L’école française au Vietnam de 1945 à 1975 : de la mission civilisatrice à la diplomatie culturelle

Abstract : This historical research traces the evolution of the French schools in Vietnam from 1945 to 1975, drawing from archives and interviews with former students and teachers. In colonial Indochina, under the guise of the "civilizing mission", the French established an educational system designed to produce only subordinates, as they feared that a better education would create individuals likely to threaten the colonial order. Yet, in spite of the resistance of colonial authorities, Vietnamese elites always managed to send their children to the local French schools that were, in principle, open only to Europeans.After World War II, Vietnam embarked on the path of independence, forcing the French to rethink their educational policy in a country that was no longer a colony. After believing for a while that France would remain "the educator of Indochina", the French accepted to play a supporting role in Vietnamese education through the creation of a cultural mission. There was no longer question of limiting access to French schools: rather, those schools opened their doors wide to Vietnamese students to offer them a high-quality education. The French defeat of Ði?n Bien Phu in 1954, which resulted in France’s political withdrawal from Vietnam, accelerated the transformation of the former colonial education system. Passing under the tutelage of Foreign Affairs, the French schools in Vietnam became an instrument of cultural diplomacy. The French hoped that their continuing cultural presence, and particularly their prestigious lycées, would grant them a decisive influence in Vietnamese affairs. In the North, in the pro-Soviet Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Lycée Albert-Sarraut became the only western school to operate in a communist nation, allowing the French to maintain a special relationship with a country that the West considered as an enemy. This unique experience was terminated in 1965 due to lack of agreement between the French and the North Vietnamese on the nature of the school. In the South, in the nationalist, pro-American Republic of Vietnam, the situation remained favorable to the French. Vietnamese elites rushed the gates of French schools, which promise them a quality education and a better future for their children in a war-torn country. For the French, the attractiveness of their schools and of French culture allowed them to counter the growing influence of the United States, who were then pushing ahead with reform, especially in the Vietnamese educational system. Nevertheless, the South Vietnamese government, for political reasons, decreed in the late 1960s the gradual nationalization of the French school system. After the Reunification of April 1975, all French schools were returned to the Vietnamese state. As told by the "official" history described in the archives, the story of the French educational system in Vietnam ends in failure. In both North and South Vietnam, French efforts in cultural diplomacy in Vietnam came to naught. Not only the Vietnamese elites did not concur with the French political positions, but the prominence of French language and culture actually decreased in Vietnam from the 1950s onwards.However, the hundred or so alumni we have interviewed about this period of their lives have described the French school system as a success....
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Thụy Phương Nguyễn. L’école française au Vietnam de 1945 à 1975 : de la mission civilisatrice à la diplomatie culturelle. Education. Université René Descartes - Paris V, 2013. Français. ⟨NNT : 2013PA05H009⟩. ⟨tel-00932439⟩

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