Education During the British Rule Ncert Class 8th


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  • In 1783, a linguist named William Jones arrived in Calcutta for an appointment in the supreme court set up the Company.
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William Jones
  • Jones along with a being an expert in the law, had studied Greek and Latin at Oxford, knew French and English, had picked up Arabic from a friend and had also learnt Persian.
  • In Calcutta, he started learning Sanskrit language and grammar and poetry from a pandit.
  • Soon he started studying ancient Indian texts on law, philosophy, religion, politics, morality, arithmetic, medicine and the other sciences.
  • Jones discovered that his interests were shared by many British officials living in Calcutta at the time like Henry Thomas Colebrooke and Nathaniel Halhed.
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Henry Thomas Colebrooke
  • These two were also discovering the ancient Indian heritage, mastering Indian languages and translating Sanskrit and Persian works into English.
  • These three together set up the ‘Asiatic Society of Bengal’ and started a journal called ‘Asiatick Researches’.
  • Jones and Colebrooke came to represent a particular attitude towards India. They shared a deep respect for ancient cultures, both India and the West.
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The present-day building of Asiatic Society of Bengal
  • They felt Indian civilization had attained its glory in the ancient past but had subsequently declined and in order to understand India, it was necessary to discover the sacred and legal texts that were produced in the ancient period.
  • Therefore, Jones and Colebrooke went about discovering ancient texts, understanding their meaning, translating them, and making their findings known to others.
  • They believed, the project would not only help the British learn from Indian culture, but it would also help Indians rediscover their own heritage and British will become the guardian and masters of Indian culture in this way.
  • Many Company officials influenced with the idea argued that the British ought to promote Indian rather than Western learning.
  • They felt that institutions should be set up to encourage the study of ancient Indian texts and teach Sanskrit and Persian literature and poetry.
  • The officials also thought that Hindus and Muslims ought to be taught what they were already familiar with, and what they valued and treasured, not subjects that were alien to them.
  • They believed, could the British hope to win a place in the hearts of the “natives”; only then could the alien rulers expect to be respected by their subjects.
  • With that idea in mind, a madrasa was set up in Calcutta in 1781 to promote the study of Arabic, Persian and Islamic law.
  • The Hindu College was established in Benaras in 1791 to encourage the study of ancient Sanskrit texts that would be useful for the administration of the country.
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Benaras Hindu University (The Hindu college, 1791)
  • This divided the British officials into two parts– The ‘Angliest’ who supported the English language and the ‘Orientalistwhich supported the vernacular languages.
  • In the 19th century, the Angliest began to criticise the Orientalist vision of learning. They said that knowledge of the East was full of errors and unscientific thought, light-hearted and non-serious.
  • They argued that it was wrong on the part of the British to spend so much effort in encouraging the study of Arabic and Sanskrit language and literature. E.g James Mill
  • Mill stated that ‘the aim of education ought to be to teach what was useful and practical’. So Indians should be made familiar with the scientific and technical advances that the West had made, rather than with the poetry and sacred literature of the Orient.
  • Thomas Babington Macaulay was one more critic who finds India uncivilised and said that  “a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”.
  • Macaulay felt that knowledge of English would allow Indians to read some of the finest literature the world had produced; it would make them aware of the developments in Western science and philosophy.
  • Later, Macaulay’s minute, the English Education Act of 1835 was introduced.
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Thomas Babington Macaulay
  • The decision was to make English the medium of instruction for higher education and to stop the promotion of Oriental institutions like the Calcutta Madrasa and Benaras Sanskrit College.
  • These institutions were seen as “temples of darkness that were falling of themselves into decay. English textbooks now began to be produced for schools.

The Wood’s Dispatch

  • In 1854, the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London sent an educational despatch to the Governor-General in India.
  • It was issued by Charles Wood, the President of the Board of Control of the Company and it has come to be known as Wood’s Despatch.

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  • It outlined the education policy to be followed in India highlighting the practical benefits of a system of European learning, as opposed to Oriental knowledge.
  • Dispatch pointed about the economics, it said that European learning would enable Indians to recognise the advantages that flow from the expansion of trade and commerce.
  • This would enhance the value of resource development in Indians and would change their tastes and desires, which would create a demand for British goods, for Indians would begin to appreciate and buy things that were produced in Europe.

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  • Wood’s Despatch also argued that European learning would improve the moral character of Indians. It would make them truthful and honest and this will provide them with trusted employees.
  • It remarked that the literature of east was full of grave errors and it could also not instil in people a sense of duty and a commitment to work, nor could it develop the skills required for administration.
  • After 1854 Dispatch, the education departments of the government were set up to extend control over all matters regarding education.
  • Steps were also taken to establish a system of university education and attempts were also made to bring about changes within the system of school education.
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