The Truth Behind Women’s Education During British Colonial Rule

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After the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842, which marked the end of the First Opium War, Hong Kong was ceded to the British Crown as part of the agreement for an indefinite period of time. During this period of time, Hong Kong experienced major social changes, particularly in the area of women’s education. The purpose initially appeared to be the desire to help the Chinese; however, the truth was that Great Britain sought to establish their superiority by undermining the prevalent Confucian family system through the education of women.
The educational system in Hong Kong shortly before colonial rule was mostly composed of schools in small villages often associated with temples (Sweeting 87). The traditional Confucian family system
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The quote also illustrated a common sentiment of the British who believed that the present educational system in Hong Kong was inferior to Britain’s and needs to be reformed. The “foundations of society” can be interpreted as referring to men, who are in charge of society. Since women have the responsibility of raising boys and if they are uneducated, the boys could receive the best parenting. The speaker believed that by not educating women, society was essentially depriving itself from the best possible men. The British tried to persuade the Chinese to attend girl’s schools arguing that the issue at hand was not gender equality or abandoning old practices, but rather the concern of training women to become useful members of society. In effect, the British tried to appeal to the practical mentality of the Chinese people.
Several factors contributed to the development of women’s education in Hong Kong. Of those, religion was at the forefront during the first half of the 19th century. The Anglican Church established schools and shelters for girls. It also treated women better than most other institutions, often providing them with shelter and food. James Stuart Mill, a noted contemporary English philosopher of that time period, wrote in an article of Hong Kong Daily Press that “minsters of religion had been the only people to treat women as if they had minds as much importance as men”

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