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THE DEVELOPMENT OF AN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
UNTIL the conclusion of the Mahratta wars in 1818 the British Government in India had neither the inclination nor the opportunity of considering the establishment of an educational system. Hitherto, their energies had been devoted chiefly to the consolidation of political power within the country. Only a few spasmodic efforts had been made to provide facilities for the education of the people. The Calcutta Madrasa had been started in 1781 for the teaching of Muhammadans, and in 1792 the Sanskrit College at Benares had been founded by Jonathan Duncan. The chief object of these institutions was to train up a number of Indians sufficiently versed in Hindu and Muhammadan law to satisfy the requirements of the judicial administration; and therefore the courses of study were strictly Oriental.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century a few of the rulers began to realise the duty of educating the people entrusted to their care. Among these was Lord Minto who, writing in 1811, lamented the decay of learning among the peoples of India. Two years later, when the Company's charter was renewed, a lakh of rupees (£10,000) was set apart "for the revival and promotion of literature, and the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories." But it was not until 1823 that the Governor-General in Council resolved that "there should be constituted a general committee of public instruction for the purpose of ascertaining the state of public education, and of the public institutions designed for its promotion, and of considering, and 1 C. E. Trevelyan: The Education of the People of India." (Longmans.)
from time to time submitting to Government, the suggestion of such measures as it may appear expedient to adopt with a view to the better instruction of the people, to the introduction among them of useful knowledge and to the improvement of their moral character." As a result of this resolution committees were formed in the large centres of population, whose policy apparently was to publish Sanskrit and Arabic books rather than to encourage and supervise the establishment of schools and colleges. The reason why this policy was adopted is explained by Mr. Trevelyan, who points out that owing to the influence of Lord Wellesley's college at Fort William for the training of the Company's writers the sole test of merit among the members of the Civil Service was a knowledge of Oriental learning. The literary circle of Calcutta, therefore, whose life was centred to some extent round the Asiatic Society which had been founded by Sir William Jones in 1784, dominated the educational policy of the time, and insisted upon the encouragement of Eastern rather than Western learning.
Certain events then occurred which rendered necessary a reconsideration of its educational policy by the British Government in India. In the first place, Christian missionarles had settled in some numbers in the Madras Presidency and, to a lesser extent, in Bengal and elsewhere. These men introduced into the country a study of the English language and of Western learning. Perhaps the most remarkable of these was Alexander Duff, an old pupil of Dr. Chalmers, who arrived at Calcutta in 1830. He decided at once to adopt a missionary policy very different from that of his predecessors who relied chiefly on their preaching to convert the people to Christianity. It was his object--and in this he received the support of Dr. Wilson of Bombay-" by proper culture to awaken, develop, stimulate, and direct the various powers and susceptibilities of the human mind, and for this end to employ the English language as the most effective instrument; to imbue the whole knowledge thus imparted with the spirit of true religion; and at the same
1 C. E. Trevelyan: "The Education of the People of India." (Longmans.)
time to devote daily a portion of time in every class to the systematic study of the Bible." With the assistance of Ram Mohan Roy he rented a building and started his school. Duff in no way neglected the vernaculars, for no boy in his school was allowed to begin English until he could read with ease his own vernacular. Success was immediate ; and by his experiment Duff proved both the possibility and the wisdom of using the English language as a medium of instruction. Lord William Bentinck bore testimony to the excellence of Duff's work in these words :
I have always considered the Hindu College as one of the greatest engines of useful purpose that had been erected since our establishment in India; but that institution, in point of usefulness, can bear no comparison with yours, in which improved education of every kind is combined with religious instruction. I will not prolong this letter further than to say that I cannot be more gratified with any man's good opinion than by yours.
Duff was in Edinburgh at the time of the General Assembly of 1835, when he took the opportunity of pleading the cause of Indian missions in a speech which was regarded at the time as equal to the masterpieces of Fox and Pitt. The effect of it was tremendous. Not only did he prove the value of what may be termed the "educational system " of missions, but he enlisted the support of a race and of a religion which have played a very great part in the development of education in India.
Amongst Indians also there was a small group of progressive thinkers who evinced a strong desire that their countrymen should receive the benefits of an English education and training. The opinions of these men can best be gauged from the following letter written by Raja Ram Mohan Roy to Lord Amherst.
The Introduction of Western Learning
Source.-Letter written by Raja Ram Mohan Roy to Lord Amherst. MY LORD,
Humbly reluctant as the natives of India are to obtrude upon the notice of Government the sentiments they entertain on any public measure, there are circumstances when silence
would be carrying this respectful feeling to culpable excess. The present rulers of India, coming from a distance of many thousands of miles to govern a people whose language, literature, manners, customs, and ideas are almost entirely new and strange to them, cannot easily become so intimately acquainted with their real circumstances as the natives of the country are themselves. We should, therefore, be guilty of a gross dereliction of duty to ourselves, and afford our rulers just ground of complaint at our apathy, did we omit an occasion of importance like the present to supply them with such accurate information as might enable them to devise and adopt measures calculated to be beneficial to the country, and thus second by our local knowledge and experience their declared benevolent intentions for its improvements.
The establishment of a new Sanskrit school in Calcutta evinces the laudable desire of Government to improve the natives of India by education-a blessing for which they must ever be grateful. When this seminary was proposed, we understood that the Government in England had ordered a considerable sum of money to be annually devoted to the instruction of its Indian subjects. We were filled with sanguine hopes that this sum would be laid out in employing European gentlemen of talents and education to instruct the natives of India in mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy, and other useful sciences, which the nations of Europe have carried to a degree of perfection that has raised them above the inhabitants of other parts of the world.
While we looked forward with pleasing hope to the dawn of knowledge thus promised to the rising generation, our hearts were filled with mingled feelings of delight and gratitude; we already offered up thanks to Providence for inspiring the most generous and enlightened nations of the West with the glorious ambition of planting in Asia the arts and sciences of modern Europe.
We find that the Government are establishing a Sanskrit school under Hindu pundits, to impart such knowledge as is already current in India. This seminary (similar in character to those which existed in Europe before the time of Lord Bacon) can only be expected to load the minds of youth with grammatical niceties and metaphysical distinctions of little or no practical use to the possessors or to society. The pupils will there acquire what was known two thousand years ago, with the addition of vain and empty subtilities since produced by speculative men, such as is already taught in all parts of India.
The Sanskrit language, so difficult that almost a lifetime is necessary for its acquisition, is well known to have been for ages a lamentable check on the diffusion of knowledge; and the
learning concealed under this almost impervious veil is far from sufficient to reward the labour of acquiring it. But if it were thought necessary to perpetuate this language for the sake of the portion of valuable information it contains, this might be much more easily accomplished than by the establishment of a new Sanskrit college; for there have been always and are now numerous professors of Sanskrit in the different parts of the country engaged in teaching this language as well as the other branches of literature which are to be the object of the new seminary. Therefore their more diligent cultivation, if desirable, would be effectually promoted by holding out premiums and granting certain allowances to their most eminent professors, who have already undertaken on their own account to teach them, and would by such rewards be stimulated to still greater exertions.
From these considerations, as the sum set apart for the instruction of natives of India was intended by the Government of India for the improvement of its Indian subjects, I beg leave to state that if the plan now adopted be followed it will completely defeat the object proposed, since no improvement can be expected from inducing young men to consume a dozen of years in acquiring the niceties of Sanskrit grammar.
Neither can much improvement arise from such speculations as the following, which are the themes suggested by the Vedant: In what manner is the soul absorbed in the Deity? What relation does it bear to the Divine essence? Nor will youths be fitted to be better members of society by the Vedantic doctrines, which teach them to believe that all visible things have no real existence; that as father, mother, etc., have no actual entity, they consequently deserve no real affection, and therefore the sooner we escape from them and brave the world the better.
The student of the Nyayushastra cannot be said to have improved his mind after he has learnt from it into how many ideal classes the objects in the universe are divided, and what speculative relation the soul bears to the body, the body to the soul, the soul to the ear, etc.
In order to enable your lordship to appreciate the utility of encouraging such imaginary learning as above characterised, I beg your lordship will be pleased to compare the state of science and literature in Europe before the time of Lord Bacon with the progress of knowledge made since he wrote.
If it had been intended to keep the British nation in ignorance of real knowledge, the Baconian philosophy would not have been allowed to displace the system of the schoolmen, which was the test calculated to perpetuate ignorance. In the same manner the Sanskrit system of education would be the best calculated to keep this country in darkness, if such had been