William Jones came to Calcutta in 1783, to join as a junior judge in the Supreme Court. Apart from being an expert in law, Jones was a linguist. He knew Greek, French, English and Persian. At Calcutta, he took the help of pundits to study Sanskrit.
Jones and many other contemporary British officials took a keen interest in the ancient Indian law, philosophy, religion, politics, morality, arithmetic, medicine and other sciences. Henry Thomas Colebrooke and Nathaniel Halhed were some other like-minded British officials. Colebrooke, Halhed and Jones set up the Asiatic Society of Bengal and started a journal called Asiatick Rsearches.
These people had a deep respect for ancient cultures, both Indian and Western. They thought it important to discover the sacred texts in order to understand India. They were of the view that a new study of these texts could form the basis of future development in India. They felt that this would not only help the British learn from the Indian culture but would also help Indians rediscover their own heritage.
Many Company officials were influenced by such ideas. They argued in favour of promoting Indian way of learning rather than the Western learning.
With this object; a madrasa was set up in Calcutta in 1781 to promote the study of Arabic, Persian and Islamic law. Similarly, the Hindu College was established in Benaras in 1791 to promote the study of ancient Sanskrit texts.
But there were many other officials who were highly critical of the Orientalists. They said that the knowledge of the East was faulty and unscientific. They argued that it would be a futile exercise to promote the study of Arabic and Sanskrit language and literature.
James Mills was among the vociferous critics of the Orientalism. He argued that the aim of education should be to teach what was useful and practical. He was in favour of making the Indians familiar with the scientific and technical advances that the West had made.
Thomas Babington Macaulay was another prominent critic of Orientalism. He thought that India was an uncivilized country which needed to be civilized. Macaulay emphasized the need to teach the English language. He thought the knowledge of English would allow the Indians to read some of the finest literatures of the world. He argued that teaching of English would help in civilizing people, in changing their tastes, values and culture.
Working on Macaulay's advice, the English Education Act of 1835 was introduced. As per this Act, English was to be made the medium of instruction and promotion of Oriental institutions would be stopped.
In 1854, the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London sent and educational despatch to the Governor General in India. It was issued by Charles Wood; the President of the Board of Control of the Company. It came be known as Wood's Despatch.
Economic benefit was one of the practical uses as pointed in the Despatch. It said that European learning would enable Indians to understand the advantages which accrue from the expansion of trade and commerce. It would make them see the importance of development of resources of the country. Introducing the Indians to European ways of life would change their tastes and then create demand for British goods.
Wood's Despatch also said that European learning would improve the moral character of Indians. This would help in supplying the Company with civil servants who could be trusted.
Following the Wood's Desptach, various measures were introduced by the British in education. Education departments were set up to control all matters regarding education. Steps were taken to establish a system of university education. Changes were also brought within the system of school education.
William Adam was a Scottish missionary. He toured the districts of Bengal and Bihar and prepared a report on vernacular schools in 1830s. According to his report, there were over 1 lakh pathshalas in Bengal and Bihar. These were smaller institutions; with each having no more than 20 students. But the total number of children studying in these pathshalas was a whopping 20 lakh. These pathshalas were set up by wealthy people or the local community or by a teacher.
The pathshalas followed a flexible system of education. There were no fixed fee, no printed book, no separate building, no benches or chairs, no system of separate classes, no rollcall registers, no regular examinations and no regular time-table. Classes could be held under a banyan tree, in a village shop or temple, or at the guru's home.
Fee depended on the income of parents. Teaching was oral and curriculum was decided by the guru; as per the need of the individual student. Students were not segregated into different classes, rather all the students sat together in one place. The guru interacted separately with different groups of children as per the level of learning of the group.
This system was flexible enough to suit the local needs. Classes were not held during harvest time because at such times the rural children usually worked in the farms. The pathshala resumed after the harvesting and threshing was over.
New Routines, New Rules
After 1854, a decision was taken to improve the system of vernacular education. The Company appointed a number of government pundits. Each pundit was given the charge of four to five schools. Each guru was asked to submit periodic reports and take classes according to regular time-table. Textbooks were introduced and a system of annual examination was also introduced. Students were asked to pay a regular fee, attend regular classes and obey the new rules of discipline.
Those pathshalas which accepted the new rules were given grants by the government. Those who did not want to work within the new system did not get government support. Gurus who wanted to retain their independence found it tough to compete with the government aided and regulated pathshalas.
The new rules and systems affected the children of peasants; especially those from poor families. Children had to skip the classes during harvest season. But irregular attendance was seen as indiscipline.
Many Indians were also thinking about the need of a proper education system for Indians. While some of them favoured the European system of education, some others favoured the traditional Indian system.
Mahatma Gandhi thought that colonial education created a sense of inferiority in the minds of Indians. He wanted an education system which could help the Indians rediscover their past glory and culture. He believed that an ability to read and write did not mean education. He argued the skill development and understanding the moral and practical ethos of life were more necessary aspects of education.
Rabindranath Tagore considered the environment of British controlled schools as stifling. He thought that such an environment killed the creativity of a child. Tagore established a school; called Santiniketan near Calcutta. This school was set up in rural settings where the students could be closer to the nature. He was in favour of allowing the student to explore natural creativity.
Reforms In Education will be available online in PDF book form soon. The solutions are absolutely Free. Soon you will be able to download the solutions.