The Dutch East Indies government adopted the so-called Ethical Policy in the early 20th century, resulting in complex repercussions for Chinese minorities. Education was among the most contended battleground between Dutch authorities and the Chinese community and within the Chinese community itself. While the establishment of the Tiong Hoa Hwe Koan schools galvanized the rise of Chinese nationalistic sentiment, the colonial government also founded a Dutch-language school system specifically tailored for the Chinese to counterweight the potential ideological threat. By exploring the competitions and intricacies between the two systems, this paper seeks to problematize the existing literature that predominantly focuses on only one side of the story. The paper argues that the emergence of the two systems was neither a natural result of the Dutch Ethical Policy nor merely driven by the Indies Chinese’s desperate demand for education. Instead, it vividly reflects various tensions within the heterogeneous Chinese community and its entangled relationships with the transforming colonial state and the ancestral homeland.