Despatch : An official report, for example, Wood’s Despatch.
Guru : The teacher.
Linguist : A person who knows and studies several languages.
Orientalists : Orientalists are those who have scholarly knowledge of the language and culture of Asia.
Munshi : Munshi is a person who can read, write and teach Persian.
Madrasa : Madrasa is an Arabic word for a place of learning; a type of school or college.
Minute : A short note on a subject.
Native : A person born at a particular place or associated with a particular place by birth.
Pathshala : A local school.
Vernacular : Vernacular is a term generally used to refer to a local language or dialect as distinct from what is seen as the standard language.
1781 : A madrasa was set up in Calcutta.
1791 : The Hindu College was set up in Banaras.
1835 : The English Education Act was implemented.
1854 : Wood’s Despatch was issued.
1901 : Rabindranath Tagore founded Shantiniketan.
(i) In 1783, a person named William Jones arrived in Calcutta. He was appointed as a junior judge at the Supreme Court that the Company had set up. In addition to being an expert in law, Jones was also a linguist.
(ii) He had studied Greek and Latin at Oxford, knew French and English, had picked up Arabic from a friend, and had also learnt Persian.
(iii) At Calcutta, he began spending many hours daily with pandits who taught him the subtleties of Sanskrit language, grammar and poetry.
(iv) Jones discovered the ancient Indian heritage, mastered Indian languages and translated Sanskrit and Persian works into English. He had set up the Asiatic Society of Bengal and started a journal called Asiatic Researches.
(v) He shared deep respect for ancient cultures, both of India and West.
English Education Act
Its features were :
(1) English was made the medium of instruction for higher education. English textbooks began to be produced for schools.
(2) It was introduced to stop the promotion of Oriental Institutions like the Calcutta Madrasa and Banaras Sanskrit College. These institutions were seen as “temples of darkness that were falling of themselves into decay.”
(i) In 1854, the East India Company in London sent an educational despatch to the Governor-General in India. Issued by Charles Wood, the President of the Board of Control of the Company, it came to be known as Wood’s Despatch.
(ii) Outlining the educational policy that was to be followed in India, it emphasized once again the practical benefits of a system of European learning as opposed to Oriental knowledge.
(iii) It emphasized on European way of life , as it would tastes European and desires and create a demand for British goods.
(iv) European learning would improve the moral character of Indians. It would make them truthful and honest, and thus supply the Company with civil servants who could be trusted and depended upon.
(v) Education in English crippled Indians, distanced them from their own social surroundings, and made them “strangers in their own lands”. Speaking a foreign tongue, despising local culture, the English educated did not know how to relate to the masses.
(vi) Western education, Mahatma Gandhi said, focused on reading and writing rather than oral knowledge; it valued textbooks rather than live experience and practical knowledge. He argued that education ought to develop a person’s mind and soul.
The Orientalists and the Anglicists
(a) Orientalists thought that in order to understand India, it was necessary to discover the sacred and legal texts that were produced in the ancient period.
(b) They thought that Eastern education would help Indians rediscover their own heritage and understand the lost glories of their past as well as, it would help the British to become the guardians of Indian culture and masters.
(c) They also believed for the British, in order to win a place in the hearts of the “natives”, Indians ought to be taught what they were already familiar to and what they valued and treasured and not those subjects that were alien to them.
From the early 19th century, the Orientalists’ vision of learning was criticized by many British officials. They held the view that oriental education is unscientific and full of errors. They considered Eastern literature as non-serious and light-hearted. So they were of the opinion that it was wrong on the part of the British to spend so much in encouraging the study of Arabic and Sanskrit language.
(a) Anglicists said that knowledge of the East was full of errors and unscientific thought. Eastern literature was non-serious and light-hearted.
(b) Anglicist thought the aim of the education ought to teach what was useful and practical. So Indians should be made familiar with the scientific and technical advances that Europe had made.
(c) They felt that knowledge of English would make the Indians aware of the developments in Western science and philosophy. Teaching of English could thus be a way of civilizing people, changing their tastes, values and culture.
William Adam was a Scottish missionary who toured the districts of Bengal and Bihar. He was asked by the Company to report on the progress of education in vernacular schools.
Various steps were taken to improve the system of vernacular education after 1854. Order was introduced within the system of vernacular education. Routines were imposed and rules were established. It was ensured that inspections were conducted at regular intervals.
The three remarks given by Adam in his report on vernacular education in India were :
(a) There was flexibility in the approach and conditions of the educational institutions. There were no fixed fee, no printed books, no separate school building, no annual examinations and no regular time table.
(b) Classes were held under a banyan tree, or at a corner of a village shop or temple, or at the guru’s place. During the harvest time, classes were not held.
(c) Fee of the students was entirely dependent on the income of the parents. Rich students had to pay more fees than the poor ones.
(i) East India Company appointed a number of government pandits, each incharge of looking after four to five schools.
(ii) The task of the pandit was to visit the pathshalas and try to improve the standard of teaching.
(iii) Each guru was asked to submit periodic reports and take classes according to a regular timetable.
(iv) Teaching was now based on textbooks and learning was tested through annual examination.
(v) Students were asked to pay regular fees, attend regular classes, sit on fixed seats and obey the new rules of discipline.
(vi) Pathshalas which accepted the new rules were supported through government grants. Those who were unwilling to work within the new system, received no government support.
Tagore’s “abode of peace”
(i) Tagore wanted to set up a school where a child could be happy, where he could be free and creative, where he was able to explore his own thoughts and desires.
(ii) Tagore felt that childhood ought to be a time of self learning, outside the rigid and restricting discipline of the schooling system set up by the British.
(iii) Teachers had to be imaginative, understand the child, and help the child develop his curiosity.
(iv) According to Tagore, the existing schools killed the natural desire of the child to be creative, his sense of wonder.
(v) Tagore was of the view that creative learning could be encouraged only within a natural environment. So he chose to set up his school 100 kilometres away from Calcutta, in a rural setting. He saw it as an abode of peace (shantiniketan), where while living in harmony with nature, children could cultivate their natural creativity.
(i) Colebrooke came to represent a particular attitude towards India.
(ii) He had a deep respect for ancient cultures, both of India and the West.
(iii) He felt that India had attained glory in the ancient past, but it had subsequently declined.
(iv) In order to understand India, it was necessary to discover the sacred and legal texts that were produced in the ancient period.
(v) For only those texts could reveal the real ideas and laws of the Hindus and Muslims, and only a new study of these texts could form the basis of future development in India.
(vi) Colebrooke went about discovering ancient texts, understanding their meaning, translating them, and making their findings known to others.
(vii) This project, he believed, would help Indians to re-discover their own heritage, and understand the lost glories of their past. In this process, the Britishers would become the guardians of Indian culture as well as its masters.
(a) The Company appointed a number of government pandits, each incharge of looking after four to five schools.
(b) Pandits were made responsible to improve the standard of teaching in their respective pathshalas. They were asked to visit the pathshalas on regular basis.(c) Each guru had to take classes according to a regular time table and submit periodic reports.