Published on Addis Standard
Our conventional education system, modeled after the West and which we often take-for-granted and leave unexamined, could indeed well be a subtle tool that effectively puts us in a tricky state of intellectual subjugation and spiritual enslavement, says our Columnist Taye Negussie (PhD).
In its August 2012 issue, in a piece entitled “Ruling through Soft-power”, this magazine described how Western domination of the developing world evolved from the past direct physical control, occupation and colonization (in the eras of slavery and colonialism) through the barrel of gun to the present approach of bringing countries under their hegemonic sphere of influence via the soft-power of popular culture. Rule through the power of cultural influence aspires to captivate the heart of people with the sole purpose of satisfying the selfish interest and greed of the hegemonic power – hence the ‘colonization of heart’.
Together with the popular culture, an equally powerful and yet subtle tool of maintaining and perpetuating Western hegemonic domination entails the intellectual sphere that systematically manipulates and subjugates the mental faculties of people as typified by the West-modeled behavioral education system, thus, the ‘colonization of mind’
The downward race to subjugation
Evidently, in most developing countries – the former colonies as well as countries that supposedly evaded the direct colonization of the past century such as Ethiopia – the core educational institutions and practices such as medium of instruction, curriculum contents, teaching methodologies, routine administrative practices, methodologies of knowledge creation and dissemination at large are all but modeled after the dominant Western behavioral education system.
To be sure, the educational curricula of most higher educational institutions in these countries are to a considerable extent a copy-paste of Western Universities. The educational texts and reference materials are entirely Western origin. Even local anthropological and historical books have been written either by Westerners or locals but with a Western perspective. Invariably, the medium of instruction is either English or French. And at times, fluency in instruction language may count more than fair comprehension of a subject matter. All academic researches are to be undertaken, evaluated and disseminated strictly within a Western framework. Even, those trivial educational administrative procedures and practices such as European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) as used in many Ethiopian universities in recording course credit sufficiently bear the mark of a Western influence.
Likewise, many elementary and junior schools work hard and fast to give their educational environment a Western texture. Witness the common practices in many private schools here in Addis Ababa that involve an extraordinary and unparalleled dedication to English language, far greater than any other academic subject, to the extent of prohibiting students to converse in any local language other than English; displaying foreigners in advertisements, and even requiring kindergartens kids to address their female teachers with the English honorific title ‘Miss’…, instead of using one from their mother tongue.
Ironically, the pivotal force behind this thoughtless imitation of Western behavioral education system seems to be the indigenous intellectual elites–themselves the fruits of the same educational system and whose world view has fully been westernized – who presumably maintain entirely uncritical and a kind of superstitious belief and attitudes to what appears remotely Western.
Unsurprisingly, this self-imposed intellectual dominion and submission initiative enjoys a huge moral and material backing both from within and outside on a selection mechanism also modeled after the Western system.
Needless to say, through an educational system designed in its favor, the West has now managed to impose its own world views, cultural dogmas and practices on the larger part of our planet. Evidently, this process forms the basis that aided its behavioral education system to assume a hegemonic status at the moment. Nevertheless, this is not to deny the West its immense contribution in providing some fundamental theoretical insights, technological inventions and discovery that significantly improved the lot of humanity. And yet, in my view, making essential contributions and imposing one’s world view upon others ought to be regarded as distinct phenomena. Thus, this piece mainly seeks to explore the latter. (Continue reading on next page)