Describe the ideas behind the Tonkin Free School. To what extent was it a typical example of colonial ideas in Vietnam ? [CBSE 2009 (F), 2013 (O)]


Describe the ideas behind the Tonkin Free School. To what extent was it a typical example of colonial ideas in Vietnam ? [CBSE 2009 (F), 2013 (O)]


Ideas behind Tonkin Schools :

1. Spread of Western-style Education : These schools were started in 1907 to provide a Western-style education. This education included classes in science, hygiene and French (these classes were held in the evening and had to be paid for separately).

2. To consolidate their power : The French were faced with yet another problem in the sphere of education: the elites in Vietnam were powerfully influenced by Chinese culture. To consolidate their power, the French had to counter this Chinese influence. So they systematically dismantled the traditional educational system and established French schools for the Vietnamese.

3.Educated labour for administration : The French needed an educated local labour force.

4.To demonstrate superiority of French culture : Many scholars believed that by learning the language, the Vietnamese would be introduced to the culture and civilisation of France. This would help create an ‘Asiatic France solidly tied to European France’. The educated people in Vietnam would respect French sentiments and ideals, see the superiority of French culture, and work for the French

It was a typical example of colonial ideas as

1.Civilising Mission : Like the British in India, the French claimed that they were bringing modern civilisation to the Vietnamese. They took for granted that Europe had developed the most advanced civilisation. So it became the duty of the Europeans to introduce these modern ideas to the colony even if this meant destroying local cultures, religions and traditions, because these were seen as outdated and prevented modem development.

2.Racial Discrimination policy : The French considered themselves as superior race. They started policy of discrimination even in schools also. The front rows in the schools were reserved for the French students only.

3.Justification of French rule : School textbooks glorified the French and justified colonial rule. The Vietnamese were represented as primitive and backward, capable of manual labour but not of intellectual reflection; 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.

4.Use of education to change the values and culture : By introducing French schools the French tried to change the values, norms and perceptions of the people, to make them believe in the superiority of French civilisation and the inferiority of the Vietnamese.

5.Failing the Vietnamese in the final year : Only the Vietnamese elite – comprising a small fraction of the population – could enroll in the schools, and only a few among those admitted ultimately passed the school­leaving examination. This was largely because of a deliberate policy of failing students, particularly in the final year, so that they could not qualify for the better-paid jobs.

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