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Different Phases of Education Development in India Under British

First Phase (Upto 1820)

Even during the early days of the British, when they had not entrenched themselves so well, indigenous education was thriving.

Discussing the famous “Nuddeah School” of Bengal, an article (Calcutta Monthly Register, January 1791) has the following to say: “In the college of Nuddeah alone, there are at present 1,100 students and 150 masters. Their numbers, it is true fall very short of those in former days. In Rajah Roodre’s time (Circa 1680) there were at Nuddeah, no less than 4,000 students and masters in proportion.” All, the teachers as well as the pupils, were supported by the revenue of free land, the Rajah’s treasury supplying any deficiency.

The fact of wide-spread education – a school in every village – was uniformly noticed by most early observers. Even writing as late as 1820, Abbe J.A. Dubois says that “there are very few villages in which one or many public schools are not to be found … that the students learn in them all that is necessary to their ranks and wants … namely, reading, writing, and accounts”.

In the pre-British days Hindus and Muslims were educated through Pathsalas and Madrassas respectively.

The Britishers showed no interest in advancement of learning in the first stage of their rule in India. Some of the Britishers, in personal endeavor and for their political gains, showed some interest in spreading education.

Warren Hastings, Governor-General of Bengal showed keen interest in spreading oriental education in which effort Jonathan Duncan, Nathani Halhead, Sir William Jones, joined hands. Sir William Jones, the Justice of the Calcutta High Court, established the Asiatic Society at Calcutta (1784). Here they started research on oriental education and culture. At the time of Lord Wellesley Fort William College was established (1800). Here the British civilians were taught Indian languages, laws, customs, religion, geography etc.

The Baptist Missionary William Carey came to India in the year of 1793. He along with his friends established the Baptist Mission in Serampore (1800). By their enthusiasm many primary schools came up in nearly places. They es­tablished a printing press and stilled printing booklets in Bengali. Carey translated the Ramayana in English (1800 A.D.) By his inspiration the Bible was translated in differ­ent Indian languages and Halhead’s Bengali Grammar’s new edition was published.


Second Phase (1813-1853)

In the Charter Act of 1813, one lakh rupees were sanctioned for advancement of education in India. There was a debate about the line of expenditure of this amount.  Some said that it should go for oriental education; others said that the sum was to be spent for English education. The General Committee of Public Instruction (1823) decided to spend the money on oriental studies. In 1823 A.D. the decision was taken to establish a Sanskrit College at Calcutta.

During the rule of Lord William Bentinck (1828-1835), there was change in government’s education policy. He appointed Thomas Babington Macaulay, a renowned educationist, the chairman of the Committee of Public Instruction.

In 1842, the Public Instruction Committee was rejected and Council of Education was formed. A few Indian members were taken in this Council.

Charles Wood’s recommendation in the question of spreading of higher education was very important. He was the Chairman of the Board of Control. His proposal about education was known as Wood’s Dispatch. He gave in­struction to regularize the education system from primary stage to University level. He also instructed to educate pupils in both English and Vernacular. By his recommendation, an Education Department was established.


Third Phase (1854-1900)

The Charter Act of the East India Company was to be reviewed in 1853 by the British Parliament. Before doing so, the Court of Directors in England decided to lay down a definite policy in regard to educational matters of India. So the British Parliament appointed a Special Parliamentary Committee to suggest a suitable educational policy for India.

The Committee made thoroughly an evaluation of educational policy followed by the Company in India. On the basis of this evaluation, a Despatch – a policy document on education was prepared for the functioning of education system in India. The Despatch was prepared by Traivellian Pairy, Marshman, Wilson, Cameron, Duff etc, who had thorough knowledge of Indian education. The Committee reported that the question of Indian education would not be ignored any longer and its development will not be in any case harmful to British Empire.

An immediate outcome of this despatch was the passing of the three University Acts of 1857 establishing universities at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay and creation of an Education Department in each province of British India.

But before any further action could be taken the Government of India was transferred from the Company to the Crown. Thus the centre of interest in education now shifted from London to Calcutta, parliamentary interest in Indian education was reduced to minimum and the Government of India became the most effective authority to deal with important educational issues

In 1859, Staley, the Secretary of State for India, passed an order that the Government of India should own responsibility of primary education. Accordingly, the Government of India instructed to levy local taxes for this task. Consequently in 1864, local taxes were levied in various provinces of India for meeting the expenditure on primary education.

The educational policies during the period of 1854 and 1902 were formulated by two main documents only, the Despatch of 1854 and the Report of the Indian Education Commission, 1882.

For this purpose Lord Ripon appointed the Indian Education Commission by the Resolution of Government of India dated February 3, 1882 under the Chairmanship of William Hunter, a member of Viceroy’s Legislative Council. Within ten months the Commission submitted a report of about 700 pages after hard labour but it could not give any original suggestion or educational ideas. Its report was a revised and enlarged version of Charles Wood’s Despatch of 1854.

The commission boldly admitted that while every branch of education can justly claim the fostering care of the state, it is desirable, in the present circumstances of the country, to declare the elementary education of the masses, its provisions, extensions, and improvement to be that part of the education system, to which the strenuous efforts of the State should be directed in a still larger measure than heretofore. The Commission recommended the complete withdrawal Government from direct enterprise and the transfer of all primary schools to the control of local self-government bodies such as municipalities and local boards. Thus it made the Government free from responsibility. With regard to secondary schools and colleges, the Commission was of opinion that the Government should withdraw as early as possible from the direct management of secondary and collegiate education.

Fourth Phase (1901-20)

In 1899, Lord Curzon was appointed as the Governor General of India. In 1901, he convened at Simla an educational conference attended by a few selected educationists and the Provincial Directors of Public Instruction. The Conference adopted 150 resolutions which touched almost every conceivable branch of education.

After an exhaustive inquiry, a Commission of the Government submitted its report, and its recommendations were incorporated in the Universities Act of 1904.

In pursuance of the Educational Conference at Simla in 1901 and with a view to giving a clear cut direction to Government’s activities as well as to private enterprise, the Government passed a Resolution on Indian Educational Policy in 1904, popularly known as Lord Curzon’s Educational Policy. This resolution expressed a grave concern at the defects of education, as it existed, such as pursuing higher education for entering government jobs exclusively, dominance of examination on teaching, too much emphasis on memory training, neglect of the vernaculars and too much emphasis on literary aspects of the. Special attention was paid to primary education in the Resolution.

However, this Resolution acknowledged the negligence of the government in providing adequate share of funds for elementary education and agreed with the views of the Report of the Education Commission of 1882 that the active expansion of primary education is one of the active duties of the State.

Fifth Phase (1921-47)

The main feature of the Government of India Act of 1919 was the introduction of the principle of dyarchy in the provinces. The Provincial Executive was divided into two parts – the Councillors and the Ministers. The Councillors were British, took charge of what was known as “reserved subjects” while the Ministers who were Indians, took responsibility for “Transferred subjects”.

Education, a transferred subject, became the direct responsibility of the Indian ministers. These ministers were unable to effect any major changes in education because finance, a reserved subject, was under the control of the English Councillors who were reluctant to give the required amount of money to Indian Ministers.

As a result of the Montague –Chelmsford Reforms of 1919, the Department of Education was transferred to the control of popular ministries in the various provinces.

The Central Government ceased to take direct interest in educational matters and the Department of Education in the Government of India was amalgamated with other departments. Above all, the Central special grants for education liberally sanctioned since 1902 was discontinued.

The most important thing that happened under the Dyarchy System was the rapid development of mass education and the passing of Compulsory Education Acts in most of the provinces. Transfer of control of education to Provincial Governments not only isolated them from the Central Government but also them from one another. It also deprived the Government of India of the power of guiding and formulating an educational policy for the whole country, and it was no longer possible for it to act as an advisory and coordinating agency on problems of all – India importance.

Beginning in 1918, some form of compulsory schooling was gradually introduced just as education was transferred to the control of provincial governments under elected Educational Policies in India under the British Rule.

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