Development of Education in India – UPSC Notes

The term ‘Education‘ comes from the Latin words: ‘Educare‘ and ‘Educere‘. Educare means to inculcate, nourish, and bring forth the sublime qualities in a child. Educere means to lead out. It’s a powerful instrument to inculcate the true sense and scientific temper that defines the mental perception of humans. A person with scientific perception is open-minded and does not take anything for granted.

Development of the education system during the ancient period

India has a rich tradition of education development. The history of education in India dates back to the Vedic Age. Elementary education during this period began with teaching at the Maths and Ghatshalas under the supervision of Guru or Prabhu. The Later Vedic Age refers to the institutions of elementary and high learning.

Initially, education was open to everyone and seen as a method to achieve moksha or enlightenment. But, with the emergence of the “varna system“, it got imparted based on profession and duties performed by the person from a specific caste.

The ‘Brahmans‘ learned about religion and scriptures, whereas ‘Kshatriya‘ learned the various aspects of warfare. The ‘Vaishya‘ learned about trade, commerce, and vocational course, whereas ‘Shudras‘ were men of the working class and trained to carry out their jobs. Shishya (students) stayed in Ashrams away from the cities, and they have to follow the guidelines of their gurus.

The Jain and Buddhist schools were among the heterodox schools of Indian Philosophy. In Buddhist education centres, students were taught about philosophy, logic, grammar, medicine, metaphysics, art and craft, etc. As time progressed, the cities and centres of learning such as Varanasi, Nalanda, and Takshashila became increasingly visible.

Development of the education system during the medieval period

During the medieval period, the traditional methods of education came under the influence of Islam. In India, traditional Islamic institutions include Madrassas” and “Maktabs“, where students were taught about philosophy, grammar, mathematics, and laws.

Maktabs were elementary schools attached to the Islam mosque, whereas Madrassas were for elementary instruction or higher learning. The madrassa of Mahmud Gawan in Bidar (Karnataka), build in the 15th century, was regarded as the highest centre of Islamic learning. Islamic education emphasis more on science and humanities.

But the development of modern scientific learnings began with the establishment of Britishers in India.

Development of Education in India during the British Period

Development of education under the company rule

With the advent of colonial rule in India, traditional schools of learning shifted towards modern scientific learning. Initially, the British East India Company focuses more on trading & making a profit and took no interest in developing education in India. But to rule in India, they start educating a small section of the upper and middle classes.

  • In 1781, Governor-General Warren Hasting established a Muslim college at Calcutta (Calcutta Madrasah) to provide education in Muslim law and related subjects.
  • In 1784, Sir William Jones founded the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta to encourage Oriental studies.
  • In 1791, to provide education in Hindu law and philosophy, Jonathan Duncan established Sanskrit college at Benares.
  • In 1800, Governor-General Lord Wellesley set up Fort William College in Calcutta for providing training to the civil servants of the company in Indian languages and customs. But, it was closed in 1802.

Enlightened Indian and missionaries thought that Western education was the remedy for the social, economical and political ills of the country, so they started exerting pressure on the British Government to promote modern, secular and western education.

Charter act of 1813

In 1813, it was first time when the British parliament added a clause in the Charter act of 1813 for promoting knowledge of modern science in India. The act directed the Company to sanction one lakh rupees annually for the development of education in the country.

However, Orientalist- Anglicit controversy raged regarding the medium of Instruction. Orientalists favour expanding and promoting the Indian traditional languages, whereas Anglicans emphasize English as the Medium of Instruction. Because of this controversy, the amount was not available till 1823.

The Charter act of 1813 also allowed Christen missionaries to propagate their religious ideas in India.

Efforts of Raja Rammohan Roy

Meanwhile, with the efforts of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Scottish Watchmaker David Hare‘Hindu College‘ was set up at Calcutta in 1817 for imparting western education with English as a Medium of Instruction. The Government also established three Sanskrit colleges in Calcutta, Delhi, and Agra.

In 1825, Raja Ram Mohan Roy founded the Vedic college in Calcutta with Sanskrit as a medium of instruction.

General Committee of Public Instruction, 1823

In 1823, the General Committee of Public Instruction was formed to look after the development of education in India. The committee had both Orientalist and Anglicists groups. Orientalists groups, led by H T Princep, wanted to promote oriental subjects in the Indian vernacular languages, while Anglicits argued that spending on education should be for modern studies. Because of this confusion, the matter was taken to Governor-General in Council, from where it further referred to Lord Macaulay. The famous Lord Macaulay’s Minute settled the row in favour of Anglicists.

Lord Macaulay’s Minute, 1835

In 1835, Lord Macaulay’s Education policy titled “Minute on Indian Education” was published. In this policy, Lord Macaulay introduced English as a medium of instruction in the education system and public services. The limited government sources were devoted to teaching western sciences and literature through the medium of the English language alone.

Once, Lord Macaulay expressed that a good piece of English literature is better than the whole of oriental literature. His idea was to create a class of Indians who were Indians in Blood and colour, but Britishers in their opinion, taste, intellect, and morals.

The British government soon made the English language the medium of instruction in its schools and colleges. The government established a few English schools and colleges instead of a large number of elementary schools, thus neglecting mass education.

The Britishers wanted to educate and delegate the small section of the upper class, who would refine and enrich the vernacular dialects in the country so that western science and literature would infiltrate and reach the masses. This is known as the downward filtration theory. However, it gives a big setback to mass education in the country.

In 1835, Governor-General William Bentick laid out the foundation of the first Medical College in Calcutta.

Efforts of Thomson

During the period 1843-1853, the lieutenant governor of NW Provinces James Thomson made efforts to develop a comprehensive scheme of village education through the medium of vernacular languages. In these village schools, useful subjects like agriculture science and mensuration were taught. The objective was to train personnel for the newly created Revenue and Public Works Department.

In 1844, the first Engineering college was established in Roorkee.

In 1849, Bethune school at Calcutta was founded by J.E.D. Bethune for the education of women.

Wood’s Despatch (1854)

In 1854, Sir Charles Wood, the President of the Board of Control of British East India Company, sent a formal despatch to the then Governor-General of India Lord Dalhousie, suggesting a large shift to English language use within India. The despatch contained a comprehensive plan for spreading education in India. This famous Wood’s despatch is also considered the Magna Carta of education development in India. It laid out that:

  1. It is the responsibility of the government to spread education to the masses and educate those committed to British rule in India.
  2. It was laid out to provide scientific education as well as English literature to produce trustworthy Indians.
  3. It recommended vernacular to be the medium of instruction at the school level, But English for higher studies.
  4. It rejected the downward Infiltration theory and recommended the hierarchy education level, which at the bottom level be the vernacular primary school, at the district level be Anglo-vernacular high schools.
  5. It laid out stress on female education and recommended the promotion of vocational language and teacher training.
  6. It laid down that the education imparted in government institutions should be secular.
  7. It recommended a system of grants-in-aid to encourage private enterprise.
  8. It recommended establishing three universities at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras.

In 1857, on recommendations of Wood Despatch, universities at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras were established, and later, educational departments were also set up in provinces.

Development of Education in India under the British Crown

In 1858, Overseers’ School at Poona was raised to the status of Poona College of Engineering and affiliated with Bombay University.

In 1875, Sir Sayyed Ahmed Khan founded the Aligarh school. In 1877, Governor-General Lord Lytton laid the foundation of Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College in Aligarh.

Hunter Commission (1882)

Earlier schemes had neglected primary and secondary education. In the 1870s, when education was shifted to provinces, primary and secondary education further suffered because the provinces had already limited resources at their disposal.

In 1882, to review the progress of education in India since Wood Despatch of 1854, Governor-General Lord Ripon appointed a commission under the chairmanship of Sir William Hunter. Its recommendations were mostly related to primary and secondary education.

  1. The commission underlined the role of the State in the extension and improvement of primary and secondary education.
  2. It recommended that primary education institutions should be entrusted to the local self-government and provide safe grants for their development.
  3. It suggested that to provide both primary and secondary education in local vernacular.
  4. It recommended the two divisions for secondary education.
    • The first one is Literary– leading up to university, and
    • the second is Vocational– for commercial careers.
  5. It drew attention to inadequate facilities for female education.

Pandita Ramabai, a women’s rights & education activist, represented the cause of women’s education before the Hunter Commission. Also, the Hunter commission does not emphasize university education and completely focuses on primary education.

In the next two decades, there was a rapid expansion of secondary and college education in India.

In 1882, Punjab University at Chandigarh and in 1887, Allahabad University were set up.

In 1901, Rabindranath Tagore founded Shantiniketan school near Calcutta in West Bengal.

Raleigh commission (1902)

In 1902, to review the condition and prospects of universities in India, Governor-General Lord Curzon set up the Raleigh commission under Sir Thomas Raleigh to suggest recommendations for making improvements in their constitution and working. Initially, Syed Hussain Belgrami was the only Indian member of this commission. But when the Hindus protested regarding this, Justice Guru Das Banerjee from the Calcutta High court was also made a member. The commission submitted the report in 1902.

In 1903, Lord Curzon established the Agriculture Research Institute at Pusa (Bihar).

Indian Universities Act (1904)

Based on the recommendation of the Raleigh Commission, Lord Curzon brought the Indian University Act of 1904. The act laid out that:

  1. Universities had the right to make decisions regarding the promotion of study and research.
  2. The act reconstituted the governing bodies of universities and reduced the strength of elected senates (20 fellows in the universities of Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, and 15 fellows in other universities). The act also allowed the government to nominate the majority of the fellows.
  3. The government had the power to veto, amend, and reform the universities’ senate regulations and could frame & pass regulations on its own.
  4. Conditions for the affiliation between the universities and colleges were made strict.
  5. The Governor-General of India was empowered for the territorial demarcation of universities.
  6. For better education and research, the Act accepted the grant of Rs 5 lakh per annum for five years.

Lord Curzon justified greater control over universities in the name of quality and efficiency.

The nationalist saw the act as an attempt of the Government to bring Indian universities under tighter official control in the name of higher education. Gopal Krishna Gokhale called it ‘a retrograde measure‘.

Hardinge Resolution on Education Policy (1913)

In 1906, Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaikwad of Boroda introduced compulsory primary education within the territories of his state. This attempt inspired the nationalist leaders, and they urged the Government to do so for British India.

Gokhale, as a nationalist leader, made strong efforts to make the government accept compulsory primary education. In 1910, As a member of the legislative council, Gokhale proposed compulsory primary education in the legislative assembly.

In 1913, the government declared a “Resolution on Education Policy“, covering primary, secondary, higher, and women’s education, but it refused to take up responsibility for compulsory education. During the period, Lord Hardinge II was the Governor-General of India.

The resolution accepted the policy to remove illiteracy and urged the provincial governments to provide elementary education to the poorer and backward sections. It’s also known as the Hardinge resolution of 1913 to eradicate illiteracy from India.

The resolution laid out that the quality of the middle and secondary schools should be improved. Universities were to be established in each province, and teaching activities in the universities were to be encouraged.

In 1916, Banaras Hindu Univesity was jointly established by Madan Mohan Malaviya, Annie Besant, Rameshwar Singh of Darbhanga Raj, and Prabhu Narayan Singh of the Narayan Dynasty.

The first Women’s University, SNDT Women’s University at Pune, was founded by Dhondo Keshav Karve in 1916.

Saddler University Commission (1917)

In 1917, the Government appointed a commission under the chairmanship of M.E. Saddler, who was the vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds, London. The commission was formed to enquire and study the conditions and prospects of the University of Calcutta. Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee and Zia-ud-din Ahmed were two Indian members of this commission. It reviewed the entire field from school education to university education.

The commission reviewed all the centres of the university and submitted its report in 1919. Also, the recommendations of the commission were more or less applicable to other universities. It observed that:

  1. Improvement of secondary education was necessary to make improvements in University education. Students should enter university for a three-year degree course after an intermediate stage. To prepare the students for university education, it was recommended that the school course should be for 12 years.
    • This was also done to provide collegiate education to those not planning to go through the university stage. A separate board of secondary and intermediate education should be set up for the administration and control of secondary and intermediate education.v
  2. It recommended that universities should function as centralized, unitary residential-teaching autonomous bodies.
  3. The commission recommends less rigidity in framing the regulations of universities.
  4. It recommended extending the facilities for scientific and technological education, female education, and teacher’s training.

From 1916 to 1921, seven new universities were set up at Mysore, Dacca, Lucknow, Benaras, Patna, Aligarh, and Osmania.

In 1920, the Government recommended Saddler report to the provincial governments.

Government of India Act 1919

Under the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, education was shifted to Provincial Ministers by the introduction of dyarchy. The British government stopped taking a direct interest in educational matters.

In 1921, Rabindranath Tagore founded Visva Bharat University at Shantiniketan, West Bengal.

Hartog Committee (1929)

With the increase in the number of educational institutions, there was a deterioration in education standards.

In 1927, Governor-General Lord Irwin set up Hartog Committee to report on the development of education. Sir Phillip Joseph Hartog was the chairman of this committee. The committee highlighted the problem of wastage and stagnation in education at the primary level. It devoted more attention to mass education. The main recommendations of this committee were as follow:

  • Primary education should be given importance, but there should be no hasty expansion or compulsion in it.
  • Only the deserving students should go in for the high school and intermediate stage, while average students should be diverted to vocational courses after the VIII standard.
  • Establishment of affiliate universities to meet the demand for higher education.
  • Universities should appoint teachers for the affiliated colleges.
  • For improving the standards of university education, admission to universities should be made based on the abilities and aptitudes of students.
  • The honours courses should be more advanced than the pass courses, and these courses should be instituted only at the universities.
  • There should be an improvement in the training and service conditions of teachers.

Wardha Scheme of Basic Education (1937)

In 1937, Mahatma Gandhi introduced the concept of Nai Talim (New Education) in his weekly “Harijan”.

In October 1937, Congress organized a National Conference on Education, where the Zakir Hussain committee prepared a detailed national scheme for basic education. The scheme was based on ideas of Gandhiji published in a series of articles in the weekly ‘Harijan’. The main concept behind this scheme was “learning through activity“. The scheme came to be known as the Wardha Scheme of Basic Education. The main provisions of the committee were:

  • To include the basics of handicraft in the syllabus.
  • The first seven years of schooling should be an integral part of free and compulsory education.
  • Teaching should be done in the Hindi language from class II to VI and only in English medium from class VIII.

However, there was not much development of this scheme due to the resignation of Congress ministers in October 1939.

Sergeant Plan of Education (1944)

In 1944, the Central Advisory Board of Education drew up a plan known as the Sergeant Plan. The Plan was named after Sir John Sargeant, the then educational advisor to the government of India. The recommendations of the Sergeant Plan were:

  • Pre-primary education for 3-6 years age group;
  • Free, universal and compulsory elementary education for the 6-11 years age group;
  • High school education for 11-17 years age group for the selected children
  • A university course of 3 years after higher secondary;
  • High schools should be of two types:
    1. Academic
    2. Technical and vocational.
  • Adequate technical, commercial, and arts education;
  • Abolition of intermediate course;
  • Liquidation of adult illiteracy in 20 years;
  • Emphasis on teacher’s training, physical education, and education for the physically & mentally handicapped.

The Sergeant Plan aimed to bring about universal literacy in India within 40 years of its introduction. Although a bold and comprehensive scheme, it proposed no methodology of implementation.

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