Colonial Education in Vietnam (3. Language of instruction – Vietnamese…
Colonial Education in Vietnam
1. The Dilemna
The French claimed it was their duty to bring modern civilization to Vietnam.
This meant destroying local cultures, religions and traditions, which were anyway seen as outdated.
Education was seen as a way to civilise the “natives”
But the dilemma was how far should the Vietnamese be educated.
The French needed an educated Vietnamese labour force but once educated they may begin to question the French rule
(French citizens living in Vietnam) feared that they might lose their jobs as teachers, policemen, shopkeepers to the educated Vietnamese
So they opposed policies that gave the Vietnamese full access to French education.
3. Language of instruction – Vietnamese or French?
There were two opinions on this issue
1. Policy makers who felt French should be the medium of instruction
By learning French, the Vietnamese would be introduced to the culture of France.
They would respect French ideals, see the superiority of French culture and work for the French
This would create an “Asiatic France solidly tied to European France”
2. Some felt that French should not be the only medium of Instruction
They suggested that Vietnamese should be taught in lower classes and French in the higher classes
The few Vietnamese who learnt the French language and acquired the French culture were to be rewarded with French citizenship.
5. Content of School Text Books
The school text books glorified the French and justified colonial rule
The Vietnamese were represented as primitive and backward
They were only capable of manual labour but not intellectual reflection (thinking)
They could work in the fields but not rule themselves.
They were “skilled copyists” but not creative.
School children were told that only French rule could ensure peace in Vietnam.
The French said that peasants no longer had to live constant fear of pirates, they could work fearlessly as there was peace in Vietnam
6. Tonkin Free School & Short Hair Cut
The Tonkin Free School was started to provide Western style education.
The education included classes in science, hygiene and French (which was taught in the evening for extra payment)
Besides teaching Western ideas, the school encouraged the students to look “modern”
This included having a Western style short haircut which was very very different from the traditional style of long hair.
The students were taught a “haircutting chant” which asked them to get short haircuts and study Western customs
7. Resistance in Schools
See next mind map
2. Difficulty in replacing Chinese language & culture
The elites in Vietnam were powerfully influenced by the Chinese culture.
To counter the Chinese influence, they dismantled the traditional educational system and established French schools for the Vietnamese.
But it was not easy to replace the Chinese language used by the elite and the question was whether it should be replaced by Vietnamese or French.
4. Who got educated in French schools & the percentage pass?
Usually as many as 2/3rd of the students failed
This was because of a deliberate policy of failing students in the final year so that they do not qualify for better paid jobs
Only the Vietnamese elite, who were a very small fraction of the Vietnamese population could enroll in the French schools and only very few among those admitted could pass the school-leaving examination