Academic journal article Migration Letters

Preserving Cultural Identity through Education: The Schools of Chinese Community in Calcutta, India

Academic journal article Migration Letters

Preserving Cultural Identity through Education: The Schools of Chinese Community in Calcutta, India

Article excerpt

Xing Zhang, Preserving Cultural Identity through Education: The Schools of Chinese Community in Calcutta, India, 2010, Singapore: ISEAS Publishing. (ISBN 978-981-4279-88-8)

Zhang Xing's book published in 2010 is based on the author's PhD dissertation research focusing on the history of Chinese school in Calcutta in response to huge influx of Chinese immigrants to India in the mid-1950s.

The book expounds the endeavour of the Chinese immigrants to preserve and revive the roots of their culture and their education system among the younger generations. The huge influx of Chinese into Calcutta led to the establishment of the provision for education to the Chinese children. Initially the mode of education of these children was in the form of private tuitions especially home tuition by some learned one from their own community. Gradually the system of private tuition took an institutionalized form with the coming of schooling system. This served the dual purpose of community bonding as well as preservation and conservation of Chinese language among the new generation who were away from their motherland. In support of the above mentioned fact, the author has provided an intensive and extensive account of the schools that existed in that period, though there was not much significant difference with respect to their ideologies or their mode of teaching. The author has mentioned about the schools established by Christian missionaries and those under the assistance of Chinese government. The Christian missionaries also imparted Confucian values along with moral education. Initially all these schools imported books from China and the sole focus of these schools were on Chinese history, custom and culture while the history, custom and culture of India was totally ignored.

The latter part of the book explains the disintegration of their education system due to ideological differences and factionalism Only one or two schools have been functioning till date where the education now imparted is in English and Chinese language both. This book also explains how the Indo-Chinese conflict in 1960s led to the decrease in the number of Chinese school. Many Chinese in India became victim of the war induced hostility and started migrating to America and other European countries. Only then the equal importance of English was realized. Simultaneously, reduced enrolment of Chinese in Indian school led to decrease in number of Chinese schools.

Throughout the book the emphasis has been that, medium of instruction as 'Chinese' played a very significant role as the parents always wanted their children to return to motherland and serve there. Moreover they did not want their children to be 'Indian'. The reason behind this was a sense of inferiority among the Chinese regarding India or Indian culture. Neither they preferred educating their children in any Indian language nor did they enrol them in any school which used Indian textbooks. The thing which was quite interesting to note here is that in one part of the book it was also mentioned that they even sang Indian National Anthem in the school. …

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