Building infrastructure for peace: critical insights into nationalism and neoliberalism in Vietnamese education
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Rooted in a vision for education to be part of an infrastructure to build sustainable peace in post-war societies, this research maps out the emergence of nationalism and neoliberalism in Vietnam’s contemporary education system to investigate the intersections between education, politic, development, and peacebuilding. The research utilizes critical discourse analysis and the positioning theory to examine official and unofficial public discourses, exploring how two seemingly contradicting discourses co-exist and shape the government of Vietnam’s ideas of education, citizenship, and peacebuilding. This cartography covers six periods—the French colonization (1862 – 1954); the First Indochina War (1945 – 1954); the Second Indochina War (1955 – 1975); the Bao Cấp period (1976 – 1985); the Đổi Mới reform (1986 – mid-2000s) and the Hội Nhập period (mid-2000s – present). The findings show that colonization and wars gave birth to a vision for a unified communist Vietnam. In post-war Vietnam, nationalism enabled neoliberalism to enter the country as the government saw neoliberal practices, such as privatization and internationalization, as patriotic actions to help turn Vietnam into an economic powerhouse of the global world market. Today, neoliberalism and nationalism not only shape the government’s understanding of the purpose of public education but also enable neocolonial ideas, such as the Westernization of the curriculum, to influence educational changes. The end of the research provides a list of questions for future research to look at education as part of an infrastructure for peace, along with suggestions for possible places or directions where future research may take to begin engaging with those questions.