Sunday, February 22, 2009

Education in India before the British Rule

  • Indian historical knowledge has been derived from the writings and some other valuable accounts left by the foreigners. For example, the universities of Nalanda and Taxila have been better known as some Greek or Chinese travellers had written about them centuries ago, which had survived in the form of some journals.
  • The most well-known and decisive point, which emerged from the educational surveys, lies in an examination made by William Adam. He, in his observations found that there existed about 1,00,000 village schools in Bengal and Bihar around the 1830s. Men like Thomas Munro, had observed that 'every village had a school'. Observations made by Dr. G.W.Leitner in 1882 show that the spread of education in the Punjab around 1850 was of a similar extent.
  • At about the same time, England had very few schools for the children of ordinary people till about 1800, and many of the older grammar school were in poor shape. According to A.E. Dobbs, the University of Oxford might be described as the chief Charity School of the poor as well as the chief Grammar School in England. It was also one of the greatest places of the education for students of theology, law and medicine.
  • The proportion of those attending institutional school education in India in 1800 was certainly not inferior to what was obtained in England then; and in many respects Indian schooling seems to have been much more extensive. The content of studies was better in India than in England. The method of school teaching was superior in India at that time. The school attendance, especially in the district of Madras Presidency, even in the decayed state of the period 1822-25, was proportionately far higher than the numbers in all variety of schools in England in 1800.
  • The government of Madras presidency completed a survey of Indian educational institutions in 1823-24. After that it came to be known that despite the poverty and disturbance, there were about 13,000 schools and 740 colleges under the presidency. According to this survey the original number of students in school and colleges were 1,88,650 out of which 42,502 were Brahmans and 85,400 were from the castes known as Shudras.
  • The numbers of girls were only 4540, but according to the report this lesser number of girls as alleged was mainly due to the prevalence of home education of girls. But the number of Mohammedan girl students in Malabar district was very large. The number of girl students there was 1,122 and for boy students 3196. How these institutions of education were destroyed is known to some extent by what Gandhiji said.
  • There were 1,094 institutions of higher learning. These were enumer-ated under the term 'colleges' (as mentioned in the prescribed form). The largest number of these, 279, were in the district of Rajahmundry with a total of 1.454 scholars; Coimbatore came next with 173 such places (724 scholars); Guntoor had 171 (with 939 scholars); Tanjore 109 (with 769 scholars); Nellore 107; North Arcot 69 (with 418 scholars); Salem 53 (with 324 scholars); Chingleput 51 (with 398 scholars); Masulipatarn 49 (with 199 scholers); Bellary 23; Trichnopoly (with 131 scholars) and Malabar with one old institution with 75 scholars.
  • Thirteen years later, a more limited semi-official survey of indigenous education was taken up in the Presidency of Bengal, which is known as the Adam's Reports. In spite of the controversies, Adam's Reports have mentioned that there were perhaps 1,00,000 village schools in Bengal and Bihar in some form till the 1830.
  • Adam divided the period spent in elementary schools into 4 stages, which were: The first stage was a period of about ten days, during which the young scholar was taught to form the letters of the alphabet; the second stage, extending two and a half to 4 years, was distinguished by the use of palm leaf as the material on which writing was performed and the scholar was taught to read and write and also learn the Cowrie table, the Numeration table, the katha table and the Ser table; the third stage extended from 2 to 3 years, which were employed in writing on the plantain leaf and addition, subtraction and other arithmetical operations were taught during this period; and finally in the fourth stage, which extended up to 2 years, the writing was done on the paper and the scholar was expected to read the Ramayana, Manas mangal etc.
  • About 45 years after Adam, Dr. G. W. Leitner prepared an even more voluminous survey of indigenous education.Leitner's researches showed that at the time of the annexation of the Punjab, the lowest computation gave 3,30,000 pupils in the schools of the various denominations who were acquainted with reading, writing and some methods of computation.
  • There was widespread neglect and decay in the field of indigenous education within a few decades after the onset of British rule. This is the major common impression, which emerges from the (1822-25) Madras Presidency data, the report of W. Adam on Bengal and Bihar (1835-38), and the Punjab survey by G.W. Leitner.
  • Gandhiji was very disappointed at the condition of Indian education during the British period. Gandhiji observed two main points in Indian education: (1) Today India is more illiterate than it was fifty or hundred years ago; and (2) the British administrators instead of looking after education and other matters which had existed, began to root them out.


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