Initially the British East India company hardly took any interest in improving the condition of education in the regions under its rule. However the company felt need of educated local Indians to run the administration so they in the late 18th century they did try to establish some educational institutions. 

  • The first initiative was took by Warren Hastings who established Calcutta Madrasah in 1781 for the study of Muslim law.
  • Sanskrit college established by Jonathan Duncan,the resident,at Benaras in 1791 for study of hindu law and philosophy.
  • Fort William college set up by Wellesley in 1800 for training of civil servants about Indian customs this was closed in 1802.
But missionary presence in India and other Enlightened Indians who were educated under modern Western education system started exerting pressure on government to introduce modern secular education in India that would help in eradicating the orthodoxy of Indian society. 

Charter act of 1813
  • The act had an important clause of sanctioning one lakh rupees annually for Education.
  • But this amount raged a controversy among orientalists who wanted education to be provided in traditional Indian subjects and pattern. The other group of Anglicists wanted the money to be spent on modern Western education.
Orientalist vs Anglicist controversy
  • A General committee on public instruction was  constituted to discuss on expenditures.
  • The Anglicists in the committee were in favour of governments spending to promote education among Indians.
  • The orientalists accepted the argument in favour of western sciences and literature but they emphasised on expansion of traditional Indian learning.
  • Anglicists also got divided into two factions one faction was in favour of English language as the medium while other was in favour of modern education through Indian languages.
Lord Macaulay's Minute 1835
  • While addressing to the  Governor General's governing Council as a law member Lord macaulay delivered a famous minute which significantly changed the course of Indian education. 
Lord Macaulay

  • With his minute he settled the row in favour of Anglicists in which he stressed on the fact that limited government resources were to be devoted to teaching of western Sciences and literature through the medium of English language alone. 
  • Macaulay urged lord William bentick the Governor General to reform secondary education on utilitarian lines to deliver "useful learning".
  • Useful learning meant languages and education that would help people in getting jobs under British India. Macaulay's view was that Indian learning was inferior to European learning and it dint serve any practical purpose under the changing circumstances. 
  • The British planned to educate a small section of upper and middle classes, this creating a class "Indian in blood snd colour but English in tastes, in Opinions, in morals and in intellect. Who would act as interpreters between government an massesand would enrich vernacular by which modern Sciences and western knowledge would reach masses. This was called downward filteration theory. 
  • However modern education that filyered down through vernacular to masses only made them more aware about the drainage of Indian wealth done under British rule and other unjustified Practices of British era. 
Woods Dispatch 1854
  • In 1854 Charles Wood came UP with a new scheme for Reforms in education. This is also called a Magna carta of Indian English education in India. 
  • It urged Government of India to take responsiblity for the education of masses, instead of just focussing on creating educated middle class. 
  • It systemised a hierarchy from primary schools in villages at the bottom, followed by Anglo-Vernacular High schools and an affiliated college at the district level, and affiliating universities in the presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. 
  • Recommended English as medium of instruction for higher Studies and vernacular at school level. 
  • It laid stress on female and Vicational education, and on teachers training. 
  • Education imparted  in government institutions was on secular lines. No religious subjects. 
  • Decentralisation of education,Grant-in aid for private Enterprises. 
  • In 1857, universities at calcutta, Bombay and Madras were setup. 
  • Bethune school set up by JED Bethune and Ishwar chandra vidyasagar for promoting women education in 1849.
  • An agriculture Institute at Pusa and an Engineering Institute at Roorkee were started. 
  • Woods Dispatch helped in rapid westernisation of education system in India. 
Hunter Education Commission(1882-83) 
  • In 1882 government appointed a Commission under the chairmanship of W. W. Hunter to Review the progress of education in the country since the Dispatch of 1854.
  • It's recommendations were mostly limited for Primary and Secondary education. 
  • Primary education through vernacular. 
  • Recommended transfer of control of primary education to newly set up District and municipal Boards. 
  • Two divisions for Secondary education i.e literary for research and vocational for commercial careers. 
  • New universities established Punjab University 1882 and the Allahabad University 1887.
Indian Universities act, 1904
  • According to Government Quality of education had deteriorated and education institutes like universities were turning into factories producing revolutionaries. 
  • In 1902 Raleigh Commission was setuom to suggest measures to improve the condition of education in universities. 
  • Based on it's recommendations Indian universities act passed in 1904 . 
  • Universities were to give more attention to study and research. 
  • Most fellowship to be nominated by government in universities. 
  • Conditions for college affiliations were na de stricter. 
  • 5 lakhs were to be sanctioned per anjum for 5 years for improvement of higher education and universities. 
Government Resolution on Education Policy 1913
  • In it's 1913 Resolution on Education policy, the government refused to takeup the responsiblity of compulsary education, but accepted the policy of removal of illiteracy and provide elementary education to the pooree and more backward sections. 
Saddler University Commission(1917-1919) 
  • Its Recommendations were school education would cover 12 years and students to enter universities after an intermediate stage. 
  • This intermediate stage would prepare students for university stage and relieve universities from below par students. 
  • A university should function as Centralise, unitary residential-teaching autonomous affiliated body. 
Hartog Committee on Education(1929) 
  • An increase in number of schools and colleges had led to deterioration standards. 
  • Emphasis on primary education. 
  • Only deserving students should go in for High school and intermediate stage while average students should be diverted to vocational courses after 8th standard. 
  • Adequate technical, commercial and Arts education. 
  • Abolition of intermediate course. 
  • Liquidation of adult illiteracy in 20 years. 
  • Stress on teacher's training physical education, education for the physically and mentally handicapped. 


The inadequate measures that government took for the expansion of modern education were guided by concerns other than philanthropic. The Prime objective was to ensure a cheap supply of educated Indians to man an increasing number of subordinate posts. 
The other aims were:-
  • Educated Indians would help expand market for British manufactures in India. 
  • British were sure that western education would reconcile Indians to British rule, particularly as it glorified British conquerors. 
The Impact of modern education under British rule was severe on traditional Indian education which declined due to lack of support from rulers. 

The education system helped only a few that were living in the cities while mass education was ignored resulting in widespread illiteracy. Since education was not free it became a monopoly of upper and richer classes and city dwellers. 

Morever the women education was totally neglected because the government did not wanted to arouse wrath of Orthodox sections. 

Even Scientific and technical education was by and large neglected. Except few medical colleges at Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and only one engineering college at Roorkee which was open only for Europeans. 

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