Education Abroad as science-based nation-state building in late 19th and early 20th century Denmark and China

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    This study aims at historicizing the different ways Education Abroad became part of nation-state building. Though students travel and intellectual migration as individual pursue dates much longer back (Fry, 1984), this study focuses on the late 19th century and the early 20th century when Education Abroad became a state strategy as part of forming the knowledge for the nation-state’s future and its citizens. While comparing two different nation’s example of ‘early’ state-missions of Education Abroad, more specifically Denmark and China, this study aims to contextualize and contribute to understanding of the recent trend of the risen in Education Abroad and cross-national cooperation in Higher Education through a transnational historical perspective. Through the concept of entanglement (Sobe, 2013) the study captures the historically, spatially and socially intertwined character of education. The very different cases of Education Abroad: “Chinese Educational Mission” to US in the late 19th century (Rhoads, 2011) and “Establishment of Health Visitors through Rockefeller foundation in Denmark” in the early 20th century (Buus, 2008) were both based on a rationality of that the nation-state is in need of newest scientifically knowledge and technology to build, strength and manage the quality of the nation-state’s population. The early state educational missions were strongly influenced by the ascendance of a modern understanding of ‘science’ and how scientifically progress can be part of nation-state building by solving and thereby also constructing the social problems. Whether the social problems were specific regarding high infant mortality rate (as the Danish case of sending students and professionals in Health care to US for further education in health science) or more in general sense the need of knowledge in Science and Engineering to build the national infrastructure (as the Chinese case, where 120 students were send to US to study Science and Engineering as part of the Qing dynasty’s Self-Strengthening movement). The policies and strategies of Education Abroad are interpreted as process of educationalization, which means it is assumed that social problems can be solved through education (Depaepe & Smeyers, 2008; Tröhler, 2016). The gradually increasing of the processes of educationalization have been a central element in the modernization and construction of these newly emerged nation-states since the 19th century in European context and which have spread out worldwide (Depaepe, 2012). That Education became framed as site for ways of shaping solutions of the social problems in seems also to be the case regarding state-sponsored students/academic mobility. Education Abroad can therefore be understood as imaginaries of the nation’s future and its requirements of its citizens through the depicted social problems that the nation-state seems deal with both in present and in future. Hence the study explores the perceived scientific knowledge about ‘human nature’, ‘the social’ and ‘technology’ which was worth to transfer transnationally and funded the later administrative work of building the nation-state and its future citizens. Key words: Human nature; Education abroad; nation building; Science-based state, Educationalization; Comparison; Denmark; China Bibliography Buus, H. (2008). Indretning og efterretning, Rockefeller Foundations indflydelse på den danske velfærdsstat 1920–1970 [Organization and report: The influence of the Rockefeller Foundation on the Danish welfare state 1920–1970]. (H. Buus, Ed.). Kbh: Museum Tusculanum. Depaepe, M. (2012). Educationalisation:: A Key Concept in Understanding the Basic Processes in the History of Western Education. In Between Educationalization and Appropriation: Selected Writings on the History of Modern Educational Systems (pp. 121–138). Minderbroedersstraat, Leuven (Belgium): Leuven University Press. Depaepe, M., & Smeyers, P. (2008). Educationalization as an ongoing modernization process. Educational Theory, 58(4), 379–389. Rhoads, E. J. M. (2011). Stepping Forth into the World: The Chinese Educational Mission to the United States, 1872-81. Hong Kong University Press. Sobe, N. W. (2013). Entanglement and Transnationalism in the History of American Education. In T. S. Popkewitz (Ed.), Rethinking the history of education, transnational perspectives on its questions, methods, and knowledge (First edit, pp. 93–108). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Tröhler, D. (2016). Educationalization of Social Problems and the Educationalization of the Modern World. In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory (pp. 1–6). Singapore: Springer Singapore.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2018
    Publication statusPublished - 2018
    EventISCHE 40 Education and Nature: The 40th annual conference of the International Standing Conference for the History of Education (ISCHE) - Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
    Duration: 29 Aug 20181 Sep 2018
    Conference number: 40


    ConferenceISCHE 40 Education and Nature
    LocationHumboldt University


    • education
    • school
    • nation-state
    • Denmark
    • China

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