Education and Nation Building

This SIS 640 class is mostly made up of graduate students in the International Communication program. Here is a confession: I am not a student in that program. I came to AU to get my masters in International Education and Training so many of the topics covered in class are seen by me through a cultural lens (previous education) or an educational lens.

This week we talked about Nation Building and how communication relates to it. Yet I could not stop thinking about how often the readings have already mentioned that education and schools are an important marker of a culture. Schooling is an important aspect of nation building and in building a common identity/philosophy. Education through schooling instills a certain system of beliefs, of values, of truths, a notion of friend and foe. I specifically mention schools because there is a lot of education going on in the private sphere (e.g. the home) that is difficult for a nation/government to grasp and manipulate.

Curricula are set by the government or by institutions acting on its behalf. In this regard it is the government that decides how it wants its national identity portrayed and taught in the classroom. Markers for national identity (such as flags, a certain type of vocabulary, iconic images, classroom behavior) are part of the classroom and the teachings. That is why the teaching of Western educators in Third World countries (starting in a more organized way as soon as colonialization sprung up) was often received by the indigenous communities as an attempt to impose Western values.

Thus, for the nation building process schools, as a mean for education, are essential.

By Franzi


2 thoughts on “Education and Nation Building

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue, Franzi! I think you have a very interesting point about the portrayal of government and national identity in the classroom. The example that immediately springs to my mind is the American Revolution. In elementary school, we’re taught that the revolution was a crusade against the tyranny of the British, that America was besieged by crushing taxes and that the nation rose up as one to fight for freedom! This is instilled at an early age. But later on, in the later years of high school or college, students learn that American citizens actually paid less taxes than the English at the time, and that most states were reduced to conscripting men when Congress’ voluntary enlistment quotas were not met (clearly, not everyone was eager to support the British).

    You say that “the teaching of Western educators in Third World countries (starting in a more organized way as soon as colonialization sprung up) was often received by the indigenous communities as an attempt to impose Western values.” Do you think this holds (or would hold) true for non-Western countries, too?


    • Thank you for your input Kira. I believe that teaching/sharing of knowledge is bound to be seen as opposing when the process leaves the local culture out. Not teaching in the local language is an obvious sign of imposition but how far the process of teaching denies local culture is more difficult to determine.

      I do think that if a group of foreign teachers (and they may well be Westerners) would take over an American school district and teach “their way”, students and parents would be upset. The fact that there are parents to be upset is already a cultural value. Generally speaking, American parents are quite involved in the education of their children (and hence they are involved in nation building) and organizations such as the PTA are a visible cultural marker.
      Any culture that grants its children universal access to education recognizes that children are important for that culture. Substitute culture with nation and you will see who is the building block for that nation.

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