The European imperialist and Asian nationalist perspectives on education tend to construct monolithic and oppositional entities. The imperialist narratives contrast ‘static and unchanging Asia’ with ‘dynamic and rational Europe’, while the Asian nationalists assert the ‘inherent spiritual superiority’ of Asia to ‘the technology of materialist and expansionist Europe.’ In these narratives, the geographical, religious linguistic and cultural diversities have been ignored. This diversity can be found not only between different Asian countries, but within countries themselves. For example, India has six religions, fourteen languages with numerous dialects and eleven scripts. Even in Japan, there was no common tongue by which people could communicate without confusions and misunderstanding before 1868.
The trans-national connections formed a strong channel through which modern ideas and education reached Asia and spread there. The Scottish educators in India, French Catholic teachers in Thailand, Spanish and American missionaries in the Philippines formed the pathways. In many cases, the Asian countries, eager to introduce western education in their countries, encouraged such connections. This had far-reaching effects on popular access to learning and on curriculum-development for popular education in the modern sense. For example, the introduction of typography made it easier for many Asian countries to print school textbooks and to disseminate enlightening knowledge country-wide through expanded schooling systems.
Generally speaking, cultures move from one region to another. Semiotic interpretation of new cultures may promote some types of meta-cultural discussions amongst the receivers. Such a reciprocal process may occur for both the senders and the receivers. Chinese classics were once accepted by the Japanese, and the Japanese attempts to translate European notions were then accepted by the Chinese in the late 19th Century. Beyond such semiotic adventures, mutual communications were maintained for a long time by people on both the western and eastern sides. To enrich reciprocally meta-cultural understanding crossing semiotic boundaries, it is essential to know what kinds of conceptions of time and space each culture has had throughout history. This is because the abstract framework of time and place controls people’s cultural existence. It is essential and consequential if we are to reach universal understanding of human culture beyond ethnic, linguistic, religious and semiotic boundaries. There is a pressing need for meta-cultural enrichment, crossing the various borders, because cultural movement may pave the way for the future for those people concerned. In this context, the question of how far educational historians or comparative educationalists can or should contribute might be a positive one, not only for historiographical or methodological considerations but also for practical prescriptions to inter/multicultural education toward holistic human culture.
The emergence of anti-colonial movements and the process of nation-state formation were closely linked to policies which embraced modernizing national education. This resulted in diverse national schooling systems. The adoption of the free education system by the Philippines in 1863, Japan achieving 90% literacy by 1900, Mongolia changing its script to the Cyrillic alphabet between 1941 and 1946… all these events demonstrate that each country had its own way of engaging with modern education whilst forming a strong nation state. To understand these processes further, we need to ask: (1) What historical connections existed in the near and remote past? (2) What were the original Asian ideas on education? (3) What kinds of early interactions occurred between Asian and European promoters of education? (4) Can we see the emergence of local / national / transnational networks, or the individual and missionary initiatives in the introductory processes of western modern education?
The volume aims to bring together, for the first time, diverse histories of education in Asian countries. Contributions in English are invited for publication in v. 5, n. 2 (2018). Country or region-specific research papers are welcome. The suggested topics include: the relationship between modern education and the emergence of nation-states; language and cultural identities; debates surrounding the introduction of modern education; adoption of school uniform; girls’ education; education for peace; education for holistic culture; and more. The word limit is 10500 words.
Guest Editors: Shin’ ichi Suzuki (Waseda University, Tokyo) and Parimala V. Rao (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)
Deadline for the submission of originals: 1 June 2017