Foreign schools from the 19th and 20th century were the beginning of the globalized education system we have today, where there is a constant exchange of scholarship, students and teachers between countries, as well as collaborative educational projects. My project arose from the idea that there is a lot to learn about our educational systems today from looking at the histories, architectures, curriculums and legacies of these foreign schools.
I am fascinated by educational systems, both governmental but also grassroots education that is initiated and organized by communities. Foreign schools provided a good avenue to pursue this interest because while they provided a way to narrow down the scope of educational institutions in a city, they were varied in the ways that they functioned. They were also products of interaction between the country of origin of the educators and founders of institutions and the local community where they founded the school. I chose to examine nine port cities in the Mediterranean, as port cities were the main venues where cultural exchange happened in the 19th century and thus usually had more foreign schools than cities that were inland. The cities I chose are Beirut, Saida and Trablous in Lebanon, Rhodes, Thessaloniki and Corfu in Greece, Larnaka in Cyprus and Shkoder and Durres in Albania.
I decided to focus my research on the architecture of the schools as it is an aspect of the schools that has long lasting effects even after they close down and it is a constant for all of the schools, thus providing a criterion to compare and contrast all 48 schools in my project. Architecture was also the most reliable aspect of schools in terms of finding data, as the archives of a lot of the schools have been lost or destroyed throughout the years.
Biography of the winner:
I graduated from McGill University in 2016 with an honours degree in Middle East Studies and a minor in Anthropology. For my honours degree I wrote two theses; one about an American female missionary school in Lebanon and the second about the way in which the discourse of “terrorism” is used by four different newspapers with different ideologies in Turkey. I am currently taking a break from school and working in Montreal. I am also continuing to do solidarity work with academics in Turkey who are under government repression, as well as being part of the organizers for an arts festival in Montreal called Qouleur.
Result of the project:
During my research I made observations about the legacy, current uses and architectural patterns of school buildings in the cities that I visited. I included 48 schools from 7 different nations in my findings, 22 of which are still in operation today.
I presented my observations at the Fondation Marc de Montalembert in April 2017. The visual map that I created, which includes pictures and information about the 48 schools that I visited can be accessed here: https://www.backtoschoolproject.net/the-map/
I have also written a paper entitled “Back to School: The Legacy and Architecture of Foreign Schools in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1860-1940.” I am currently making final edits to the paper and will try to get it published in a journal. I am hoping to use the valuable things I learned through this project in future graduate studies that I do.