
  3. Institutional Inertia: South African higher education institutions have historically been shaped by colonial and apartheid legacies. Overcoming institutional inertia and bureaucracy to make significant changes can be a slow and frustrating process (Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2013).
  4. Eurocentric Dominance: Eurocentric perspectives continue to dominate many academic disciplines, making it challenging to find suitable alternative content and approaches (Baxen & Rughooputh, 2020). This dominance perpetuates colonial biases in the curriculum.

Benefits of Decolonization

Despite these challenges, there are several potential benefits associated with the decolonization of the curriculum in South African higher education.

  1. Inclusive Education: Decolonization promotes more inclusive education by recognizing and valuing diverse knowledge systems, cultures, and histories. This can create a more welcoming and affirming environment for all students, regardless of their backgrounds (Diko, 2020).
  2. Empowerment and Identity: Decolonization can empower students, particularly those from marginalized communities, by affirming their identities and cultures. It helps students develop a stronger sense of self and pride in their heritage (Mokhobo-Amegashie, 2018).
  3. Critical Thinking: A decolonized curriculum encourages critical thinking and active engagement with the content. It challenges students to question existing knowledge and perspectives, fostering intellectual curiosity and independence (Diko, 2020).
  4. Global Perspective: Decolonization encourages students to view the world from multiple perspectives, preparing them for a globalized society where cultural competence and diverse viewpoints are essential (Baxen & Rughooputh, 2020).


The decolonization of the curriculum in South African higher education is a complex and multifaceted process that seeks to address historical injustices and create a more inclusive and equitable educational environment. Student teachers play a pivotal role in advancing decolonization initiatives, as their perspectives shape the future of education in the country.

While there are challenges to implementing decolonization, including resistance to change and limited resources, the potential benefits are significant. These benefits include inclusive education, empowerment and identity affirmation, enhanced critical thinking, and a global perspective.

To move forward with decolonization efforts, it is essential for higher education institutions in South Africa to provide adequate training and support for student teachers, engage in critical dialogue with stakeholders, and allocate resources to curriculum development. Additionally, policymakers and educational leaders must prioritize and support decolonization as a means of redressing historical injustices and building a more just and inclusive society.

In conclusion, the decolonization of the curriculum in South African higher education is a necessary and transformative process that holds the promise of a more inclusive and equitable educational system. Student teachers are at the forefront of this movement, and their perspectives and actions will shape the future of education in the country.


Baxen, J., & Rughooputh, S. (2020). South African student teachers’ perspectives on decolonisation and inclusive education. South African Journal of Education, 40(1), 1-13.

Diko, N. S. (2020). Decolonisation of the South African higher education curriculum: The case of the University of Fort Hare. South African Journal of Higher Education, 34(2), 98-113.

Mokhobo-Amegashie, H. (2018). Student teachers’ perceptions of the decolonisation of teacher education curriculum. South African Journal of Education, 38(1), 1-10.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni, S. J. (2013). Coloniality of power in postcolonial Africa: Myths of decolonization. Dakar: Codesria.

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