Development of Education Policy

Development of Education Policy

This article deals with ‘ Development of Education Policy – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • During the 18th century, the Hindu & Muslim seats of learning languished . English East India Company (EIC) became ruling power in 1765 . Following the example of contemporary English Government , Court of Directors (CoD) refused to take on itself the responsibility for education of people of India & left it to Private efforts . However, Indian officers of EIC urged CoD to do something & as a result half hearted efforts were made
    • Warren Hastings himself an intellectual setup Calcutta Madrassa in 1781
    • Duncan (British Resident at Benaras) helped in opening Sanskrit College at Benaras

But these attempts for promoting Oriental Education met with little success.

  • On the other hand, Christian Missionaries were advocating for teaching in Western Literature and Christianity with English as medium of instruction  . Serampore Missionary were overly enthusiastic for this.

Work of Missionaries

  • Prior to 1765, the East India Company had been favourable to missionary activities. But later on it opposed all attempts at proselytisation as it wanted to consolidate its position as a political power. The differences between the East India Company and the missionaries continued to persist till 1813
  • Charles Grant, William Wilberforce, Henry Thornton and Edmond Parry  were seeking permission for  missionaries to serve as “school-masters, missionaries, or otherwise”  but their attempts were discouraged by the Company. Reasons given were
    • Court of Directors of Company argued “that the Hindus had as good a system of faith and morals as most people and that it would be madness to attempt their conversion or to give them any more learning or any other description of learning than what they already possessed.
    •  Mr. Randle Jackson, a member of parliament remarked, “We have lost our colonies in America by imparting education there; we need not do so in India too.”
  • Charles Grant continued with his efforts and also prepared the first formal blue-print on language and education for India in which he argued in favour of the English language, education and Christianity. He quoted the example of the Mughals who had earlier imposed their language upon their subjects. He wanted English to be introduced in India as the medium of instruction in a western system of education. Moreover, he suggested English to be adopted as the official language of the Government for easy communication between the rulers and the ruled.

Charter Act , 1813

  • Charter Act of 1813 marked a point of departure regarding the educational policy of East India Company towards its Indian subjects. Under it, the Company, for the first time, accepted state responsibility in the sphere of education.  Act empowered Governor General of India “to direct a sum of not less than one lakh of rupees each year for
    • Revival & promotion of literature .
    • Encouragement of Learned natives of India .
    • Introduction & promotion of knowledge of sciences among inhabitants .
  • Also Christian Missionaries were permitted to carry on their proselytising and educational activities in the manner they liked.

In spite of the parliamentary sanction, there had been a lull in the educational activity and the money remained unspent. Nothing was done up to 1823 when a General Committee of Public Instruction was appointed. The Committee re-organised the Calcutta Madrasa and the Benaras Sanskrit College. In 1823 Lord Amherst founded the Sanskrit College at Calcutta. Two more oriental colleges at Agra and Delhi were also established. The Committee undertook the task of publishing Sanskrit and Arabic texts and translation of English books containing ‘useful knowledge’ into Oriental classical languages.

Growing Popularity of Western Learning and Raja Ram Mohan Roy

  • Main factor which tipped in favour of English Language & Western Literature was Economic  ie Indians wanted a system of education which could help them to earn their livelihood . Progressive Indians also favoured this
  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy (RRMR) protested against govt’s proposal to strengthen Calcutta Madrassa & Benaras Sanskrit College & establishment of more Oriental Colleges in Bengal.   He also wrote to Governor General Lord Amherst against this in 1823
  • He advocated Modern Scientific learning and wrote , ” The Sanskrit System of Education would be best calculated to keep the country in darkness , if such had been the policy of British government. But as the improvement of the native population is the object of the Government , it will consequently promote a more liberal & enlightened system of Instruction embracing  Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry , Anatomy with other useful sciences. 
  • His protests didn’t go unheed and Government agreed to
    • Encourage English as well as Oriental Languages
    • Grant was sanctioned for Calcutta Hindu College which imparted education in English language
    • Government setup translation of European scientific works into Oriental Languages.

Oriental Anglicist Controversy

General Committee of Instruction consisted of 10 members & within Committee there were two Groups

  • Anglicists advocated the spread of Western knowledge through the medium of English. This school included the missionaries and the younger civilians & was also supported by Indians like Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
  • Orientalists led by Princep : Advocated Orientalist education. Orientalists while agreeing to the programme of the dissemination of western sciences and knowledge among the Indians, staunchly advocated the encouragement of Sanskrit and Arabic literature. The adherents of this school were further split into two groups over the question of the medium of instruction.
    1. One group (consisted of the older officials of the Company in Bengal) suggested that western science and knowledge should be spread in India through the medium of classical languages such as Sanskrit and Arabic. This group was especially strong in Bengal and was influenced by the views of Warren Hastings and Minto.
    2. The other group (led by Munro and Elplinstone and influential in Bombay) believed that western education could reach the mass of the people only of it was imparted in vernaculars or modem Indian languages.

Equal division of votes in Committee made it almost impossible to function effectively.  Ultimately both the parties submitted their dispute to Governor General in Council in 1835.

  • Macaulay was the Law Member at that time& he wrote his famous Minute on Education& placed it before the Council
    • Favoured view point of the Anglicist Party
    • Showed great contempt for the Indian Customs & Literature and said , ” a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature in India & Arabia.”
    • Regarding the utility of English language he wrote, ” Whoever knows English has  access to all the vast intellectual wealth which all the wisest nations of the earth have created & handed over in course of 90 generations.”
    • Possibly Macaulay aimed to create a class of persons who should be “Indian in blood & colour but English in tastes, in opinion , in morals & in intellect. ” He sought the production of Englishmen to fill lower cadres of EIC’s administration.
  • The Government of William Bentinck accepted the viewpoint of Macaulay that object of the EIC’s Government should be promotion of European literature & sciences through the medium of English language & in future all funds were to be spent for this purpose
  • Also during this time ,  Court of Directors in England came under the influence of James Mill who advocated  western education.  So CoD also favoured Anglicist point of view

Macaulayian System

  • It was systematic effort on the part of the British government to educate upper classes through  medium of English language
  • Education of masses wasn’t the aim of Macaulay & he himself admitted that it was impossible for them with limited means that were available.
  • He put implicit faith on INFILTRATION THEORY ie he believed that English educated persons would act as CLASS OF INTERPRETERS & in turn enrich the Vernacular Languages & Literature . In this way, knowledge of Western Sciences & literary would reach to the masses. Thus a natural corollary of Macaulay’s theory was the development of Vernacular languages as ancillary to the teachings of English. Thus according to the ‘filtration theory’, “education was to permeate down to the masses from above. Drop by drop from the Himalayas of Indian life useful information was to trickle downwards, forming in time a broad and stately stream to irrigate the thirsty plains.”
  • This theory was also supported by the missionaries who were of the opinion that if Hindus of the higher castes were converted to Christianity through education, other lower caste people would follow suit automatically
  • This theory had to be abandoned later because it did not work out for two reasons
    • Persons who had acquired English education were able to get government jobs easily hence they did not make any effort for educating their countrymen.
    • New education had “created a separate caste of English scholars, who no longer had sympathy, or had very little sympathy, with their countrymen.”

Thomsanian system

  • In NW Provinces (UP) , James Thomson (LT Gov) from 1843 to 53 made efforts to develop
    • Comprehensive scheme of village education through the medium of Vernacular Languages.
    • Small English Schools were abolished and English Education was confined to Colleges .
    • In Village schools useful subjects like Mensuration, Agricultural Science etc were taught in medium of vernaculars .
    • Department of Education was organised for the development of indigenous schools.
  • This was seen as alternate to Macaulian Education System.

Sir Charles Wood’s Dispatch on Education , 1854

  • He was President of BoC & was firm believer in the superiority of English Race & institutions . He  believed that these institutions could serve as a useful model for the world
  • In 1854 , he prepared his comprehensive despatch on the scheme of future education in India & it is considered as Magna Carta of English Education in India
  • It declared following
    • Aim of Govt’s Educational Policy was teaching of Western education .
    • Medium of Instruction – For higher education English language was the perfect medium but at the same time recognised the importance of Vernacular language because only through Vernacular languages , European knowledge could infilter to the masses
    • He gave following system
Primary Schools Vernacular Language
High Schools Anglo-Vernacular Language
College To be present in each distt & in English language
  • Despatch also rejected the Downward Filtration Theory, as it was considered a retrograde policy. It was stated in the Despatch that the government should assume direct responsibilities for the education of the masses and women.
  • This policy proposed that while a relatively small group of highly edu­cated Indians would be needed to man the subordinate positions in the administration, the wider population should also have “useful  and  practical knowledge” in order to become good workers, capable of developing the vast resources of the empire, and also become good consumers valuing the superior quality of British goods re­quiring a market.
  • It was thought that as government could never have the funds to provide for all the educational needs of the country, the bulk of its educational institutions would have to be organised by private bodies – whether missionary or Indian. Hence, Despatch recommended Grant in Aid to encourage private enterprise in field of Education. Grants was conditional on employing qualified teachers and maintenance of proper standards of teaching
  • For a systematic supervision of education system, Department of Public Instruction in each Province to be made
  • Universities on the model of London University were proposed at Calcutta, Bombay &. Madras
  • Emphasised on the importance of Vocational instruction& need for establishing technical schools and colleges
  • Women education was favoured
  • Almost all the proposals of Dispatch were Implemented.

Hunter Education Commission

  • In 1882, Govt appointed Commission under WW Hunter to
    • review the progress of education in India
    • Enquire the state of elementary education and means by which it can be extended and improved
  • Another reason was propaganda by Missionaries in England that Education policy in India wasn’t in accordance with Wood’s Dispatch
  • Main Recommendations were
Primary education Special care for extension and improvement of Primary education & recommended transfer of Primary education to newly set District and Municipal Boards.
Primary education should be through Vernacular
Secondary Education There should be two divisions for this
1. Literary education leading upto Entrance Examination to Universities
2. Education of practical character preparing students for commercial & vocational careers
Private Enterprise Recommended that an all out effort should be made to encourage private enterprise in field of education. For this liberal Grant in Aid system & recognition of aided schools as equal to Govt institutions was done.
Female Education – Recognized inadequate facilities for female education outside Presidency Towns and recommended for its spread

Twenty years following the report saw an unprecedented growth and expansion of secondary and collegiate education.

Indian Universities Act , 1904

  • 1901 : Curzon summoned highest educational officers of the Govt & Representatives of Universities to Shimla & passed 150 Resolutions touching each and every conceivable branch of Education.
  • This was followed by appointment of Commission under Presidency of Sir Thomas Raleigh in 1902 to inquire into conditions and prospects of Universities in India . As a result of these recommendations, Indian Universities Act was passed in 1904 . Main changes were
    • Universities were desired to make provisions for study & research
    • Act laid down that no of fellows of a University shall not be less than 50 nor more than 100 and a Fellow should normally hold office for period of 6 years instead for life
    • The Governor’s Control over the Universities was further increased by vesting the Govt with powers to Veto the regulations passed by the Senate of a University. The Govt could also make additions or alterations in the regulations framed by the Senate & even frame regulations itself  over and above the head of the Senate
    • Increased University Control over the Private Colleges by laying down stricter conditions of affiliation and periodical inspection by Syndicate . The Private Colleges were required to keep proper standard of efficiency
    • GG in Council was empowered to define the territorial limits of a University or decide the affiliation of colleges to University.
  • Nationalist Opinion opposed this & called it a Retrograde step and believed that Curzon sought to reduce the Universities to position of department of the State . Even Sadler Commission commented that Act of 1904 made Indian universities most Govt controlled Universities in the world

Sadler’s Commission , 1917-19

  • In 1917, Govt appointed this  to study and report problems of Calcutta University under Sadler (VC of University of Leeds) .
  • Earlier, Hunter Commission looked into elementary education and Rayleigh Commission into University Education. But this commission looked into whole Education system from Primary to University level.
  • Main theme was – effective synthesis between colleges and universities & foundation of sound university organisation.
  • Its main Recommendations were
    • 12 years school course was recommended . After assessing at Intermediate Exam rather than Matriculation , the students were to enter University . The Govt created new type of institutions for this called Intermediate Colleges. These Colleges could either be independent or attached to high schools
    • Duration of degree course after Intermediate State should be limited to 3 years .
    • Less rigidity in framing regulations for the University .
    • Old type of Indian University with large no of affiliated & widely scattered colleges should be replaced by centralized unitary residential autonomous bodies. Unitary University was recommended for Dacca to lessen pressure on Calcutta University.   
    • Necessity of providing substantial facilities for training of teachers was emphasized
    • Provide courses in applied science and vocational training
    • Facilities for female education & establishment of Special Board for Women Education in University of Calcutta.

Hartog Committee , 1929

  • Quantitative increase in Education led to deterioration of Quality & lowering of Standards . Hence Indian Statutory Commission (Simon Commission) appointed an Committee for development of Education.
  • Main recommendations were
    • Emphasized on importance of Primary Education but condemned the hasty expansion & compulsion in education
    • Secondary education to be diversified leading to industrial courses & commercial careers.
    • Pointed out weaknesses of University education & criticized the policy of indiscriminate admissions leading to lowering of standards . Recommended all efforts should be laid in improving university work & giving good education to students who were fit to receive it .

Wardha Scheme

  • Government of India Act , 1935 introduced Provincial Autonomy .
  • Congress Party came to power in 7 provinces and worked to evolve national scheme of Education for the Country. Gandhi wrote articles in his paper Harijan & made suggestions regarding scheme of education called Basic Education.
  • Zakir Hussain committee worked out details of scheme & prepared detailed syllabus for no of crafts & made suggestions concerning productive work. It centered around
    • Manual productive work which might cover the remuneration of teachers
    • Envisaged 7 years course through mother tongue of the students
  • But nothing much done later because Congress Ministries resigned in 1939

Sergeant Plan of Education

  • In 1944, Central Advisory Board of Education drew up a national scheme of Education called Sergant Plan
    • Establishment of Elementary Schools and High School
    • Introduction of Universal free and Compulsory Education between 6 & 11 years
    • School course of 6 years to be provided between 11 to 17
    • High Schools to provide 2 types of Education ie Academic and Technical

1 thought on “Development of Education Policy”

  1. Life isn’t about getting and having, it’s about giving and being. (Hayat almak veya sahip olmak değil vermek ve olmak demektir.) – Kevin Kruse


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