The Minangkabau Response to Dutch Colonial Rule Nineteenth Century

By Elizabeth E. Graves | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
EDUCATIONAL REORGANIZATION IN THE 1870s:
THE GOVERNMENT ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
AND ADVANCED EDUCATION

The nagari schools had been “successful” in their own terms, that is, they had provided new skills for groups in Minangkabau which, whether because of their geographic location or their social position, found traditional routes to success insufficient. But the nagari schools had not generated great enthusiasm from all or even most parts of the population. They provided no sure guarantee of access to top-level bureaucratic jobs, for such positions were few and influence was still an important factor; nor did the nagari schools have any independent prestige which could stimulate interest in attendance for its own sake. The closest proximity to a prestigious institution was the Normal School in Bukittinggi, whose “graduates” often achieved high-level bureaucratic jobs as warehousemasters and jaksa. Upper middle level ambitious families showed more interest in formal education after the establishment of the Normal School.

From the Dutch point of view, the nagari school should have been regarded as “successful” in the sense that administrators did not have trouble finding suitable secretaries, clerks, and other petty officials to handle the lower bureaucratic jobs which required literacy. Only a few important positions in the administration were open to Minangkabau, and the Dutch administrators still preferred to appoint literate men from families with connections to the colonial regime. Not all of these had studied at the nagari school or even at the Normal School.

The appearance of the nagari schools had not resulted in a rigid structuring of education in West Sumatra. Pupils did not have to complete a specific curriculum to qualify for specific jobs. The criteria for obtaining

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