Cultural imperialism occurs when “powerful states force their culture and societal systems upon subjugated or less powerful people. Conversely, the ultimate aim of a dominant imperialist society is to suppress and possibly eradicate other cultures. This was the case of Europe’s domination.
“Formal schooling is a function of economic and social hierarchy and cannot be separated from them” (Carnoy, 1974, p. 343). Imperialism has had a profound impact on the development of national educational systems. People groups such as Native Americans in the U.S., Blacks in South Africa as well as non-Russian minorities in Russia, were colonized and serve as examples of nationals that were unequally absorbed in society after the conquest. These groups were exposed to educational systems that left their cultures both denigrated and dominated.
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British rule is said to have been responsible for the modernization witnessed in the Indian civilization. The impact of this process was quite evident from the changes adopted by the Indians in their lifestyle, thinking processes, attires, food, and education. Besides the advancements made in the spheres of roads, transports, postal services, etc, their rule acted as a significant period of transition from the indigenous style of education to western education.
The foundations were laid by the East India Company and the Christian Missionaries to employ Indians for administrative tasks as well as to serve their political, economical, and colonial interests. Originally the access to education was limited to the royal families, as the British were of the opinion that Indians could become aware of their rights and positions and protest against their Raj posing a threat to the British establishment in India. Lord Curzon’s efforts in the 20th century gave way to the spread of higher education within the masses and channelized the Indian education system.
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According to De Wit and Merkx, the focus of higher education was to support “the development of a national identity and serving national needs and less to amassing universal knowledge” (p. 41). Further, the export of academic systems led to the internationalization of education; however, De Wit and Merkx asserted that it is better understood as academic colonialism.
Universities that began in the 18th and 19th centuries had a national orientation and function. It was not until the latter part of the eighteenth century that European universities were identified in publications on the topic of internationalization. “Between the 18th and 19th century, three international aspects of higher education can be identified: dissemination of research, individual mobility of students and scholars, and the export of higher education systems”