Development of Education System in India During British Rule


Before the coming of the Europeans education was non secular in India. Mainly religious was imparted in India through Gurukals and Madrasas. In the second half of the 18th century Britishers realized the need of educated Indians for the smooth functioning of Administration in India. First attempt for imparting education in India was made through Charter Act of 1813.

Charter Act of 1813 

In 1813 Act, 1 lakh rupees was sanctioned by the British government to impart education in India. It was the first time when British East India Company accepted their responsibility for the education of the Indian people.

But the money was not sanctioned until 1823 because of the Orientalist-Anglicist controversy.

Orientalist-Anglicist Controversy:

  1. What type of education should be imparted to Indians-Orientalist wants teaching of Western Science, Literature and traditional Indian learning, while Anglicist argued spending of money for modern studies only.
  2. Second point of contention was medium of instruction: One faction of the Anglicist wants English as the medium of instruction while other want Indian Vernacular languages should be used for imparting education.

Lord Macaulay’s Minute (1835)

  • Lord Macaulay settled the Orientalist-Anglicist controversy in favor of Anglicist. It was decided that government resources should be used in the teaching of Western Science and literature through the medium of English language only.
  • It advocated “Downward Filtration Theory”. Britishers were planning to educate small section of Indian population who will be “Indian in blood and color but English in taste and opinions”.
  • Bethune School was founded by J.E.D. Bethune at Calcutta in 1849.
  • Roorkee Engineering College was set up in 1847 by Sir James Thomason.

Wood’s Despatch (1854)

  • Wood’s Despatch is known as the “Magna Carta of English Education in India”.
  • It renounced the “Downward Filtration Theory”.
  • It designed the hierarchy of system of schools and colleges in India. 
Level of Education Medium of instruction
Primary Schools at Village level Vernacular
High Schools at District Level Anglo Vernacular
Affiliated Colleges at District Level District Level
Affiliated Universities at Presidency Level Presidency Towns
  • It laid stress on female, vocational education and teacher’s training.
  • It started imparting secular education in India.
  • In 1857 universities at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay were set up.

Hunter Education Commission (1882-83)

Why it was set up?

  • Neglect of primary and secondary education at the provincial level.
  • To review the progress of Wood’s Despatch.

Recommendation of Hunter Commission

  • It recommended the transfer of primary education to district and municipal boards( Lord Rippon ( Also known as the ‘Father of Local Self Government’)in 1882 passed a resolution of local self government ).
  • It recommended the establishment of vocational education for commercial careers.
  • It drew the attention of the Government towards the inadequate facilities provided for female education.
  • Panjab University in 1882 and Allahabad university in 1887 was set up after this.

Indian Universities Act, 1904

Why it was setup?

  • Quality of education as deteriorated under the private institutions.
  • Revolutionary ideas were spreading through Educational institutions.
  • Recommendations of Indian Universities Act, 1904 were:
  • More attention was given to research and studies in universities.
  • Government got the power to veto universities regulations.
  • Stricter affiliation for private colleges were made.
  • Sum of rupees five lakhs were sanctioned for five years for improvement of higher education and universities.
  • Main reason behind all these recommendations was to sabotage the feeling of nationalism in Indians.

Saddler University Commission (1917-19)

Saddler Commission was basically set up for the study of problems of Calcutta University but its recommendations were applicable to all the universities in India.

Its main recommendations were:

  • Separate board for secondary and intermediate education to be set up.
  • School education should be of 12 years and after that 3 year degree course in university.
  • Stress on female education, teacher’s training and vocational education.

Hartog Committee (1929)

It was set up to check the expansion of number of schools and colleges in India.

Its main recommendation were:

  • Emphasis was laid on primary education.
  • Stress on vocational education after Class VIII for average students.

Wardha Scheme of Basic Education (1937)

  • Congress had organised a National Conference on Education in October 1937 in Wardha.
  • It was based on the Gandhiji’s idea of ‘Learning through activity’.
  • It provided for the inclusion of basic handicraft in the syllabus.
  • Teaching to be in Hindi till Class VII and and English after Class VIII.

Sergeant Plan of Education (1944)

Sergeant was the educational adviser to Government of India.

Its main recommendations were:

  • School education till 17 years of age.
  • Free and compulsory education up to 11 years of age group.
  • Liquidation of adult illiteracy in Indian in 20 years.




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