Language and Education Policy of British in India
Initially, the East India Company did not evince any particular interest in matters of education. Although the British had captured Bengal in 1757, yet the responsibility of imparting education remained only in Indian hands. The study of ancient texts written in Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit still continued. In 1781, Warren Hastings established a Madrasa in Calcutta to encourage the study of Muslim laws along with Arabic and Persian languages.
A decade later in 1791 due to the sincere efforts of the British resident, Jonathan Duncan, a Sanskrit College was established to promote the study of Hindu laws and philosophy in Banaras. Therefore, it must be contended that during the first three decades of the 19th century, the development of education took place only through the traditional institutions.
It is apparent from the government and Church records that the state of oriental learning at the time of the establishment of the Company's rule in Bengal, there were about 80,000 traditional institutions of learning in Bengal alone, which means that there was at least one institution for every four hundred people in that province. Different educational surveys of Madras, Bombay and Punjab also demonstrate similar facts. There was at least one school in every village of India at that time.
The East India Company began to adopt a dual policy in the sphere of education. It discouraged the prevalent system of oriental education and gave importance to western education and English language. The Charter Act of 1813 adopted a provision to spend one lakh rupees per annum for the spread of education in India.
Although there was a prolonged debate pertaining to education during the course of a general discussion on the Act of 1813 in the British Parliament, yet the matter continued to generate debate for the next 20 years. Consequently, not even a single penny out of the allocated funds could be spent on education.
The contemporary British scholars were divided into two groups on the issue of development of education in India. One group, called the Orientalists, advocated the promotion of oriental subjects through Indian languages. The other group, called the Anglicists, argued the cause of western sciences and literature in the medium of English language.
In 1829, after assuming the office of the Governor-General of India, Lord William Bentinck, emphasized on the medium of English language in Indian education. In the beginning of 1835, the 10 members of the General Committee of Public Instruction were clearly divided into two equal groups. Five members including the Chairman of the committee Lord Macaulay were in favour of adopting English as medium of public instruction whereas the other five were in favour of oriental languages.
The stalemate continued till 2 February 1835 when the Chairman of the committee, Lord Macaulay announced his famous Minute advocating the Anglicist point of view. Consequently, despite fierce opposition from all quarters, Bentinck got the resolution passed on 7 March 1835 which declared that henceforth, government funds would be utilized for the promotion of western literature and science through the medium of English language.
In 1854, Sir Charles Wood sent a comprehensive dispatch as a grand plan on education. The establishment of departments of public instructions in five provinces and introduction of the pattern of grants in aid to encourage private participation in the field of education were recommended. Besides, the dispatch also laid emphasis on the establishment of schools for technical education, teacher and women education. Over and above all these, the dispatch recommended the establishment of one University each in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, on the model of the London University. Consequently, within the next few years, the Indian education became rapidly westernized.
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