21 December 2016



Lord Curzon came to India in a very crucial period of Indian history. This was the beginning of 20th century and severe famine and epidemic of Plague had crippled the social life of the people. Primary education was in a very bad shape.
But with the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885 there was a revival of a national spirit in the field of education. The people of the country started realising the need for a system of education that would represent our national character. Several national leaders like B.G. Tilak, Annie Besant, C. R. Das, Dadabhai Naoroji, Gokhale had emerged and helped in the development of the spirit of nationalism. Lord Curzon came to India as Viceroy in 1899. During his vice-royalty education in India was reviwed very critically and steps were taken to improve the different levels of education. This article will focus on Lord Curzon’s educational policy in different levels of education and how it influenced in the development of education or our country.



The first step in the educational reform that Lord Curzon initiated was the holding of a conference at Simla in September 1901. This was the first conference on all India basis. The conference was attended by the Provincial Directors of Public Instruction, representatives of the Christian Missionaries and a few selected educationists. But the representatives of the Indian people were conspicuously absent. The conference continued for a fortnight. Lord Curzon himself presided over the conference and took a very prominent part in drafting the resolution. All total 150 resolutions were passed, which were mostly unanimous and which covered all the stages of Indian education from primary to university level. These resolutions formed the basis of the Government Resolution of 1904 on Education Policy. The Government identified the shortcomings of Indian education and the major policy decisions were as follows-
  • The Government should fully control all stages of education.
  • The Government should spend more money on education.
  • Government schools should be such that it could serve as models to private schools.


Now you know about Simla Education conference, which was the basis of all reforms on education introduced by Lord Curzon. In this section we shall discuss his primary education policy.

Lord Curzon realised the poor condition of primary education in India interms of quality and quantity. Therefore he gave priority to this stage of education. In the Government Resolution of 1904 he declared that the primary education had received insufficient attention and it was the duty of both the central and provincial Governments to pay more attention for the expansion and improvement of primary education. Some of the significant steps taken by him in this regard are mentioned below—
Liberal grant-in-aid :
Lord Curzon had realised that primary education in India had suffered mainly because limited funds available for it. He therefore directed the provincial Governments to spend larger amounts on primary education by giving necessary recurring grants to the local boards and the Municipalities. He raised the Government grant to local authorities from one third to one half of the total expenditure. He also sanctioned special grants for the diseased and famine striken people.
Abolition of the system of payment by results :
Lord Curzon stopped the system of aiding primary schools on the basis of examination results, i.e., ‘Payment by Results’ as was introduced by the Hunter Commission 1882. Due to this system primary education failed to develop substantially. Curzon introduced more scientific methods of paying grant in aid and suggested that the Government should follow a more liberal policy for providing grants to primary schools.
Training of Teachers:
For qualitative improvement of primary education specific importance was given on training of teachers. Steps were taken to establish training centres for primary teachers and it was directed that the duration of training should not be less than two years. It was further suggested that the village school teachers should be given training in agricultural education.
Improvement of Teacher’s Salary :
Lord Curzon gave importance on raising the standard of living of the primary school teachers by restructuring their pay scale. He observed that there were differences in pay scales of the teachers in different states. Curzon tried to bring the pay scale of teacher to the equal level but he could not make it fully due to his short span of time in office.
Reform in curriculum :
Lord Curzon wanted to up grade the primary school curriculum. Besides teaching three R’s, he directed to include Agriculture as a subject in the primary school curriculum as India is a predominantly an agricultural country. Physical education was another useful subject introduced in the curriculum. Lord Curzon felt that the primary school curriculum needed to be intimately related to local environment and therefore, suggested that the curriculum of rural and urban schools should be different.
Method of Teaching:
Curzon observed that the methods of teaching in primary schools had been old and unscientific for which children were not attracted to these schools. He tried to introduce better and scientific methods of teaching like kindergarten method for improvement of the teaching method. This type of method was to be adopted where competent teachers were available.

Assessment of Lord Curzon’s Primary Education Policy

Now you know about the steps taken by Lord Curzon for improving the condition of Primary Education, you should also understand the impact of his policy, i.e., how far it helped to improve primary education in India.

Actually, the policy of Lord Curzon marked the beginning of a new era in the history of primary education in India. He correctly identified that money was the main hurdle to achieving the objectives of primary education. Accordingly, he followed the policy of sanctioning liberal grants from the Government funds for its expansion and consequently there was a considerable increase in the number of pupils attending primary schools. Curzon also stopped the discriminatory system of payment by results and introduced the more scientific method of paying recurring and non-recurring grants to remove financial difficulties. As a result the number of recognised primary schools increased from 93,604 in 1901-02 to 1,18,262 in 1911-12, i.e., within a period of 10 years (Naik and Nurallah, p. 263).

Lord Curzon also tried to remove traditionalism in our primary education system and introduced subjects like Agriculture and Physical education in the primary school curriculum to make it more useful, practical and modern. He made provision for training of the teachers and make their pay scale improved and uniform.

Besides these, Curzon tried to introduce improved method of teaching like the Kindergarten method and gave importance on developing the reasoning power rather than mechanical memorization. By observing all these we must admit that Lord Curzon tried to bring the spirit of modernisation in our primary education.

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