Development of Education in British India

After capturing the administrative and revenue rights over Bengal and other Eastern Indian regions, East India company was under the conundrum of understanding Indian Society. To rule, understand and command a society, a prior understanding was required.

Hence, top officers under EIC began rolling out efforts to set up a system and understand the Indian society, religion, laws and customs.

  • 1781: Calcutta Madrasah was established by Warren Hastings for studying Muslim law and related subjects.
  • 1791: Sanskrit College was established by Jonathan Duncan, a resident, at Banaras for study of Hindu law and philosophy.
  • 1800: Fort William College was set up by Wellesley for training civil servants of the Company in languages and customs of Indians (closed in 1802).

Under pressure from enlightened Indian and Christian missionaries, EIC was compelled to bring educational reforms on modern lines & western thoughts.

Introduction of English Education

  • By the Charter Act of 1813, British Parliament provided an annual expenditure of rupees one lakh for educating the Indians. Yet, for years to come, the money could not be spent. One reason for the failure of utilizing this money was the controversy between the Orientalists and the Anglicists.
  • While Orientalists desired that money should be spent on study of Indian languages and learning like Persian and Sanskrit, the Anglicists insisted that it should be spent on English language and learning.
  • The controversy was settled when William Bentinck came to India as the governor-general. Lord Macaulay’s Minutes in 1835 favoured the introduction of the English language as the medium of instruction and the English system of education in India.
  • William Bentinck accepted the viewpoint of Macaulay, and it was decided that all funds for education were to be spent on the promotion of English literature and sciences through the medium of English language.

Adam’s Reports on Vernacular Education

  • William Adam was a Unitarian missionary, who was appointed by William Bentick to enquire into the status of education in Bengal’s villages & to determine level of literacy & source of funding of village schools.
  • His report gave a detailed account of condition of elementary and secondary vernacular schools in different districts of Bengal.
  • Advocated ‘A Theory of General Rural Education’ based on indigenous vernacular village schools.
  • Believed government support for vernacular education was the most effective way to modernise education in Bengal. However, it was expensive.
  • Proposed measures to train indigenous teachers to impact education in vernacular.
  • This report challenged the Calcutta-focused debate among Orientalists and Anglicists over the future of the educational policy of the Company Administration.
  • His reports were ignored resulting in a decline of pathshala system since declining revenue and loss of local control reduced village’s ability to support their local schools.

Anglicist Vs Orientalists

  • Besides the strong support of Macaulay and the desire of William Bentinck to introduce the English language and western education in India, three important factors helped in the making of this decision.
  • Evangelists aimed at getting many converts in India by introducing western learning, and the Liberals and the Humanitarians felt that it would be an act of humanity.
  • Many Indians themselves also desired it. They rightly believed that it would provide them with good opportunities for employment in government jobs. Raja Ram Mohan Roy became their chief spokesman.
  • British had become politically secure in India by that time. They neither expected any serious challenge to their power by Indians nor Oriental learning, customs and traditions to command any respect in their eyes.
  • Anglicists got the upper hand, and the ‘Macaulayan system’ of education was introduced in India.
  • The system which Macaulay introduced simply aimed at educating upper classes of India. The government did not intend to spend money on the education of the masses. The education of a minority was sufficient for getting Indians into lower services of the government.
  • It was only in modern Uttar Pradesh that Mr James Thomson, lieutenant governor during the period 1843-53, attempted to educate the Indians in vernacular languages.
  • Therefore, English education was limited to High Schools and colleges, while in lower-grade schools, all subjects were taught through the medium of vernacular languages.
  • The motive of this effort was to train the Indians for employment in newly set up Revenue and Public Works Department, where Englishmen could not be provided worthwhile employment.

Sir Charles Wood’s Despatch on Education, 1854

The next important step concerning English education in India was taken by Sir Charles Wood, the President of the Board of Control in 1854. His Despatch on education has been described as the Magna Carta of English education in India.

Recommendations of Charles Wood were:

  • Found faults with Macaulay’s ‘Downward Filtration Theory’ of the educational policy enunciated during Bentick’s term.
  • Acknowledged East India Company’s responsibility of educating all its subjects.
  • The education of the vernacular languages also needed attention because only through them western education could infiltrate the masses.
  • Proposed to establish a network of graded schools. Primary schools should be opened in villages, and High Schools and affiliated colleges should be started at the district level in the cities.
  • A System of grants-in-aid for education was adopted to encourage native Hindus and Muslims to open their schools.
  • Voluntary associations should be encouraged to establish schools and colleges, and the government should grant them financial assistance.
  • An education department known as the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) under a director of public instruction, should be established in each province to supervise and standardize education. Director was to be assisted by inspectors and assistants.
  • Affiliating Universities, like London University, should be opened at Calcutta, Chennai, and Mumbai.
  • Vocational teachers’ training and technical schools and colleges should be established.
  • The education of females should be pushed up.

Lord Dalhousie, the then governor-general, attempted to implement the suggestions of Charles Wood. The Department of Public Instruction was organized at the Centre in 1855.

Education departments were established in provinces, Inspectors of Schools were appointed, an agriculture institute at Pusa in Calcutta and an Engineering institute at Roorkee in Uttar Pradesh were started, and affiliating Universities were established at Calcutta, Chennai, and Mumbai. The process begun by Dalhousie continued afterwards and gradually, the indigenous system of education was replaced by the Western system.

Hunter Commission, 1882-83

  • In 1870, the responsibility of education was transferred to provinces that had limited economic resources. That also handicapped the Primary and High School education. Therefore, Lord Ripon felt the necessity of inquiring into the working of Primary and High School education and appointed an Education Commission under W. W. Hunter in 1882 to review the progress of education in these fields. The Commission submitted its report in 1883. Some of its primary recommendations were :

1.  Primary education should be given priority. The government need not wait for voluntary help in this field. It should hand over the management of primary education to District and Municipal Boards, which were to be provided one-third of their expenditure on it by the government as grants-in-aid.

2. Two types of High Schools should be established one, providing literary education leading up to the entrance examination of the University and the other for preparing students for vocational education.

3.  The government, as far as could be possible, should withdraw itself from school and college education, and every effort should be made to encourage private enterprise in these fields through a system of liberal grants in-aid.

4.  Female education, which was most inadequate outside Presidency towns, should be emphasized.

The government accepted most of the recommendations of the Commission, and education developed with a marked speed after that. But more than the government, several Indian philanthropic and religious associations participated in its growth. It resulted not only in the development of western education but also in oriental studies.

Some teaching-cum-examining universities were also established in the coming years, i.e., the Punjab University in 1882 and the Allahabad University in 1887. But primary education yet remained neglected. Besides, female education also remained negligible.

Indian Universities Act, 1904

  • The government believed that private management of universities had deteriorated the quality of education and educational institutions acted as factories producing political revolutionaries.
  • While nationalists accepted the decline in quality but accused the Government of not doing anything to eradicate illiteracy.
  • In 1902, Raleigh Commission was set up to enquire into the conditions of universities in India and to suggest measures for improvement in their constitution and working. The commission was precluded from reporting on primary or secondary education.
  • Based on recommendations of Raleigh Commission, Indian Universities Act was passed in 1904.

As per the Act,

(i) More attention to study and research.

(ii) The number of fellows of a university and their period in office were reduced and most fellows were to be nominated by the Government.

(iii) Government was to have powers to veto universities’ senate regulations and could amend these regulations or pass regulations on its own. (External control over the universities).

(iv) Conditions were to be made stricter for affiliation of private colleges.

(v) Five lakh rupees per annum for five years to improve higher education.

Indian saddler university commission (1917-19)

  • Purpose: to study and report on problems of Calcutta University. It reviewed the entire field from school education to university education.
  • Observation: For improvement of university education, improvement of secondary education was a necessary pre-condition. Its observations were as follows:
    • School courses should cover 12 years. Students should enter university after an intermediate stage (rather than matric) for a three-year degree course in university. This was done to:
      • Prepare students for university stage.
      • Relieve universities of many below-university-standard students.
      • Provide collegiate education to those not planning to go through university stage. A separate board of secondary and intermediate education should be set up for administration and control of secondary and intermediate education.
    • There should be less rigidity in framing university regulations.
    • A university should function as a centralised, unitary residential-teaching autonomous body, rather than as scattered, affiliated colleges.
    • Female education; applied scientific and technological education, and teachers’ training including those for professional and vocational colleges should be extended.

Hartog Committee (1929)

  • Purpose: To report on the development of education.
  • Recommendations:
    • More emphasis should be given to primary education.
    • Only deserving students should go in for high school and intermediate stages.
    • Average students should be diverted to vocational courses after VIII grade.
    • Restricted admissions can help to improve the quality of university-level education.

Indian Wardha Scheme of Basic Education (1937)

  • When and where: Indian National Congress organised National Conference on Education in October 1937 in Wardha.
  • Outcome: Zakir Hussain committee formulated a detailed national scheme for basic education.
  • About the scheme:
    • Learning through activity’. Gandhi thought that Western education had created a gulf between the educated few and the masses and had also made the educated elite ineffective. The scheme had the following provisions.
    • Learning of basic handicrafts.
    • First seven years of schooling to be free and compulsory nationwide (mother tongue).
    • Ways to be devised to establish contact with the community around schools through service.
    • Educating the child through the medium of productive activity of a suitable handicraft.
    • The basic premise was that only through such a scheme could India be an independent and non-violent society. This scheme was child-centred and cooperative.
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