Civilising the "Native", Educating the Nation (Class 8 History Chapter 7 Notes)

Gurukul Education System
British not only wanted territorial conquest and revenue control, but they also wanted to change the social makeup of the subcontinent. For that, they introduced a series of reforms. Some of these reforms were actually needed and some of them were superficial.

  1. In 1783, William Jones arrived as a junior judge at the Company's Court in Calcutta. He was also a linguist and his interest in Indian languages, arts and culture led to the formation of Asiatic Society of Bengal and the publication of journal, Asiatick Researches along with Henry Thomas Colebrooke and Nathaniel Halhed.
  2. They thought, in order to understand India, it is necessary to understand the part and cultural makeup of India and with the help of Indian ancient texts, they could form the policies for future development in India.
  3. Influenced by similar ideas, some company officials argued in favor of educating the masses in Sanskrit and Persian. They believed, it is the way to cement the Britishers in the heart of common people. With this object, a madrasa in Calcutta was set up in 1781 and the Hindu College was opened in 1791.

19th Century Onward
  1. However, there were opponents of Orientalism who argued it was wrong on the British side to spend much resources in encouraging the studies of Arabic and Sanskrit. For them, eastern literature is full of errors and unscientific learning. James Mill is one such name who argued against orientalists.
  2. By 1830s, the attack on the Orientalists became fiercer. One proponent of this theory, Macaulay urged to teach in English language only as English could help the Britishers to civilize Indians and improve their taste, values and culture. This led to the formation of the English Education Act of 1835.
  3. The above act made English as the medium of instruction and stopped promotion of the Calcutta Madrasa and Benaras Sanskrit College.

Education for Commerce
  1. In 1854, the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London sent an educational despatch to the Governor-General in India. As it was issued by Charles Wood, then President of the Board, it came to be known as the Wood’s Despatch.
  2. The Despatch argued English education will not only civilize Indians, but also make them a good subject to the British. The education can help the Company for the supply of good civil servants.
  3. The despatch recommendation led to an complete overhaul of the Indian education system. Formation of universities at Culcutta, Madras and Bombay.

What Happened to the Local Schools?
William Adam Report
  1. In 1830s, William Adam, a Scottish missionary, was asked by the Company to report on the progress of education in vernacular schools. He found that there were more than one lakh pathshalas in Bengal and Bihar imparting education to about 20 lakh students.
  2. In these institutes, there was no rigid system of education, no fixed fee, no printed books, no separate school building, no benches or chairs, no blackboards, no classrooms, no roll-call registers, no annual examinations, and no regular time-table.
  3. The students were asked to sit together in one place. The Guru interacted with the student groups according to their different levels of learnings.
  4. Adam also discovered the system was designed to cater local needs. As classes were not held during harvest time when children were needed to work in the fields. Rich students paid more fees than poor students.

New routines, new rules
  1. By the mid 19th century, the Company allowed the pathshalas to function without any interference. However, they decided to regulate them after 1854 in order to their new education policy.
  2. The teachers or gurus were asked to submit periodic reports and take classes according to a regular timetable. Teaching was now textbook based and learning was to be tested through written examination.
  3. Students were asked to pay a regular fee, attend regular classes, sit on fixed seats, and obey other new rules.
  4. Pathshalas which accepted these new rules were supported through government grants.
  5. However, these rules affected the children from poor peasant families as the system demanded regular attendance, even during harvest time. The inability to attend school was seen as indiscipline and evidence of the lack of desire to learn.

The Agenda for National Education

  1. There were several Indians who were also thinking about reforms in Indian education. Impressed by the Western education, they urged the British to open more schools, colleges and universities. However, there were others like Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore who argued against these education policies.
  2. Gandhi argued English education has created a sense of inferiority in the minds of Indians and destroyed the last glimmer of pride they had in their own culture.
  3. As per Gandhi, western education was bookish rather than based on experience and practical. He argued literacy – or simply learning to read and write – by itself did not count as education. People had to work with their hands in order to know how things work.
  4. Rabindranath Tagore has similar point of view. He founded Shantiniketan in 1901. As he felt that the schooling system set up by the British was restricting in nature and childhood should be the time of restriction free self-learning.
  5. Tagore argued teachers need to be imaginative and supportive. He said that they need to encourage and fuel the curiosity of the child.
  6. Unlike Gandhi, Tagore also paid attention to science and technology. He wanted to combine the best elements of both Western and Indian education.
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