Class 8 History

Reforms in Education

The education system which is prevalent in India is also known as the Macaulay System. This name has stuck because this system was based on recommendations by a British named Thomas Babington Macaulay. All of you have started your education in schools which follow this system. We are so familiar with this system that it appears to be the second nature for our educational ethos. But this system was introduced about 200 years ago by the colonial rulers.

In this lesson, you will learn about the prevalent system of education before the new system was initiated. You will also learn about some British thinkers who were proponents of the Orientalism, i.e. the traditional system of education and cultural philosophy of the east. Then, you will learn about those thinkers who thought that English education was better and more advanced. You will also learn about some Indian thinkers who were critical of the modern education system.

The tradition of Orientalism

The term Orientalism was coined by western thinkers to define and explain the system of education and cultural philosophy of the east. There were many western thinkers who were appreciative of the oriental culture and education. Some examples are given here.

William Jones joined as a junior judge in the Supreme Court at Calcutta in 1783. Jones was not only an expert in law but also a linguist. He knew Greek, French, English and Persian. At Calcutta, he took the help of pundits to study Sanskrit. With his new found knowledge of Sanskrit, he studied many religious scriptures of India.

Many other contemporary British officials took a keen interest in the ancient Indian law, philosophy, religion, politics, morality, arithmetic, medicine and other sciences. Henry Thomas Colebrooke and Nathaniel Halhed were some other like-minded British officials. Colebrooke, Halhed and Jones set up the Asiatic Society of Bengal and started a journal called Asiatic Researches.

These people had a deep respect for ancient cultures, both Indian and Western. They thought it important to discover the sacred texts in order to understand India. They were of the view that a new study of these texts could form the basis of future development in India. They felt that this would not only help the British learn from the Indian culture but would also help Indians rediscover their own heritage.

Many Company officials were influenced by such ideas. They argued in favour of promoting Indian way of learning rather than the Western learning.

With this object, a madarsa was set up in Calcutta in 1781 to promote the study of Arabic, Persian and Islamic law. Similarly, the Hindu College was established in Benares in 1791 to promote the study of ancient Sanskrit texts.

Grave Errors of the East

Many other officials were highly critical of the Orientalists. They said that the knowledge of the East was faulty and unscientific. They argued that it would be a futile exercise to promote the study of Arabic and Sanskrit language and literature.

James Mills was among the vociferous critics of the Orientalism. He argued that the aim of education should be to teach what was useful and practical. He was in favour of making the Indians familiar with the scientific and technical advances that the West had made.

Thomas Babington Macaulay was another prominent critic of Orientalism. He thought that India was an uncivilized country, and it was the duty of the colonial rulers to civilize the Indians. He was of the view that the English language was necessary to help people in civilizing, changing their tastes, values and culture.

English Education Act 1835

Working on Macaulay's advice, the English Education Act of 1835 was introduced. As per this Act, English was to be made the medium of instruction and promotion of Oriental institutions would be stopped.

Education for Commerce

In 1854, the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London sent and educational despatch to the Governor General in India. It was issued by Charles Wood, the President of the Board of Control of the Company. It came be known as Wood's Despatch. Some salient points of this Despatch are as follows:

Various steps were taken to start the new system of education. Education departments were set up to control all matters related to education. A system of university education was established.