Tonkin Free School

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The Tonkin Free School (Vietnamese : Đông Kinh Nghĩa Thục, ) was a short-lived but historically significant educational institution in Hanoi that aimed to reform Vietnamese society under the French protectorate during the beginning of the 20th century.



The school was founded in March 1907, run by Lương Văn Can with the participation of many nationalists, including Phan Bội Châu and Phan Chu Trinh. It stemmed from the movement of the same name, which aimed to modernize Vietnamese society by abandoning Confucianism and adopting new ideas from the West and Japan. In particular, it promoted the Vietnamese alphabet script for writing Vietnamese in place of classical Chinese by publishing educational materials and newspapers using these script, as a new vehicle of instruction. The schools offered free courses to anyone who wanted to learn about the modern spirit. The teachers at the school at 59 Hàng Đàn included Phạm Duy Tốn. [1]

The school operated legally for several months before the French authorities closed it down in November. In March 1908, a tax revolt in Annam and an attempted poisoning of French soldiers in Hanoi were blamed on the leaders of the school by the French. Subsequently, all the leaders were arrested and the school's publications were suppressed.

The school aimed at making the Vietnamese ‘modern’. It taught subjects like science, hygiene and French generally at evenings.

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  1. Nguyễn Đình Hoà From the City Inside the Red River: A Cultural Memoir 1999 Page 76 "the Association for Mutual Education (Hội Trí Tri) at 59 Fan Street. ... August 22, 1907, of the same paper further revealed, on page 348, that the three elementary grades were taught ... Trần Văn Hùng, Vũ Văn Trw and Phạm Duy Tốn, the latter a scholar-publicist and father of Professor Phạm Duy-Khiem and musician Phạm Duy-Ca'n, a.k.a. Phạm Duy. On November 16, 1943, Governor-General Decoux, resident-sup ...