NCERT / CBSE NOTES | Class 8th (VIII) : Chapter Summary

Civilising the "Native", Educating the Nation

British Views on Indian Education

There were conflicting views on educating Indians among the British. However, two British officers William Jones and Henry Thomas Colebrook thought otherwise. William Jones, a junior judge at the Supreme Court in Calcutta was a linguist and fascinated by the Sanskrit language.
Jones and Colebrook formed the Asiatic Society of Bengal to conduct Oriental studies; which meant scholarly knowledge of the culture and language of Asia. By the end of the 18th century, oriental institutions like madrasa and Hindu College were set up at Calcutta and Benares respectively.

In the early 19th century, British officials James Mill and Thomas Babington Macaulay vociferously opposed the Oriental education and wanted to promote Western Education in India.

Thomas Babington Macaulay stressed on the need to teach English language in India and subsequently the English Education Act of 1835 was passed. According to this act, English was to be made the medium of teaching for higher education and oriental institutions would no longer be promoted.

In 1854, a despatch popularly known as Wood’s Despatch was issued by Charles Wood, the president of the East India Company’s Board of Control. It outlined the educational policies to be followed in India and highlighted the practical benefits of the European educational system.

Following the Wood’s Despatch, educational departments of British government were set up.

Local Schools Before and During British Rule

Before the British rule, there were many pathshalas in India. There were than 100,000 pathshalas with each having had about 20 students. The educational system books, blackboards, benches, time-tables, roll-call registers and exams. The classes were held at a village temple, shop, or under a tree and in many places it was held at the guru’s house.

Teaching was oral and there were no separate classes. The fees in a pathshala depended on the parent’s income. No classes were held at the pathshala during the harvest, as many rural children worked in the fields at this time.

In 1854, the British decided to reform the pathshalas and appointed government pundits to improve the teaching standards of pathshalas and oversee its activities. The gurus were now told to follow a regular time table, teach using textbooks and submit periodic reports. The students had to attend regular classes, pay a fixed fee and clear exams.

Pathshalas that agreed to follow the rules set by the British were given government grants whereas the ones that disagreed were not given any support.

The new system adversely affected the lives of many poor students since they could no longer attend school due to fixed fees and regular time tables. Many gurus too, who wished to work independently found it difficult to compete with the government aided pathshalas.

Indian Views on Western Education

There were mixed views on the Western Education in India. However, Mahatma Gandhi was entirely against Western education. According to him, Western education created a sense of inferiority amongst Indians and eroded their faith in the richness of their own culture. He felt it was ineffective as it stressed on reading and writing rather than practical knowledge and experiences.

He envisioned a national education system that would help Indians to realize their self-worth and dignity. For this reason, he wanted education to be imparted in local languages rather than English. Rabindranath Tagore also disapproved of Western education. Tagore believed the rigid education system of British schools killed the natural creativity in a child.

Tagore set up an institution called Santiniketan in 1901, where children could be free to explore and learn about 100 kilometres away from Calcutta.

However, there were some differences in Gandhiji’s and Tagore’s views. While Gandhiji was absolutely against Western education and culture, Tagore wanted to combine the best elements of Western and Indian education and culture.

Therefore, along with art, dance and music, subjects like science and technology were also taught at Santiniketan.
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