This contribution builds upon Anne Booth’s extensive work on the differentiated evolution of colonial education systems in East and Southeast Asia. The article probes further into the underlying causes of the poor Dutch legacy. I argue that the spread of popular education was not only hampered by a lack of financial commitment, but also by notable inequalities in the allocation of funds for education and a great reluctance to support initiatives in investment in private education, which, I think, should be interpreted as the result of the metropolitan commitment to secular colonial rule in an overwhelmingly Islamic society.