« PreviousContinue »
VERNACULAR EDUCATION IN
If we are ever lo arrive at an understanding of things as they are, it can only be by a knowledge of the process by which they came to be so."--H. L. WITHERS.
BY HERBERT A. STARK
1863 and 1866.
Provinces of Bengal to the close of the year 1882.
and Agra Presidencies. — Tucker in English Journal of Education,
CHAPTER I. From the Despatch of 1813 to the Administration of Lord
William Bentinck. IT is not apparent at what date the East India Company
first turned its attention to the education of the peoples of India. It is true that it established the Calcutta Madrassah in 1782 and the Benares Sanskrit College in 1791. But the object in founding them was self-interest,
for they were to furnish maulvis and pandits who should be competent to cite Muhammadan and Hindu Law in causes that had to be tried by British Magistrates.
Sir John Shore on the Education of the Masses. However, so far back as the administration of Sir John Shore (1793-1798) the subject of the education of the masses had claimed consideration. In his Notes on Indian Affairs he asked “Is a rational attempt to educate the people of this great country to be made ? Or are they to be allowed to remain in their present state of ignorance ?that is, as far as relates to the assistance of their English masters. What has been, and what ought to have been, the course pursued by the British Rulers ? Certainly it was their duty first to have ordained that the language and character of the country should be that of the Courts of Justice ; secondly, to have established schools, or at least to have encouraged those that already existed, for the education of the people in their own language and character; thirdly, to have promoted the translation of books of knowledge into the vernacular tongue; and, fourthly, to have afforded all who had leisure or inclination the means of acquiring that knowledge in which the most general information is concentrated, the English.”
Lord Moira on Indigenous Education as it existed. About twenty years later, Lord Moira, in his Minute of the 2nd October, 1815, wrote thus :-" The general, the sad defect of this education (indigenous) is that the inculcation of moral principles forms no part of it. This radical want is not imputable to us. The necessity of selfdefence (for all our extensions of our territory have been achieved in repelling efforts made for the subversion of our power) and our occupation in securing the new possessions have allowed us, till lately, but little leisure to examine deliberately the state of the population which we had been gradually bringing beneath our sway. It was already vitiated. The unceasing wars which had harassed all parts of India, left everywhere their
invariable effects-a disorganization of that frame-work of habit and opinion which enforces moral conduct and an emancipation of all those irregular impulses which revolt at its restraint. The village schoolmasters could not teach that in which they themselves had never been instructed; and universal debasement of mind, the constant concomitant of subjugation to despotic rule, left no chance that an innate sense of equity should in those confined circles suggest the recommendation of the principles not thought worthy of cultivation by the Government.
His Proposals in the Matter of Moral Instruction. “The remedy for this is to furnish the village school. master with little manuals of religious sentiment and ethic maxims conveyed in Guch a shape as may be attractive to the scholars, taking care that, while awe and adoration of the Supreme Being are earnestly instilled, no jealousy be excited by pointing out any particular creed. The absence of such an objection and small pecuniary rewards for zeal, occasionally administered by the Magistrates, would induce the masters to use those compilations readily.” In another part of the same minute Lord Moira continued :-“The moral and intellectual improvement of the natives will necessarily form a prominent feature of any plan which may arise from the above suggestions; and I have, therefore, not failed to turn my most solicitous attention to the important object of public education. The humble but valuable class of village schoolmasters claims the first place in this discussion. These men teach the first rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic for a trifling stipend which is within reach of any man's means, and the instruction which they are capable of imparting suffices for the village zemindar, the village accountant, and the village shopkeeper. As the public money would be illappropriated in merely providing gratuitous access to that quantum of education which is already attainable, any intervention of Government, either by superintendence or by contribution, should be directed to the improvement of existing tuition, and to the diffusion of it to places and persons now out of its reach. Improvement and diffusion may go hand in hand ; yet the latter is to be considered a matter of calcula. tion, while the former should be deemed positively incumbent.
Sir Charles Metcalfe's Statesman-like Views. Sentiments such as those expressed by Lord Moira towards the education of the Company's Indian subjects were entertained by others besides him. Within a month of Lord Moira's minute Sir Charles Metcalfe thus pleaded for the education of "our native subjects":-“The world is
" governed by an irresistible power which giveth and taketh away dominion, and vain would be the impotent prudence of man against the operations of its almighty influence. All that rulers can do is to merit dominion by promoting the happiness of those under them. If we perform our duty in this respect, the gratitude of India, and the admiration of the world, will accompany our name through all ages whatever may be the revolutions of futurity; but if we withhold our blessings from our subjects from a selfish apprehension of possible danger at a remote period, we shall not deserve to keep our dominion; we shall merit that reverse which time has possibly in store for us; and shall fall with the mingled hatred and contempt, hisses and execrations of mankind.
The more blessings we confer on them (our native subjects) the better hold shall we have on their affections, and in consequence the greater strength and duration to our empire.”
The East India Company in 1813 allots One Lakh of Rupces
for the Encouragement of Oriental Classical Languages. The Court of Directors at Home were in accord with these far-seeing and statesman-like views. Indeed, Act LIII of King George III. (1813), communicated to the Governor-General in 1814, enacted :-“ It shall be lawful for the Governor-General in Council to direct that out of any surplus which may remain of the rents, revenues and profits after defraying all civil and military charges, a sum of not less than one lakh of rupees (£10,000)
in each year shall be set apart and applied to the revival and improvement 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 of India."*
This may be regarded as the First Education Despatch. But the Court of Directors do not appear to have had in mind any well-defined scheme of education. Such instructions as they gave, had direct reference to Oriental Classical Languages.
Vernacular Education to be fostered. Their Despatch, however, did not definitely exclude the vernacular instruction imparted in the indigenous rural schools :-“We refer with particular satisfaction upon this occasion to that distinguished feature of internal polity which prevails in some parts of India, and by which the instruction of the people is provided for by a certain charge upon the produce of the soil, and by other endowments in favour of the village teachers, who are thereby rendered public servants of the community. . This venerable and benevolent institution of the Hindoos is represented to have withstood the shock of revolutions, and to its operation is ascribed the general intelligence of the natives as scribes and accountants. We are so strongly persuaded of its great utility, that we are desirous you should take early measures to inform yourselves of its present state, † and that you will report to us the result of your enquiries, affording in the meantime the protection of Government to the village teachers in all their just rights and immunities, and marking, by some favourable distinction, any individual amongst them who may be recommended by superior merit or acquirements ; for humble as their station may appear, if judged by a comparison with any corresponding character in this country, we understand
* Section 43, Cap. 155 of LIII George III., 1813.
† No action was taken till 1835, when Lord William Bentinck deputed Mr. W. Adam to make a survey of indigenous education in Bengal. See Chapter II.