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ERIC Number: EJ1080181
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0311-2543
Ethnicity and British Colonialism; The Rationale for Racially-Based Schools
Whitehead, Clive
Education Research and Perspectives, v32 n1 p120-130 2005
This paper examines the rationale for ethnic schooling in former British colonial territories in East Africa and Southeast Asia. Critics, especially of British rule in Malaya and Singapore, have traditionally claimed that ethnic schools were established as part of a British political strategy of "divide et impera". An examination the evidence suggests otherwise. There may be some support for the view that ethnic schooling was generated, at least in part, by a policy of benign neglect on the part of the British but the most plausible explanation lies in Britain's longstanding adherence to the principle of voluntaryism and the accommodation cf broad guiding principles to the practical realities of population distribution, language diversity, cultural traditions and mutual antagonisms, resistance to religious proselytization, and an ever-present shortfall of human and financial resources. To suggest that the British deliberately encouraged ethnic schools to maintain their colonial hegemony is to ascribe to colonial policy far more foresight and rationality than is merited by the available evidence. Adherence to the voluntary principle--the belief that anyone should be free to establish and operate a school provided it met minimum standards of construction, size and hygiene--had been a feature of English educational practice dating back to medieval times. Arthur Mayhew, Joint-Secretary of the Colonial Office Advisory Committee on Education, drew attention to the fact that private enterprise and non-official agencies had been "a fundamental feature of English education policy at all times and in all places". They ensured a variety of aims and methods and a defence against official standardisation and rigid uniformity "which the English detest". Ethnic schools were also established for a variety of sound practical reasons including the fact that local ethnic communities helped shoulder the financial cost cf establishing and maintaining schools. To have attempted to establish national systems of multiracial schools in the colonies, especially in the years between the two world wars, would have been impossible both financially and in practical terms. Instead, British colonial education policy was an exercise in pragmatism--or what Lord Hailey described as the exercise if a traditional skill in accommodating principles to circumstances. Moreover, to argue that education policy was geared primarily to political ends is to imply that the British had a clear understanding if the role that education played in national lift, a view vehemently denied by Sir Fred Clarke. British education policy both at home and abroad clearly reinforced social class divisions but to suggest that it was primarily motivated by ulterior political ends is to credit British officials with far more insight than they would have claimed or is warranted by the evidence.
University of Western Australia. 35 Stirling Highway Crawley, Perth, 6009 Australia. Tel: +61-8-6488-2388; Fax: +61-8-6488-1052; e-mail: gse@uwa.edu.au; Web site: http://www.education.uwa.edu.au
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Africa; Asia; United Kingdom