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The Dilemma of Colonial Education

‘Civilising mission’ was the idea, which drove French colonisation, and it was not based only on economic exploitation. French claimed that they were bringing modern civilisation to the Vietnamese.

  • As Europe had developed they felt that is was their to introduce modern ideas to the colony

  • Modern ideas were introduced at the cost of destroying local cultures, religions and traditions.

  • Europeans felt that the local culture was outdated and prevented modern development.

To civilise the ‘native’, the only way was education. But the one thing which was thought about by the French was that the level of education and whether that education may cause some problems.

  • The French feared that once educated, the Vietnamese may begin to question colonial domination.

  • French citizens living in Vietnam who were called colons began fearing that they might lose their jobs – as teachers, shopkeepers, policemen – to the educated Vietnamese.

  • So the policies that would give the Vietnamese full access to French education were opposed.

Resistance in Schools :-

The curriculum was not blindly followed by the teachers and students. There was open opposition at times and at other times there was silent resistance.

  • It became difficult to control what was actually taught as the numbers of Vietnamese teachers increased in the lower classes.

  • While teaching Vietnamese teachers quietly modified the text and criticised what was stated.

A lot of privilege was given for French students. Elsewhere, students fought against the colonial government’s efforts to prevent the Vietnamese from qualifying for white-collar jobs. Schools thus became an important place for political and cultural battles.

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