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Many syllabi are unrelatable and irrelevant

By Mariya Hussain

Wednesday 7 January 2015 Student Journalists

In a country whose student population is diverse in cultures and histories, being taught a single strand of a subject from one viewpoint is isolating to many. In this increasingly globalised world, NUS Journalist Mariya Hussain asks, surely a broader more globalised curriculum is what will best prepare students for the future?

Education has the great potential to allow students to learn about many different viewpoints, cultures and histories, and not just their own. It has the potential to prepare students for the globalised world growing before us, and to increase understanding and knowledge of the world. However, many students are currently left feeling disaffected by irrelevant and un-relatable curriculums and syllabi.

The un-relatability and irrelevance of the syllabi of those subjects that help to shape and define a young person’s view of the society around them, such as History and English, is obvious. Both the history and the literature taught in schools is Eurocentric or even solely English, with American authors infamously being removed from the GCSE curriculum by Michael Gove.

The desire to hold on to a ‘traditional’ education system that does not explore the breadth of the world can be argued to stem from the crisis of identity the country is seemingly experiencing. However, education should not be used to force an identity upon students, but rather to help them find and explore their own and others’.

The irrelevance of what is being taught is felt by many university students also. Students are often left wanting when it comes to studying a diverse range of ideas and thoughts. Philosophical study is centred on European philosophers; English Literature focuses on white, male writers, with other cultures being looked at primarily through a colonial viewpoint; political subjects are taught from a western standing. All of this works to suggest that one viewpoint, or one standing is superior to others. A dangerous idea that universities should not be aiding.

BME students are left with their lives and histories not being reflected in the education system into which they are paying. International students also face having to understand and adapt to a specific viewpoint. Universities and education more generally is not a tool for the propagation of one narrative, and should not be used as such.

Narrow syllabi leaves universities stuck as institutions that reflect the lives and history of a privileged few, they do not help to promote a widening of understanding, nor do they prepare a student fully for the world around them.

We as students deserve better from our institutions. Wider and more representative syllabi would better the education system; it would not allow one narrative to stand above the rest, and it would help to eradicate the disaffection felt by many about what they are being taught.


My name is Mariya Hussain and I am currently in my second year of studying English at King’s College London. Education is something I am very passionate about. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to receive a quality education regardless of race, class, financial means or other causes that can limit a person’s access to education. As a result, I’m very happy to be writing on education!

I aspire to move further into journalism, and am excited to use and develop my skills whilst writing on the student perspective as an NUS Journalist. I’m also a photographer and enjoy using both words and images to share new and interesting stories.