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Colonial Education Policies: Overview

Western schooling had been spreading quickly worldwide due to colonial practices and the process of globalization. Particular policies were used for various purposes in different settlements throughout history. The types of colonial education policies also changed over time and had determined various results from integration to complete rejection of the policy. The effectiveness of colonial education and its outcome depend mainly on incoming immigrants’ motives.

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The implementation of the education policy was conditioned by many variables. The education policy was defined by the two main types of settlements: settler colony and colony of exploitation (Coté, 2020). The settler colony presented a settlement that incoming immigrants wanted to displace, while the colony of exploitation characterized a settlement that immigrants exploited because of its region’s resources (Coté, 2020).

The differences mainly lay in the perspective of short-term or long-term interaction with the settlement, based on which the colonial education policy was decided. However, even if the historical trajectories of both types defined the outcome, these differences became blurred over time.

The education also varied according to its aim – either citizenship training or training for work readiness. For colonial powers, education was the tool for controlling “vulnerable and primitive” populations (Madeira & Correia, 2019). Such an attitude was also based on two concepts of sharing western knowledge with barbaric natives or making them serve the imperial machine (Brown, 2019). This consideration defined whether the education was provided publicly, privately, or provided at all (Maca, 2017).

The education policy often differed for the children of colonizing and colonized community. The disciplining objective was also introduced to prepare children in modernizing democratic society. Thus, violence was symbolic, and hegemonic rule was introduced as a helping mean for the natives.

Altogether, colonial education policies differed according to the imperial viewpoint and cultural peculiarities of the native population. Different strategies raised specific issues relating the language and religion and defined the colony’s line of action to the education policy in Filipino or Native American populations. The research of the following tactics allows scientists to analyze and define how the cultural and social aspects determine the implementation of individual education policies.


Brown, L. (2019). Indigenous young people, disadvantage, and the violence of settler colonial education policy and curriculum. Journal of Sociology, 55(1), 54-71.

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Coté J. J. (2020). Colonial education. In Fitzgerald T. (Eds), Handbook of historical studies in education. (pp. 259-276). Springer. Web.

Maca, M. (2017). American colonial education policy and Filipino labor migration to the US (1900–1935). Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 37(3), 310-328.

Madeira, A. I., & Correia, L. G. (2019). Colonial education and anticolonial struggles. The Oxford Handbook of the History of Education. Web.

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