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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 3, no. 19 (December 01, 1995).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c December 01, 1995
Restriction or resistance? : fresh colonial education development in Cambodia / Thomas Clayton.
x Research
v Periodicals.
2 710
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
1 773
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
4 856


1 of 14 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 3 Number 19December 1, 1995ISSN 1068-2341A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal. Editor: Gene V Glass Glass@ASU.EDU College of Education Arizona State University,Tempe AZ 85287-2411 Copyright 1995, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.Permission is hereby granted to copy any a rticle provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold.Restriction or Resistance? French Colonial Educatio nal Development in Cambodia Thomas Clayton Institute for International Studies in Education University of Pittsburgh, USA Abstract: By 1944, after eight decades of French colonial co ntrol, only a small percentage of eligible students in Cambodia attended French schools. Sever al scholars argue on the basis of such evidence that the French purposefully restricted ed ucation for Cambodians in order first to achieve and then to maintain power in the colony. T his article examines educational development in Cambodia during the French colonial period and c oncludes that the lack of Cambodian educational participation stemmed from Cambodian re sistance, rather than French planning. French educational reforms sought to understand Cam bodian resistance, to overcome it, and to draw Cambodians into schools dedicated to the train ing of colonial civil servants. Introduction When the French arrived in Cambodia in 1863, they encountered an indigenous form of education which was dedicated to a Cambodian purpos e. After first developing a small, separate system of French schools, the French took control o f Cambodia's indigenous education and turned it toward a French purpose. In general, this paper traces this history of Cambodian educational development or co-optation from the establishment of the French protectorate through the height of French power in Cambodia in t he years immediately before the Second World War. Education in French colonial Cambodia was develope d at a considerably slower pace than


2 of 14in neighboring French colonial Vietnam, and several scholars argue on this basis that the French purposefully withheld education from Cambodians in order first to consolidate and then to maintain power in the protectorate. French schools did indeed fail to enroll significant numbers of Cambodians until late in the colonial period, an d they were indeed closely linked with the colonial enterprise. I suggest in this article, how ever, that low educational participation was the result of Cambodian resistance, rather than French planning. In fact, French educational development in colonial Cambodia can be described a s a series of attempts to understand Cambodian resistance, to overcome it, and to bring Cambodians into a "modern" educational system supportive of the colonial enterprise.Traditional Cambodian Education Before the French arrived in Indochina, education in Cambodia was limited to boys and was carried out by Buddhist monks in wats, or templ es (Ablin, 1991; Bilodeau, 1955; Gyallay-Pap, 1989; Kiernan, 1985; Quinlan, 1992; Ro ss, 1987; Torhorst, 1966). While not standard from one school to the next (Bilodeau, 195 5), wat-school curriculum usually consisted of "reading and writing Khmer [the Cambodian langua ge], principles of Buddhism, rules of propriety, [and] some arithmetic" (Gyallay-Pap, 198 9, p. 258). Wat-school education also emphasized the importance of work, as students "wor k[ed] with the monks [to] buil[d] temples, dwellings, roads, bridges[,] and water reservoirs a nd [to] and other things" (Torhorst, 1966, p. 154). In spite of the importance in the curriculum of th e Khmer language, Bilodeau (1955) argues that most students left wat schools illitera te: [Boys] learnt to read the [Buddhist] sacred texts.. .and copied out the written characters. In actual fact, the texts were learnt b y heart, as a result of endless repetition, and the pupils were quite incapable of reading the words separately. A Cambodian boy leaving the [wat] school had his memo ry stocked with edifying passages, but could neither read [nor] write. (p. 2 1) N pote (1979) similarly concludes that skill in r eading and writing "was only a dye that quickly washed off and that, in practice, illiterac y was widespread" (p. 770; all N pote quotes are my translation). Quinlan (1992) suggests, however, that wat-school education served a broader purpose than literacy. Beyond its curricular goals, educati on was intended to support social solidarity by "ensuring social cohesion and the maintenance of tr aditional values" (p. 8). N pote (1979) agrees, arguing that wat-school education was funda mentally religious, moral, and oriented toward Cambodian "cultural values" (p. 769). An Eas t German educational historian concludes on the same note but with a somewhat different emph asis that the education provided in wat schools was "in close agreement with the state powe r" (Torhorst, 1966, p. 154). Though they approach the subject from opposing ideological pers pectives, these scholars agree that education in the precolonial era was a fundamentally Cambodia n project, intended to serve and advance Cambodian goals.Nineteenth Century French Colonial Cambodia Cambodia became a French protectorate in 1863, one year after France had established a colony in Cochinchina, or southern Vietnam (Osborne 1969). Cambodia's King Norodom agreed to French protection as a means of escaping a subor dinate relationship with Thailand, but soon found himself struggling to limit French involvemen t in Cambodian affairs. Throughout the 19th century, Norodom parried with the French, slowing b ut not stopping the establishment of French


3 of 14r sidences throughout the country and the assumpti on by r sidents of control over Cambodia's administration (Chandler, 1993; Osborne, 1969; Thom son, 1945). In fact, it was only after Norodom's death in 1904 and the ascent to the thron e of his brother Sisowath, a "fawning collaborator" (Chandler, 1993, p. 149), that the Fr ench truly gained control in Cambodia. In the 19th century, the French were less interest ed economically in Cambodia than in Vietnam, and the country was valued primarily as a buffer for Vietnam against English colonial interests in Thailand (for discussion, see Osborne, 1969). Perhaps for these reasons, or perhaps because the French found most Cambodians to be as u ncooperative as their king, the French did little to "develop" or otherwise change Cambodia du ring the first half of their colonial tenure (Chandler, 1993; Evans & Rowley, 1990; Osborne, 196 9). In one departure from this laissez-faire approach to colonialism, the French e ncouraged the immigration to Cambodia of Vietnamese settlers and colonial civil servants, wh om they found to be "better workers[,] more dynamic" (Chanda, 1986, p. 56), and more easily con trolled (Haas, 1991) than Cambodians. Nguyen-vo (1992) suggests that the disproportionat e number of Vietnamese clerks in Cambodia's colonial civil service (Ablin, 1991; Cha nda, 1986; Chandler, 1993; Osborne, 1969) was the result of greater educational development b y the French in Vietnam than in Cambodia. The French did not develop an alternative to the tr aditional wat schools in Cambodia in the 19th century (Kiernan, 1985; Quinlan, 1992), for instanc e, though in Vietnam "between 1860 and the turn of the twentieth century a [colonial] school s ystem emerged in areas under French occupation" (Kelly, 1978, p. 97). Neither did the F rench make attempts in Cambodia to romanize the indigenous writing system and, at least from th e colonial point of view, facilitate education and communication (Osborne, 1969), as they had done in Vietnam (DeFrancis, 1977; Kelly, 1982). Very few Cambodian students were sent to the metropole to study in the 19th century (Morizon, 1931; Osborne, 1969), though 90 Vietnames e students were enrolled in educational programs France in 1870 alone (Osborne, 1969, p. 10 4). Nguyen-vo (1992) argues that this uneven and preferential educational development aff orded Vietnamese graduates advantages in the Indochina-wide civil service examinations and e xplains their predominance in the French colonial administration in Cambodia. It is possible to conclude from these comments tha t the Vietnamese were favored over Cambodians by the French in terms of education, and it is tempting to define this preference in terms of France's 19th century efforts to consolida te power in Cambodia. One could argue, for instance, that the comparative development of educa tion in Vietnam and Cambodia served the purpose of subordinating the uncooperative Cambodia ns within their own country to the more-cooperative Vietnamese and, in the process, ac hieving for France a fuller control. In fact, Shawcross (1994) contends that the French actually "prevented the growth of a strong...administrative class in Cambodia [and inst ead] imported Vietnamese administrators" (pp. 5-6). As we shall see in the following section however, the apparent goal of French educational development in Cambodia militates again st this argument. French Educational Development in the Nineteenth Ce ntury Most scholars state simply that France ignored or neglected education in Cambodia in the 19th century (Chandler, 1993; Gyallay-Pap, 1989; Sm ith, 1965, 1971). However, while leaving the wat schools to their own devices, the French di d establish a small system of "modern" FrancoCambodian schools in the decades following their arrival in Cambodia. The first of these was the French-language School of the Protectorate, opened by a French infantry officer, Ferry Rolles, in Phnom Penh in 1873 (Morizon, 1931, p. 17 8). The School was renamed the College of the Protectorate in 1893 (Bilodeau, 1955; Forest, 1 980; Quinlan, 1992). In addition to the School-then-College of the Protectorate, in 1885 th e French opened a college for interpreters in Phnom Penh and three French-language primary school s in provincial capitals (Morizon, 1931, p. 178). It is not clear what happened to these provin cial schools. Kiernan (1985) comments that in


4 of 141900 "the only remaining primary school for [Cambod ian] students was [the College of the Protectorate] in Phnom Penh" (p. xiii; also see N pote, 1979). On the other hand, Forest (1980) states that there were four Frenchlanguage school s in Cambodia in 1902, the College of the Protectorate in Phnom Penh, "which enrolled 250 stu dents, and [three schools in provincial capitals] which each enrolled about 40 children" (p 151; all Forest quotes are my translation). Out of these Franco-Cambodian schools came educate d men who "formed the nucleus of [Cambodia's] European-trained civil service" (Quinl an, 1992, p. 9) and who "assist[ed] the French authorities [in] their work of colonization" (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 16). Scholars frequently refer to these graduates as "'new men'" (Vickery, 1 986, p. 5; quotes in the original; also see Osborne, 1969; Vickery, 1991), suggesting that thro ugh their interactions with the French, educational and otherwise, these men were fundament ally changed, discarding traditional values and ideologies for those things French. Morizon (19 31), for example, describes the new French men as "Westernized Cambodians who, through their l oyal service, advanced [the French] civilizing mission" (p. 178; all Morizon quotes are my translation). Of central importance and value to the French was the ability of the new men to speak French and act as bilingual intermediaries in Frenc h-Cambodian interactions. Chandler (1993) comments that most French administrators in Cambodi a could not speak Khmer, even after years in the country, and as a result "it [was] as if a g reat deal of Cambodian life...was carried out behind a screen, invisible and inaudible to the Fre nch" (p. 158). The bilingual new French men allowed the European administrators to pierce that screen and function in the colonial setting. It would not be overstating the case to suggest that F rench-Khmer bilingual ability was among the most important skills that the new French men broug ht to the colonial administration and among the most valuable skills for which the French emplo yed them. In fact, Vickery (1991) mentions French language ability ahead of other "modern skil ls" (p. 93) as the key to success in the French administration. French education in 19th century Cambodia was deve loped concurrently with significant immigration from other Asian countries, and many wh o availed themselves of Cambodia's limited French educational opportunities were sons of these recent immigrants (Osborne, 1969), particularly the Vietnamese (Forest, 1980). The imm igrants saw in learning French and serving the colonial administration a means of social and f inancial advancement which would have been impossible to them in Cambodia's traditional, elite controlled government structure (Vickery, 1991; for discussion of this structure, see Chandle r, 1993). They did not seek to overturn the social system, but only to secure places for themse lves at the top. Accepted for their ability by the French in a way they would not have been accepted p reviously [that is, in the traditional Cambodian administration], they served the new regi me energetically while, incidentally, amassing considerable personal wealth. (Vickery, 19 91, p. 5) Most Cambodians, on the other hand, kept their chi ldren away from Franco-Cambodian schools, perhaps to minimize contact with the child ren of Vietnamese immigrants, whom they disliked and distrusted (Forest, 1980; Osborne, 196 9), or perhaps simply out of resistance to French innovations. In this resistance, they may ha ve been following the lead of Cambodia's King Norodom, who "displayed no interest in assisti ng the development of French-sponsored education" (Osborne, 1969, p. 255) and who, with th e rest of the royal family, "looked down on all that was foreign" (Vickery, 1986, p. 5) and "re sisted the French language" (Forest, 1980, p. 151). As a consequence of these different attitudes toward education, Cambodians continued to send their sons to wat schools, while Franco-Cambod ian schools came to be dominated by Vietnamese immigrant children (Forest, 1980). In 18 83, for example, only 8 of the 100-plus students at the School of the Protectorate were Cam bodians (Forest, 1980, p. 150-151). As a subsequent consequence, Cambodians did not acquire the French language and other skills necessary for French service and, therefore, remain ed unrepresented in the colonial administration.


5 of 14 Far from celebrating this marginalization, the Fre nch lamented the lack of Cambodian participation, including that in education. A colon ial-era document concerning the School for the Protectorate, for instance, reads, "sadly...the ide a of creating a school for Cambodians has not been realized, since we have so few Cambodian stude nts" (cited in Forest, 1980, p. 151). That the French were acutely aware of and unhappy with the d egree of Cambodian educational participation indicates that their goal in educatio n was not the ultimate subordination of Cambodians to Vietnamese, as Nguyen-vo (1993) and S hawcross (1994) suggested above. Rather, the French appear to have been genuinely co ncerned with increasing Cambodian educational participation and, remembering the purp ose of French education, with producing new Cambodian French men willing to assist them in thei r work of colonization. As we shall see below, it was not until well into the 20th century that the French hit upon a broad system of education capable of achieving this goal.Twentieth Century French Colonial Cambodia After King Norodom's death in 1904, royal resistan ce to the French presence in Cambodia ceased (Osborne, 1969). The new king, Sisowath, was content to have achieved the throne, and he allowed the French to assume control over all bu t ceremonial aspects of Cambodia's administration. Sisowath submitted even his own dec isions for review to the French Resident Superieure who, "being assured of their conformity to the spirit of the protectorate, append[ed] his signature next to the king's" (Morizon, 1931, p 43). Cambodia continued to be strategically important t o France as a buffer for Vietnam after the turn of the century, but the protectorate also assumed economic importance in its own right as a major exporter of rubber and rice (Chandler, 1993 ). Whitaker et al. (1973) describe Cambodia at this time as peripheral to the metropolitan indu strial center in the French economic system, arguing that "[t]he French essentially developed Ca mbodia as a colonial extension of their own industrialized society, orienting the Cambodian eco nomy principally toward the growing of primary products" (p. 43). The main consequence for Cambodians of increased agricultural production was a corresponding increase in colonial taxes, which went in large part to pay for French infrastructure developments designed to brin g raw materials to market (Chandler, 1993). Many scholars summarize French educational develop ment during this period of increasing economic exploitation with a selective l ist of statistics and a recognizable tone of disgust. Kiernan (1985) provides a good example: There were 160 modern [that is, controlled by the F rench] primary schools with 10,000 students by 1925....But even by 1944, when 8 0,000 [Cambodians] were attending [some sort of] modern primary schools, on ly about 500...students per year completed their primary education certificate. Thos e enrolled even now made up less than 20 per cent of the male schoolage population (few females were enrolled). In the same year, 1944, there were only 1,000...second ary students. The first high school, the Lycee Sisowath in Phnom Penh, offered a full secondary education only after 1933. Even by 1953 there were still only 2,70 0...secondary students enrolled in eight high schools. (There were of course no univer sities.) Only 144 [Cambodians] had completed the full Baccalaureat by 1954. (p. xi ii) Such histories frequently support arguments that th e French purposefully withheld education from Cambodians in order to restrict the developmen t of an intellectual elite which might lead the country into rebellion. Smith (1971), for insta nce, comments the "French did little to train Cambodians to fill positions of responsibility and trust [because it] did not suit [their] purpose to have an educated elite which might demand governmen t reform or, worse, independence" (p. 59). Whitaker et al. (1973) similarly state that "[t]her e was no indication that [the French] wanted an


6 of 14elite with modern education; such persons might hav e questioned French control of the country" (p. 42). These arguments offer a tempting critical analysis of French colonial rule and education in Cambodia. However, a careful examination of Cambodi a's educational history in the first half of the 20th century reveals a steady expansion of educ ational opportunity, not a restriction. Numerous educational reforms were initiated by the French in the 20th century expressly for the purpose of increasing Cambodian educational partici pation, not inhibiting it. Contextualizing these reforms, N pote (1979), argues that the Fren ch recognized in the lack of significant Cambodian participation the failure of their educat ional effort and so several times "stopped the machine, corrected and modified their policies, and directed the modern educational system toward a point of balance and integration" (pp. 781 -782). French Educational Development in the Twentieth Cen tury The French significantly expanded the system of Fr ancoCambodian schools in the first few decades of the 20th century. Following the esta blishment of the Franco-Cambodian Norodom School in Phnom Penh in 1903 (Forest, 1980, p. 152), schools were opened in most provincial capitals. By 1907, there were 18 FrancoCambodian schools in Cambodia; this number had risen to 29 in 1916 (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 17). The French encouraged participation in the modern educational system with a 1916 decree wh ich required the attendance of all boys living within two kilometers of a French school (Bi lodeau, 1955, p. 17). At least a few of these schools included sections for girls (Forest, 1980). A school for girls was opened within the Norodom School, for example, in 1911 (Morizon, 1931 p. 185). French educational policies of 1918 and 1924 reorg anized Franco-Cambodian schools into two types, coles l mentaires or elementary sch ools, and coles de plein exercice or fullcourse schools (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 18). Elementary schools offered a three-year elementary cycle of education which was "intended for the great majo rity of children" (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 18). Forty-three elementary schools had been opened by 1 921 (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 19). There were 74 elementary schools in 1931 (Delvert, 1956, p. 310; Morizon, 1931, p. 183), and by 1939, 107 elementary schools were in operation in the country (Bilodeau, 195, p. 23). Instruction in the first year of the elementary cycle was given in Khmer, an d "French [was] introduced at the beginning of the second year" (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 23). Elemen tary school students were taught "the rudiments of mathematics, the metric system, and co mmon knowledge" (Delvert, 1956, p. 310; all Delvert quotes are my translation). Full-course schools, of which there were 14 in 192 1 and 18 in 1939 (Bilodeau, 1955, pp. 19, 23), offered the threeyear elementary cycle a nd a three-year complementary cycle. French was the language of education in the complementary cycle, and the curriculum included "writing, arithmetic, and reading in French,...some notions o f local history and geography[,] and experimental geometry" (Forest, 1980, p. 153). The complementary cycle was "attended by the most promising...children" (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 18). Graduates of the complementary cycle could enter e nseignement primaire sup rieur or higher primary schooling, offered exclusively at th e College of the Protectorate in Phnom Penh, renamed the Coll ge Sisowath in 1905 (Forest, 1980 p. 152). As in the 19th century, the Coll ge prepared students for service in the French colo nial administration. The Coll ge prepared students for the judiciary and the indigen ous administration, including the offices of the survey, public works, and post and t elegraphs. [S]tudents were [also] introduced to mechanical engineering, physics, chem istry, and natural history. Cambodian law and accounting were also taught. (Mor izon, 1931, p. 186)


7 of 14 As in the complementary cycle, education in higher primary schooling was given in French, and French language fluency remained an imp ortant educational objective. In addition to training civil servants directly, t he Coll ge also prepared students for French-language secondary or tertiary education in Vietnam or France; upon graduation from higher education, these students typically assumed senior positions in the French colonial administration in Cambodia. Chandler (1993) notes, however, that very few students matriculated to higher education. Only six Cambodia ns had graduated with baccalaur ats from French lyc es in Vietnam by 1930 (Chandler, 1993, p. 160), and "perhaps a dozen Cambodians had been trained in tertiary institutions abroad [b y] 1939" (Chandler, 1993, p. 164). The Coll ge Sisowath became the Lyc e Sisowath in 1933 and ins tituted an upgraded secondary curriculum in 1935 (N pote, 1979, p. 775). The first Cambodia n students graduated from the Lyc e Sisowath with baccalaur ats in 1939 (Smith, 1971, p. 59). N pote (1979) describes the system of French educ ation in Cambodia as an "educational pyramid" (p. 775), heavily weighted toward elementa ry education, with only the most successful students graduating to complementary and secondary schooling. Ultimately, the "best of the best" were prepared for service in the French colonial ad ministration. French education, then, "permitted the schooling of an increasing number of children and, at the same time, selected the better students for advanced education in order to equip the country with a large number of modern and competent civil servants" (N pote, 1979 p. 775). In the early 20th century, however, this sorting machine did not operate at fu ll efficiency because Franco-Cambodian schools were not accepted by all Cambodians. In spi te of mandatory school attendance policies for those living near Franco-Cambodian schools and the availability of residential scholarships for those living farther away (N pote, 1979), most Cambodians continued to send their sons to wat schools "as they had done traditionally" (Fores t, 1980, p. 155). Continued Resistance to French Education Scholars propose a number of reasons for Cambodian resistance to French education in the early 20th century. Center for Applied Linguist ics (1978) suggests that educational opposition was rooted in resistance to the French language; Ca mbodians "were no [more] enthusiastic" (Center for Applied Linguistics, 1978, p. 13) about this unfamiliar foreign language, perhaps, than they had been in the 19th century. Quinlan (1992) comments more generally that "the [ French] education system was not 'legitimate' for Cambodian society" (p. 10). Bilode au (1955) agrees, arguing somewhat patronizingly that the sole ambition of the [Cambodian] peasant [was] to s ettle his son on his rice-field, which supplie[d] all his needs. He himself [had] ne ver [gone] to school, and [was] quite happy. [It was] natural for [him] to think th at [his] son [could] acquire little useful information at the state school, where much French [was] taught but no agriculture. (p. 18) Rather, Bilodeau (1955) continues, wat-school educa tion "suited the [traditional Buddhist] mentality of the country better...than [Franco-Camb odian] schools [and this suitability] account[ed] for the eagerness of young people to en ter the [wat] schools and their comparative lack of interest in [Franco-Cambodian] schools" (p. 19). Forest (1980) indicates further that monks at wat schools, at least some of whom identif ied French education as "a peril for the Buddhist doctrine" (p. 155), may have incited resis tance among Cambodian peasants toward Franco-Cambodian schools. The lack of qualified and appropriate teachers in Franco-Cambodian schools also discouraged Cambodian educational participation. Th ere were never more than a few French


8 of 14teachers in Cambodia, and this number actually decl ined from 40 in 1912 (Delvert, 1956, p. 312) to 34 in 1931 and to 28 in 1939 (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 19). The bulk of instructional responsibilities was therefore given to Cambodian teachers who were underprepared and overworked. Morizon (1931) comments that teachers in elementary schools "possessed only a [complementary education] diploma and had neither sufficient gener al culture nor necessary pedagogical skills to perform their jobs well" (p. 183), and a 1921 colon ial report describes Cambodian teachers as "poor creatures whose fund of knowledge inspires no great confidence among the local people" (cited in Bilodeau, 1995, p. 20). In spite of this unpreparedness, teachers were oft en required to teach more than one class at the same time (Delvert, 1956). Even so, there we re not enough Cambodian teachers to staff the Franco-Cambodian schools, and, on a number of occas ions, the French imported Vietnamese teachers to fill teaching vacancies. The French rec ognized the undesirability of this decision. In 1920, for example, a French resident wrote, "I depl ore the impossibility of finding Cambodian teachers because Cambodians do not like to entrust their children to Vietnamese teachers" (cited in Forest, 1980, p. 156). Nevertheless, some Vietna mese teachers, many of whom "were unable to speak the language of the country" (Bilodeau, 19 55, p. 19), took up posts in Franco-Cambodian schools, and angry Cambodian paren ts and children immediately "deserted French schools" (Forest, 1980, p. 157). As a result of Cambodian attachment to traditional education and resistance to Franco-Cambodian schools and their language and edu cational policies, in the first few decades of the 20th century Franco-Cambodian schools reache d only a limited student population. While some traditional elites followed King Sisowath's le ad in accepting the new French order and began sending their children to FrancoCambodian s chools (N pote, 1979), the French schools continued to be dominated by the children of Cambod ian immigrants (Forest, 1980). In a few cases, Cambodian students were completely absent an d Vietnamese was established at the initial language of education. Forest (1980) states, for in stance, that "at the Norodom School for Girls in 1912 and in the Norodom School for Boys in 1917, th e choice of Vietnamese as the language of education was authorized" (p. 156). That the French were dissatisfied with the direction their education system had taken, and in particular with the lack of broad Cambodian participation, is evident in their significant reforms of the next fe w decades. Overcoming Cambodian Resistance to French Education The first French attempt to bring large numbers of Cambodians into the French educational system came early in the 20th century. In 1907, the French became aware of a "modern" educational phenomenon in Cambodian provin ces bordering Thailand (Delvert, 1956, p. 311; Forest, 1980, p. 158). Education in these p rovinces had been influenced by developments in Thailand, notably by the decision of Thai King C hulalongkorn to modernize temple schools in that country in 1884 (Kalab, 1976, p. 67), and, by the first decade of the 20th century, approximately 30 wat schools in these Cambodian pro vinces (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 16) had been similarly "modernized" (Kalab, 1976, p. 67). It is not clear how the curriculum in these schools differed from traditional schools; scholars merely comment that "primary education was monks...and other teachers...trained in Bangkok according to modern methods" (Forest, 1980, pp. 158159). The French apparently recognized these Thai-orient ed modernized wat schools as both a threat and an opportunity. They were a threat becau se they presaged a rise in Thai influence in western Cambodia (Delvert, 1956), and they were an opportunity because they awoke the French to a model for external, modern education which was not resisted by Cambodians (Forest, 1980). In order to "counterbalance the Thai influence" (De lvert 1956, p. 311) and exploit the Cambodian acceptance of this model of schooling, the French t ook over this system of education beginning in 1908 (Forest, 1980, p. 158). These schools were secularized in 1911 and came to be known as


9 of 14khum or communal schools (Delvert, 1956, p. 313). T he khum school model was extremely popular among Cambodians, especially in rural areas and it spread rapidly across the country (Delvert, 1956). By 1931, there were 203 khum schoo ls, at least one in every province (Morizon, 1931, p. 180); this number rose to 268 in 1939 (Del vert, 1956, p. 313). At some point after the Second World War, khum schools "were gradually tran sformed into [Franco-Cambodian] schools under state administration" (Bilodeau, 1955 p. 16). Khum schools appear to have incorporated character istics of both Franco-Cambodian schools and traditional wat schools. Like Franco-Ca mbodian schools, khum schools were secular and were staffed by Cambodian graduates of French e ducation (Delvert, 1956; Morizon, 1931). As with wat schools, the local community was involv ed in the construction and maintenance of khum schools, and education in these schools appear s to have been in Khmer (Delvert, 1956; Morizon, 1931). Scholars do not discuss the curricu lum of khum schools in detail, but apparently these schools provided a bridge for rural students into Franco-Cambodian schools. Delvert (1956), for instance, comments that khum schools "o ffered the advantage of preparing students...from the countryside...for Franco-Cambod ian schools" ( p. 311; also see Torhorst, 1966). As khum schools spread rapidly across the co untry, then, large numbers of rural Cambodian children were brought into the French edu cational machine, and the pool of candidates from which to select French colonial civ il servants grew correspondingly. French reforms to improve the quality of teaching and the appropriateness of teachers in Franco-Cambodian schools can also be seen as an eff ort to increase Cambodian participation in education. Before the 1920s, Cambodian teachers wer e graduates of complementary education who received in-service training from French educat ors during vacation periods (Delvert, 1956). As mentioned above, these teachers were poorly prep ared and were insufficient in number to fill the staffing needs of Franco-Cambodian schools. In order to address these problems, in 1923 the Fr ench opened a four-year training course for teachers or instituteurs at the Coll ge Sisowa th, and in 1925, the French initiated at the Coll ge a shorter course for assistant teachers or insti tuteurs auxiliares (Morizon, 1931, p. 187). For the most part, instituteurs were placed as teachers in full-course schools under the direction and supervision of French administrators and teachers, and instituteurs auxiliares assumed positions as teachers in elementary schools and khum schools; khum schools were also staffed by moniteurs, graduates of the elementary cycle of edu cation (Delvert, 1956; Forest, 1980; Morizon, 1931). After the inauguration of the teacher traini ng section at the Coll ge, the need to import Vietnamese teachers for Franco-Cambodian schools ap parently disappeared, as references to the presence of Vietnamese teachers in Cambodia cease a fter the early 1920s. It is reasonable to assume that with the disappearance of Vietnamese te achers and the "establishment...of a corp of excellent [Cambodian] teachers" (Delvert, 1956, p. 313), at least some Cambodian students who had previously rejected French education because of their teachers' ethnicity or qualifications enrolled or reenrolled in Franco-Cambodian schools. Finally, the French asserted control over Cambodia 's wat schools, "modify[ing] and plac[ing] them in harmony with [modern] times and [ French] civilization" (Morizon, 1931, p. 181) and, in the process, increasing by many times the number of Cambodian children within the French educational system (Delvert, 1956). The Fren ch first tried in 1912 to bring the wat-school curriculum in line with that of Franco-Cambodian el ementary schools (Delvert, 1956, p. 313), but this reform failed, largely because no program was initiated to train monk teachers in the new curriculum (Forest, 1980). Another reform launched in 1924 recognized the fun damental importance of teacher training to the success of wat-school reform (Bilod eau, 1955). After negotiations which apparently overcame Buddhist resistance to French e ducation, monks in the southern province of Kampot agreed in 1924 to send a few wat-school teac hers for French-style training at a demonstration school (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 21). In th is school, monks "receive[d] daily the


10 of 14directives of a Cambodian instructor who initiate[d ] them into the methods of FrancoCambodian primary education" (Morizon, 1931, p. 181 ). During their nine-month training course, monks were trained by practical demonstrati on. In each subject, the principal [gave] standard lessons which students [had] to copy and w hose structure [was] analyzed. At the end of the course, the students [sat] for a proficiency ex amination and, if they pass[ed] it, [were] sent back to their local [wats] as teachers. (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 21) By 1930, 58 monks had successfully completed the t eacher training course and had returned as teachers to their schools, which "were then known as 'modernized [wat] schools'" (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 21). Based on the "immediate su ccess" (Whitaker et al. 1973, p. 110) of the Kampot experiment, after 1930 demonstration schools were opened in every province to train monk teachers, and traditional wat schools were mod ernized at a rapid pace (Bilodeau, 1955). By 1931, there were 101 modernized wat schools, and 90 8 such schools were in operation in cities, towns, villages, and rural areas throughout the cou ntry by 1939 (Bilodeau, 1955, pp. 21-22). A few years later, a higher demonstration school was established in Phnom Penh in which "former [monk] teachers [were trained] to be heads of provi ncial demonstration schools and inspectors of modernized [wat] schools" (Bilodeau, 1955, p. 24). Modernized wat schools offered curriculum similar to that in Franco-Cambodian elementary schools, except that all courses were in Khmer (Bilodeau, 1955). Students learned reading, writing, and arithmetic (Delvert, 1956) su fficient to "manage [their] affairs [or] organize a business" (Morizon, 1931, p. 181). Like khum scho ols, modernized wat schools provided a bridge into Franco-Cambodian schools. If graduates of modernized wat schools were successful in the elementary school-leaving examination, they could enter Franco-Cambodian complementary schools, though they were first requi red to take a preparatory course in which they learned French (Bilodeau, 1955). Bilodeau (195 5) comments that students in modernized wat schools were less frequently successful in the school-leaving examination than students in Franco-Cambodian elementary schools and that "very few" (p. 21) graduates of modernized wat schools matriculated to the complementary cycle. Ne vertheless, it is safe to conclude that at least some students, after having been introduced to Fren ch-style education in modernized wat schools, succeeded to complementary schools and, fu rther, into the French civil service. By 1944, 15 to 20 percent of Cambodia's school-age boys attended some kind of French schooling, either FrancoCambodian schools, khum s chools, or modernized wat schools (N pote, 1979, p. 776). Taking this figure in isolatio n, one could conclude that the French purposefully withheld education from Cambodians and further, could critically analyze that restriction as a means of limiting the development of an intellectual elite which might compromise French power. Such arguments by Kiernan (1985), Smith (1971), Whitaker et al. (1973), above, introduced this discussion. However, when this educational statistic is considered within the context of the reforms preceding it, thi s conclusion and analysis are difficult to accept. Instead of denying education to Cambodians, the Fre nch dramatically expanded educational opportunities through teacher education reforms and the establishment of khum and modernized wat schools. Once again remembering the purpose of French education, these reforms appear to have been intended to broaden the base of the Frenc h educational pyramid, to increase the pool of candidates brought to the sorting machine and, u ltimately, to improve the preparedness and the quantity of Cambodians promoted through education t o positions in the colonial administration. Indeed, the significant increase in Cambodian educ ational participation after the turn of the 20th century almost certainly contributed to th e rise in Cambodian administrative participation relative to that of the Vietnamese by the late 1930s (Chandler, 1993). Though the reapportionment of the civil service in the 1930s r eflected as well new French policies calling for greater local participation in government (Chandler 1993; N pote, 1979; N pote & Khing, 1981) and may have been linked with French uncertai nty about Vietnamese loyalty (Chandler, 1993), the rise of the Cambodian civil servant woul d have been impossible had not significant


11 of 14numbers of Cambodians been prepared for service in the expanded French educational system. Understanding Cambodian Resistance and French Educa tional Development In the 19th century, the French developed a small system of Franco-Cambodian schools. When by the turn of the 20th century it became clea r that these schools were failing to attract Cambodians, the French embarked on a series of educ ational reforms intended to overcome Cambodian resistance and to increase Cambodian educ ational participation. By improving the quality of teaching in Franco-Cambodian schools and eliminating the need to import Vietnamese teachers, the French identified and countered two f undamental aspects of Cambodian resistance to colonial education. In their other significant reforms of the 20th cen tury, the French chose to circumvent Cambodian resistance, rather than to confront it. W ith both khumand wat-school initiatives, the French worked from within extant educational system s which were contemporaneously accepted by Cambodians. In an attempt to explain why Cambodi an monks, parents, and students accepted the French assumption of control over wat schools, Whitaker et al. (1973) argue that "[a]s an extension of the traditional system, the modernized [wat] school won the approval of many parents and students who had been reluctant to acce pt [Franco-Cambodian] schools" (p. 110). When the success of modernized wat schools is consi dered alongside that of khum schools, however, the emergent common denominator for Cambod ian acceptance of French-controlled education appears to have been language, not tradit ion. Both the Buddhist-oriented, modernized wat schools with their roots in ancient Cambodian e ducational practice and the secular khum schools, based from their inception on nonCambodi an models, offered education in the Khmer language. It may be that, by allowing education to be offered in Khmer in khum and wat schools, the French were seeking to avoid one source of Camb odian resistance to Franco-Cambodian schools, that of the use of French in education. As a result of French reforms which both confronte d and circumvented Cambodian educational resistance, by the mid 20th century, la rge numbers of Cambodians had been drawn into the eclectic colonial educational system. Desp ite the arguments of some scholars, then, it seems clear that the French were interested in incr easing Cambodian educational participation, rather than restricting it. As such, it should be p ossible to acquit the French of charges that they sought through education first to subordinate Cambo dians to the Vietnamese and thus consolidate power in the protectorate and, second, to inhibit the growth of an intellectual elite which might challenge French colonial authority. That the French did not use education to thus adva nce their purpose in Cambodia, however, does not mean that their educational visio n was disassociated from the colonial enterprise. Throughout the colonial period, the sys tem of Franco-Cambodian schools provided a means of producing civil servants willing and able to assist the French in the business of colonialism. As the French reached out into khum an d wat schools, linking them with Franco-Cambodian schools and the preparation of col onial administrators, these indigenous forms of education were turned away from a Cambodia n purpose and similarly redefined in terms of the colonial enterprise. References Ablin, D. (1991). Foreign language policy in Cambod ian government: Questions of sovereignty, manpower training, and development assistance. Phno m Penh: Unicef. Bilodeau, C. (1955). Compulsory education in Cambod ia. In C. Bilodeau, S. Pathammavong, & Q.H. Le, Compulsory education in Cambodia, Laos and Viet-Nam (pp. 9-67). Paris: Unesco.


12 of 14Center for Applied Linguistics. (1978). Teaching En glish to Cambodian students. Arlington, VA: Author.Chanda, N. (1986). Brother enemy: The war after the war. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers.Chandler, D.P. (1993). A history of Cambodia (2nd e d.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. DeFrancis, J. (1977). Colonialism and language poli cy in Vietnam. The Hague: Mouton. Delvert, J. (1956). L' uvre fran aise d'enseignem ent au Cambodge. France-Asie, 125-127, 309-320.Evans, G., & Rowley, K. (1990). Red brotherhood at war: Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos since 1975. London: Verso.Forest, A. (1980). Le Cambodge et la colonisation f ran aise: Histoire d'une colonisation sans heurts (1897-1920). Paris: ditions L'Harmattan.Gyallay-Pap, P. (1989). Reclaiming a shattered past : Education for the displaced Khmer in Thailand. Journal of Refugee Studies, 2, 257-275.Haas, M. (1991). Genocide by proxy: Cambodian pawn on a superpower chessboard. New York: Praeger.Kalab, M. (1976). Monastic education, social mobili ty, and village structure in Cambodia. In C.J. Calhoun & F.A.J. Ianni (Eds.), The anthropological study of education (pp. 61-74). The Hague: Mouton Publishers.Kelly, G.P. (1978). Colonial schools in Vietnam: Po licy and practice. In P.G. Altbach & G.P. Kelly (Eds.), Education and colonialism (pp. 96-121 ). New York: Longman. Kelly, G.P. (1982). Teachers and the transmission o f state knowledge: A case study of colonial Vietnam. In P.G. Altbach, R.F. Arnove, & G.P. Kelly (Eds.), Comparative education (pp. 176-194). New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.Kiernan, B. (1985). How Pol Pot came to power: A hi story of communism in Kampuchea, 1930-1975. London: Verso.Morizon, R. (1931). Monographie du Cambodge. Hanoi: Imprimerie d'Extreme-Orient. N pote, J. (1979). Education et d veloppement dan s le Cambodge moderne. Mondes en D veloppement, 28, 767-792.N pote, J., & Khing, H.D. (1981). Literature and s ociety in modern Cambodia. In T.S. Chee (Ed.), Essays on literature and society in Southeas t Asia: Political and sociological perspectives (pp. 56-81). Singapore: Singapore University Press.Nguyen-vo, T.H. (1992). Khmer-Viet relations and th e Third Indochina Conflict. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.Osborne, M.E. (1969). The French presence in Cochin china and Cambodia: Rule and response (1859-1905). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.


13 of 14 Quinlan, A. (1992). Education reform in Cambodia. M asters thesis, University of London. Ross, R.R. (Ed.). (1987). Cambodia: A country study Washington D.C.: U.S. Government, Secretary of the Army.Shawcross, W. (1994). Cambodia's new deal. Washingt on, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.Smith, R.M. (1965). Cambodia's foreign policy. Itha ca, NY: Cornell University Press. Smith, R.M. (1971). The Khmer Empire, French rule, and the path to independence. In J.S. Grant, L.A.G. Moss, & J. Unger (Eds.), Cambodia: Th e widening war in Indochina (pp. 55-73). New York: Washington Square Press.Thomson, R.S. (1945). The establishment of the Fren ch protectorate over Cambodia. Far Eastern Quarterly, 4, 313-340.Torhorst, M. (1966). The development of the educati onal system in the Kingdom of Cambodia. In Educational systems of some developing countries in Africa and Asia (pp. 147168). Dresden: Verlag Zeit im Bild.Vickery, M. (1986). Kampuchea: Politics, economics and society. London: Pinter Publishers. Vickery, M. (1991). Cambodia. In D. Allen & N.V. Lo ng (Eds.), Coming to terms: Indochina, the United States, and the war (pp. 89-128). Boulder, C O: Westview Press. Whitaker, D.P., Heimann, J.M., MacDonald, J.E., Mar tindale, K.W., Shinn, R.-S., & Townsend, C. (1973). Area handbook for the Khmer Republic (Ca mbodia). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.Copyright 1995 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesEPAA can be accessed either by visiting one of its seve ral archived forms or by subscribing to the LISTSERV known as EPAA at (To sub scribe, send an email letter to whose sole contents are SUB EPAA y our-name.) As articles are published by the Archives they are sent immediately to the EPAA subscribers and simultaneously archived in three forms. Articles are archived on EPAA as individual files under the name of the author a nd the Volume and article number. For example, the article by Stephen Kemmis in Volume 1, Number 1 of the Archives can be retrieved by sending an e-mail letter to LISTSERV@a and making the single line in the letter rea d GET KEMMIS V1N1 F=MAIL. For a table of contents of the entire ARCHIVES, send the following e-mail message to INDEX EPAA F=MAIL, tha t is, send an e-mail letter and make its single line read INDEX EPAA F=MAIL.The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is Policy Analysis Archives are "gophered" at To receive a publication guide for submitting artic les, see the EPAA World Wide Web site or send an e-mail letter to and include the single l ine GET EPAA PUBGUIDE F=MAIL. It will be sent to you by return e-mail. General questions about ap propriateness of topics or particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, Glass@asu.ed u or reach him at College of Education, Arizona Sta te


14 of 14University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. (602-965-2692)Editorial Board John Andrew Coulson Alan Davis Mark E. Thomas F. Alison I. Arlen Gullickson Ernest R. Aimee Craig B. Howley u56e3@wvnvm.bitnet William Richard M. Jaeger Benjamin Thomas Dewayne Mary P. Les Susan Bobbitt Anne L. Hugh G. Richard C. Anthony G. Rud Dennis Jay Robert Robert T.

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