Education During British Era


Education During British Era

  • Though the East India Company came to India in 1600, it never was involved into educational activities
  • After the colonization was complete and the British hold over India was consolidated by the starting of 19th century, the British govt. Started giving thought over the matter of education
  • 1781 – Warren Hastings established the Calcutta Madrasa for the cultivation of Arabic and Persian studies.
  • 1791 – Jonathan Duncan, (the resident at Benaras) established Sanskrit College at Benaras.
  • These were established to train Indian Assistants to English Judges in order to explain the Hindu and Muslim Laws.
  • Prior to 1781, the Judges of the Supreme Court which was established by the Regulating Act of 1773, administered English Law. This led to disquiet in Indians. The Amending Act of 1781, made that inheritance etc were treated according to Hindu and Muslim traditions.
  • 1790-1820 was a period of intense philanthropic and educational activity in England. The Industrial revolution had begun, towns started growing, miserable workers evoked sympathy in religious and philanthropic activity.
  • Philosophers like Edmund Burke fought for the education of Indians.
  • It was only after prolonged agitation that company was compelled by the Charter Act of 1813, to accept the responsibility of educating Indians, and to incur some expenditure for that and to admit missionaries in its dominions for spreading western ‘light and knowledge’. This was the beginning of state system of education in India.
  • It had required the Company to apply 100,000 rupees per year
  • This had gone to support traditional forms (and content) of education, which (like their contemporary equivalents in England) were firmly non-utilitarian.

1813 – 1854 : Period of Controversies

Under Bentinck

Macaulay Committee and English Education Act 1835

  • The Period from 1813 to 1854 was a period of controversies in the framing of educational policy.
  • There were controversies about mainly four issues;
    • What should be the object of education policy – to spread western education or to spread eastern learning
    • What should be the medium of instruction – English, Sanskrit or Arabic?
    • What should be the agency of imparting education – mission schools, schools directly run by company officials or schools run by indigenous people
    • What should be the methods of spreading education – Should govt. Try to educate masses directly or should it train a few Indians and leave them to educate others?
  • There were two schools of thought regarding these controversies – The macaulay school which believed in substitution of western culture for the Indian and desired to create ‘a class of people Indian in blood and colour and English in tastes, opinions, morals and intellect’. It consisted of missionaries and newer servants of company who wanted to change old for new. The other school believed in synthesis of Eastern and Western cultures. It consisted of older servants of Company.
  • The latter section was itself divided over the medium of Education. Those in Bengal believed the synthesis would be brought out by imparting education in Sanskrit and Arabic, while those in Bombay favoured English as a medium.
  • By the early 1820s some administrators within the East India Company were questioning if this was a sensible use of the money to spend on Indian Education and considered it non utilitarian.

Macaulay Committee of Public Instruction (Macaulay’s minutes)

  • Macaulay was the law member under Bentinck
  • Macaulay argued that support for the publication of books in Sanskrit and Arabic should be withdrawn, support for traditional education should be reduced to funding for the Madrassa at Delhi and the Hindu College at Benares, but students should no longer be paid to study at these establishments.
  • The money released by these steps should instead go to fund education in Western subjects, with English as the language of instruction.

English Education Act 1835

  • The English Education Act was a legislative Act of the Council of India in 1835 giving effect to a decision in 1835 by William Bentinck, the then Governor-General of British India to reallocate funds the East India Company was required by the British Parliament to spend on education and literature in India.
  • Formerly, they had supported traditional Muslim and Hindu education and the publication of literature in the native learned tongues (Sanskrit and Arabic); henceforward they were to support establishments teaching a Western curriculum with English as the language of instruction.
  • Together with other measures promoting English as the language of administration and of the higher law courts (replacing Persian), this led eventually to English becoming one of the languages of India, rather than simply the native tongue of its foreign rulers.
  • In discussions leading up to the Act, Macaulay produced his famous Memorandum on (Indian)Education which was scathing on the inferiority of native (particularly Hindu) culture and learning. Vernacular language education, however continued to receive little funding.

The controversy was finally put to rest by Woods Despatch of 1854

Under Dalhousie

  • The British educational policy continued on the basis of recommendations of Macaulay till changes were made under Dalhousie. When Dalhousie came to India in 1848, the condition of education was little different from one existed when Bentinck arrived. The British Empire had grown to full shape. Many Indians had joined the Government services at lower grades.
  • Dalhousie realized that the Government had neglected the education for the masses. Vernacular education had declined and village schools (pathasalas) were not in a position to take up the responsibility of educating the mass. The teachers (abadhans) were too traditional and there were no school-houses and no printed books.
  • The teachers were not paid regularly. The subjects taught in those schools were old and outdated. Thus, Dalhousie thought a scheme to make arrangement for the mass education of the primary education in vernacular languages.

By that time Sir Charles Wood was the President of the Board of Control of the Company. Sir Wood prepared a scheme on education policy for India and through it recommended details to be worked out. The scheme was sent to India and was known as “Wood’s Despatch” of 1854. Dalhousie implemented the scheme in the same year.

Wood’s Despatch of 1854:

  • Wood’s Despatch was a complete scheme with certain innovative aspects.
  • It repudiated the “downward filtration theory” that provided education for upper classes.
  • In stead Wood’s Despatch emphasized on the education of the masses and announced the duty and responsibility of the Government to provide education for the people of India.
  • Thus, the British attitude towards education as the medium for cheap supply of clerks changed and elementary education in vernacular languages was considered as a welfare scheme under the Government. Accordingly, schools were to be established by the Government and primary schools built by private efforts were to receive Government grants.
  • Schools receiving Government grants were to follow the rules and regulations of the Government and were to be inspected by the authorities of the concerned department.
  • Education Department of each province of the British Empire was put under the Director of Public Instruction (DPI). The DPI exercised overall supervisory power overall educational institutions of a province starting from primary schools to colleges.
  • The DPI took care of the maintenance of the standard of education. Under the DPI, school Inspector worked to control and administer of the education system. The Despatch also encouraged Indian education in Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian languages and texts of English languages were translated into Indian languages.
  • Government laid emphasis to make the education secular and religious teaching in schools was discouraged. Training schools were opened to train the teachers in modern knowledge and teaching methods.
  • The Despatch also laid stress on technical and women education and made provisions for award of scholarship for proficiency in studies to encourage meritorious students.

However, there was gap between the theory and practice. Though the “downward filtration theory” was repudiated, it continued in practice and English medium of education was preferred.

  • The Government did little to execute the recommendations.
  • Knowledge in English was essential for appointment in Government services and English medium schools gained popularity. Emphasis on English medium also prevented the spread of education to the masses. It was not possible to open English Medium schools in rural areas.
  • That created wide gap between educated persons and the masses and higher education, being costly, it remained confined to rich classes and urban areas.
  • Though female education drew attention through the Despatch, little was done for the purpose. The Government partly, was unwilling to hurt the orthodox Indians and partly considered female education not useful as women would not join offices. The major constraint was the unwillingness of the Government to spend for education of the people.
  • In spite of certain limitations, Dalhousie brought significant changes in the condition of education in India by implementing Lord’s Despatch.
  • Immediate effect was the establishment three universities in India on the pattern of University of London. In 1857, the Universities of Calcutta (Kolkata) Bombay (Mumbai) and Madras (Chennai) were established. By 1857 three Medical Colleges were functioning in the country one each at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.
  • There was only one Engineering College at Roorkee for technical education. No doubt, the education policy of the Company Government in India helped in propagating the modern ideas in India and led the country towards modernization.
  • University of the Punjab in 1882 and the University of Allahabad in 1887.

It was recommended in Woods Despatch that:

  1. An education department was to be set in every province.
  2. Universities on the model of the London university be established in big cities such as Bombay, Calcutta and Madras.
  3. At least one government school should be opened in every district.
  4. Affiliated private schools should be given grant in aid.
  5. The Indian natives should be given training in their mother tongue also.
  6. provision was made for a systematic method of education from primary level to the university level

1854-1900 : Period of rapid westernization of Indian education and Indianization of its agencies

  • Conflict between Indian system and Western System of education
  • Officials of those days neglected Indian institutions in utter contempt
  • Free employment for the western educated youth in Govt Service led to the complete extinction of Indianized system by 1900
  • Other conflict arose between the mode of imparting education – by missionaries, by educational institutions of Education Department or by private schools of Indians.
  • So Indian Education Commission (1882 Hunter Commission) was setup to weigh the relative merits of each of these agencies.

Hunter Commission (1882)

  • Indian Education Commission
  • The administration of India by East India Company came to an end in 1857. The power of administration was transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown. The Queen’s proclamation of 1858 advocated a policy of strict religious neutrality and so the missionaries were greatly disappointed.
  • After the transfer of administrative power from the East India Company, it was considered necessary to assess the development of education in the country. It was felt that the grant -in-aid system as suggested by Wood’s Despatch was not properly carried out. Because of all these reasons, the missionaries started an agitation and formed an organization in London which was known as the “General Council of Education in India”. When Lord Ripon was appointed the viceroy of India, a deputation of the General Council of Education requested him to institute an enquiry into Indian Education.
  • Lord Ripon appointed the Indian Education Commission on 3rd February 1882, with Sir Willium Hunter as its Chairman. It is known as Hunter Commission of 1882. There was a good representation of missionaries and Indians in the commission. Among the Indian members were Sayed Mahmud, Bhudev Mukherjee, Anand Mohan Bose and K.T.Telang.
  • The Commission also undertook an enquiry into the conditions of education and to suggest measures for its improvement.

Major Recommendations of Hunter Commission of 1882 on Primary Education were.

  • Primary education should be regarded as education of the masses.
  • Education should be able to train the people for self-dependence.
  • Medium of Instruction in primary education should be the mother tongue.
  • Appointment of teachers should be made by the district authority and approved by the government.
  • To improve the quality of teachers, the commission recommended establishment of Normal schools for the training of teachers.
  • Following the method adopted in England, the commission recommended that the control of primary education should be handed over to District and Municipal Boards.
  • Curriculum should be Practical include useful subjects like agriculture, elements of natural and physical science and the native method of arithmetic and measurement etc.
  • Government should be mainly directed to the encouragement of private Indian enterprise as the best means of spreading education in India

Major Recommendations of Hunter Commission on secondary education were

  • The administrative responsibility on Secondary education should be handed over to the efficient and educated people.
  • English should remain as medium of instruction in the Secondary stage.
  • The fees charged in aided secondary schools should be considerably lower than the fees charged in Government schools.

These recommendations were generally acted upon by the Provincial Governments, and the twenty years between 1880 – 1900 saw a rise of private schools and colleges conducted by Indians.

1900 – 1920


  • Period of intense and ever-increasing political unrest in India.
  • The period saw the defeat of Russia by Japan (Asian) and thus destroyed the myth of European Superiority.
  • The growth of Indian awakening, knowledge about Indian past and national feeling in India
  • Both the Indian and European educationists were greatly dissatisfied with the educational system
  • One section – consisting mainly the officials thought that the quality of education has materially deteriorated since 1880, the discipline was less in privately managed institutions. The ideal of spreading Western knowledge and science had outlived its utility. This group suggested that Govt. should now aim at control and improvement of schools and colleges rather than at increasing their number.
  • The other school of thought – which included most of the enlightened Indians – still believed in policy recommended by the Indian Education Commission. They thought quality is not everything. They felt spread of Western education is necessary to create an Indian renaissance. They advocated increase in number of schools (increase in quantity) and that a policy of control and improvement would be detrimental to Indian interests.
  • This conflict began at University stage. The Indian Universities Act of 1904, resulted in an almost complete victory for the protagonists of the theory of control and improvement of quality. This meant that govt. now had more control over Universities.
  • The conflict then spread to secondary stage. Then Gokhale’s Bill for introducing compulsory elementary education, was rejected.
  • This led to embitterment in the Indian Educationalists and they demanded greater control over Educational Policy. It was to satisfy this demand that the Department of Education was transferred to the control of Indian Ministers in 1921.

Lord Curzon Era

1901: Conference of the Directors of Public Instruction, Missionaries convened by Lord Curzon at Simla. But the representatives of the Indian people were conspicuously absent. These resolutions passed in this conference formed the basis of the Government Resolution of 1904 on Education Policy. The Government identified the shortcomings of Indian education and the major policy decisions were as follows—

  • The Government should fully control all stages of education.
  • The Government should spend more money on education.
  • Government schools should be such that it could serve as models to private schools.


  • Liberal grant-in-aid
  • Abolition of the system of payment by results :
    Lord Curzon stopped the system of aiding primary schools on the basis of examination results
  • Training of Teachers
  • Improvement of Teacher’s Salary
  • Reform in curriculum to include practical subjects like agriculture


  • Policy of control :The Hunter Commission of 1882 suggested that the Government should withdraw from the field of secondary education and its expansion should be left to the private bodies which were to be given liberal grant in aid. As a result the number of private schools increased. Although the Government fixed certain rules and regulations for the Government aided schools there was no such regulation for the privately managed schools, most of which were inefficiently and poorly staffed and poorly equipped.
    In the Government Resolution on Education of 1904, it is stated that whether these schools are managed by public authority or by private persons and whether they have received public funds or not, the Government is bound in the interest of the community to see that education provided to them are sound. The Government at that time tried to control the private schools in the following way :

    The managing committee of the school should be properly constituted.

  • The financial condition of the school should be stable.
  • The school must make provision for the health and recreation of its pupils.
  • The number of teachers should be suitable and properly qualified.
  • For establishing secondary schools in a particular area the necessity of the school will be assessed.
  • Every secondary school whether Government aided or privately managed must receive recognition from the Director of Public Instruction of the concerned state.
  • In addition to the recognition from the Education Department, it must obtain recognition from a University also if it wants to present students at the Matriculation examination conducted by the University.
  • Recognised schools will be eligible to receive Government grant-in-aid and pupils to receive scholarships.
  • Transfer of students from an unrecognised school to a recognised school was prohibited.
  • Policy of Improvement:Curzon realised that Government control alone cannot improve the conditions of secondary schools. For qualitative improvement he adopted the following measures:
  • Provincial Governments should sanction more financial grants to improve the condition of secondary school.
  • Government secondary schools should serve as a model for private secondary schools.
  • Grants should be provided to private schools also to make them equal to standard schools like the public schools.
  • The number of teacher training centres should be increased and teachers should be encouraged to receive training.
  • The inspectorate was to be made more efficient for effecting rigorous control over secondary education and the number of inspectors should be increased.
  • Curriculum of the secondary schools should be modified by including practical and vocational subjects. Physical education should be included as a subject inthe curriculum.
  • The medium of instruction should be mother tongue upto middle school level. But the study of English must not be neglected.
  • Importance should be given to improving discipline among students and teachers.

As a whole, we may term his secondary education policy as ‘successful’ because it raised the quality of secondary education. His policy to make the secondary schools receive recognition from the Government as well as from the university helped in improving its quality of education. Many private secondary schools had to close down for the failure to get recognition because of which many nationalist Indians criticised Lord Curzon for his policy and expressed that he wanted to crush nationalistic upsurge. But his strict policy helped to improve not only the quality of education but also the quality of administration of secondary schools also.
Secondly, as the schools had to take recognition from the University, they had to give importance on teacher training and raising the academic standard in order to send their students for matriculation examination.

Thirdly, it is worth mentioning that it was Lord Curzon who insisted that mother tongue should be the medium of instruction up to middle level. For this measures many poor students were able to receive education through their own languages. This paved the way for introducing mother tongue as a medium of instruction in secondary schools in later stages.


Lord Curzon was the first person to appoint a commission on University education. On January,27, 1902, the Indian University Commission was appointed under the Chairmanship of Sir Thomas Raileigh to enquire into the conditions of the Universities established in British India, and to consider and report upon the proposals for improving their constitution and working. The commission submitted its report in June of the same year (1902) stressing the need for reorganisation of the Universities. It rejected the idea of setting up new Universities. Its main recommendations are as follows—

  • The jurisdiction of each University should be fixed and new Universities should not be established.
  • The constitution of the Universities should be changed to make provisions for teaching in the Universities.
  • Undergraduate and Post-graduate curricula should be introduced.
  • Conditions for recognising colleges should be stern.
  • The syndicates should have about 9-15 members.
  • The standard of the matric examination should be improved.
  • Importance should be given to the study of classical languages and arrangements should be made for the best possible teaching of English.

Indian Universities Act,1904

  • Up to the moment, the number of the seats in the Senate of the Universities was not fixed and the Govt. used to make life-long nominations. According to this Act, the number was fixed. The minimum number was fifty and the maximum number was hundred. Their term was determined for five years.
  • The Act introduced the principle of election in the constitution of the Senate. According to this Act, 20 fellows are to be elected in the Universities of Madras, Calcutta and Bombay and 15 in other Universities.
  • The Act gave statutory recognition to Syndicates and made provision for the adequate representation of university teachers in the university Senate.
  • The Govt. reserved the right to make amendments and reforms and give approval to the rules framed by the Senates of the University and also it can frame regulations itself if the Senate fails to frame these regulations in time.
  • Rules in regard to granting recognition were made stricter. In order to raise the standards of education, the Syndicate could call for the inspection of colleges imparting higher education.
  • Prior to this Act, the territorial jurisdiction of universities was not fixed. As a result some colleges were affiliated to two universities while others were situated in the jurisdiction of one university but affiliated to another. The Governor General was now empowered to decide a University’s territorial limits.
  • Universities were given the right of teaching along with the right of conducting examination. In short, their scope was enlarged.
  • Universities had the right to appoint teachers to conduct teaching and undertake research. They also had the right to manage their libraries, laboratories and to make out plans to bring about discipline among students.

It is clear from the above discussion that Lord Curzon wanted to control the functioning of the universities and thereby break the autonomy of the universities. (He viewed Universities as breeding ground for nationalists) In the recommendations of the Indian University Commission of 1902, there was no proposal for establishing new university. Moreover, there was no representation of any Indian in the two Commissions because of this for his policy did not find favour with the Indian Public. Although two Indian members— G. D. Banerjee and Syed Hasan were included in later stage yet even the then Indian public did not feel happy. They were suspicious of the intention of Curzon and felt that through policy that the Govt. wanted to suppress nationalism. Many private colleges had to close down because of the policy of shrinkage of higher education taken by Lord Curzon. The number of degree colleges reduced from 192 in 1902 to 170, within a span of 10 years. This had received widespread criticism. But we cannot deny the fact that Curzon gave importance on improving the standard and quality of higher education. The credit for initiating a university improvement campaign was moving slowly but steadily towards its well defined objectives.

Other Achievements of Curzon in Education

  • Appointment of Director General in Education :
    One of the greatest contributions of Lord Curzon in the field of Indian education was to create the post of Director General of Education in India.
  • Establishment of Art School :
    Schools of Art were reformed which had failed in their primary object of promoting Indian art. Curzon directed that the schools should be continued with certain modifications in their subjects, methods and organisation.
  • Creation of the Department of Archaeology :
    Curzon found that the ancient monuments of India were not properly being cared for and, therefore, created a special department for the purpose. He also passed the Ancient Monument Preservation Act. of 1904.
  • Foreign Scholarships :
    Scholarships in large number for sending Indian students abroad for technological studies were sanctioned. The necessity of technical education in India had been felt by Lord Curzon for developing Indian industries.
  • Agricultural Education:Lord Curzon was the first person to give importance on organising agricultural education. He introduced Lord Curzon carried out several other educational reforms also and you must be familiar with these reforms also.

    (i) agriculture as a subject of study at school stage,
    (ii) established the Department of Agriculture,
    (iii) created Central Research Institute at Puna and
    (iv) laid down the principle that every important province in India must have its own Agricultural college which should be properly staffed and equipped.

1917: Sadler Commission (Calcutta University Commission)

Gokhale’s Bill on primary education and the Government of India Resolution 1913 on education. The Resolution recommended that a university should be established in each province, teaching activities of the universities should be encouraged and colleges located in mofussil towns should be developed into teaching universities in due course of time.

The outbreak of the First World War (1914-1919) however, delayed the development planned in the resolution as the Government had to concentrate its attention and energy over the war. After the war was over, the Government appointed the Calcutta University Commission in 1917 mainly to look into the affairs of Calcutta University, yet in its report it deals with different aspects of education.

First, we shall discuss the necessity for setting up the Calcutta University Commission of 1917.

We know that after establishing three universities, namely University of Calcutta, University of Bombay and University of Madras in 1857, it was Lord Curzon who first tried to introduce some administrative reform of the university education by instituting a University Education Commission in 1902 (Rayleigh Commission). Academic reform, however, remained totally unattended. In the report of the Commission there was no proposal for establishing new universities. Curzon’s policy of shrinkage and control of higher education received widespread criticism among the nationalist Indians. After the establishment Allahabad University in 1887 no new universities were opened for the next thirty years, but the number of the Colleges increased. At the time of the Government of India Resolution in 1913 there were only five universities in India and the number of colleges was beyond the control of the various universities within their territorial limits. As a result different administrative problems piled up in that period. Sir Asutosh Mukherji was the Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University. He started imparting post-graduate education in the university in 1916 as recommended by the University Education Commission of 1902. This has attracted the attention of the Government. By this time the London University was reorganised and reformed as per recommendations of the Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Halden. Therefore it became a necessity to reform the Indian Universities also. All these circumstances led to the formation of the second university commission. i.e., Calcutta University Commission, 1917.

The Government actually felt the necessity of investigating into the affairs of university education in 1914. Accordingly, a proposal was taken to reform the Indian Universities under the leadership of Lord Halden. But the proposal was not carried into affect due to the outbreak of the First World War Towards the fag end of the war, the Government of India took up the matter again.

In 1917 the Government appointed the Calcutta University Commission to study and report on the problem of university education. The commission is also known as the Sadler Commission after the name of its chairman Dr. Michael E. Sadler, the Vice Chancellor of the university of Leeds. The other members of the Commission were Dr. Gregory, Prof. Ramsay Muir, Sir Hartog, Dr. Horniel, Dr. Zia Uddin Ahmed and Sir Asutosh Mukerji. Sir Asutosh Mukerji was the most influential member of the commission. It is said that most of the recommendations of the commission were patterned on his views.

The commission has made discussion in detail about secondary education. Secondary and higher education are interlinked and secondary education is the basis of higher education. In the opinion of the Commission it is not possible to bring about revolutionary changes in the field of higher education without making changes in secondary education. Therefore, some fundamental changes were suggested in the secondary education for the sake of improving the university education. The commission recommended that the dividing line between the university and the secondary courses should be drawn at the Intermediate examination rather than at the Matriculation and the Government should create a new type of institution called Intermediate Colleges”. Now we shall discuss the existing defects of the secondary education system and then proceed to suggestions for reforms.
Secondary Education

  1. Defects of Secondary Education:
    The commission has drawn attention to the following defects of secondary education—
  • The secondary schools are suffering from lack of educational tools and equipment.
  • Secondary education has become narrow because of being over influenced by matriculation examination.
  • The fundamental defect of secondary education is dearth of suitable teachers, poor training and poor salaries
  • The secondary schools are under the double control of university and the Government, and there is difference between university and the Government regarding their own area of control and administration.
  1. Suggestions for Reform:
  • The first essential thing for the improvement of secondary education is the supply of necessary funds. The commission recommended sanctioning of 40 lacs of rupees annually for the purpose.
  • The medium of instruction in the secondary schools should be the mother tongue.

The main objective of the Sadler Commission was to reform university education in India and accordingly it gave importance to improving the quality of university education. The commission’s recommendations can be divided into two parts— academic and administrative.
First we shall discuss the academic and then proceed to recommendations regarding administrative reform.

A) A. Academic Reform :

  • The duration of degree course should be three years after intermediate stage.
  • Honours courses as distinct from pass course, should be opened in the universities.
  • Provisions should be made for imparting instructions in Arts, Science, Engineering, Agriculture, Commerce and Medicine.
  • The medium of instruction at the university level should be English.
  • For the sake of better student teacher relationship seminar and tutorial classes may be held.
  • Department of Education should be started and education should be taught as a discipline in MA, BA and Intermediate Course.
  • A Director of Physical Training should be appointed for paying greater attention to the health and physical welfare of students.
  • A Board of Students’ Welfare should also be appointed in each university to look after their wellbeing.
  • The Commission recommended that oriental studies should be cultivated in the university.
  • Muslims should be provided special educational facilities in order that their backwardness may be removed.
B) Administrative Reforms :

  • The commission recommended that the Government control over the universities should be less and flexible.
  • University teachers should be appointed by Selection Committees constituted specially for the purpose.
  • In place of Senate and Syndicate, there should be University Court and Executive Council for the management of the university.
  • Professors of Colleges should be represented in large numbers in the administration of the universities.
  • For the conduct of examinations, appointment of teachers and curriculum construction, a powerful Academic Council with faculties of different subjects and Board of Studies should be formed.
  • A full-time and paid Vice-Chancellor should be appointed.
  • Closer Co-operation should be maintained between the colleges and the universities.
  • An Inter University Board should be set up for connection and coordination among the different Indian Universities.


The recommendations of the Calcutta university commission have great importance in the field of Indian education. Although it was mainly appointed to look into the problems of Calcutta University, it made recommendations on almost all the main issues of secondary and higher education which were of great value to the higher education in India. They were in fact significant and applicable to the education of the entire country and a new life was infused into the educational system of the country.

The report of the commission had far reaching significance in respect of the establishment of a separate board of secondary education, medium of education, vocational education, three year degree course, separation of intermediate education from university education, institution of honours courses, formation of Executive and Academic Council, Faculties and Board of Studies in universities, appointment of a Director in physical education, full time Vice-Chancellor and development of women education and teacher education.

According to the recommendation of the commission the various universities in the country began to reorganise themselves. Thus, the commission gave a new life to the universities. Calcutta University was benefited immensely. Its working capacity was increased and it no longer remained only an examining body but was also engaged in teaching and doing research.

The commission tried to make education useful for life by giving recommendations on women education, vocational education and teacher training. It fulfilled a great need of the country by declaring the mother tongue as the medium of instruction.

The commission has been criticised on the ground that it proposed many new things much before time and they were not suitable in view of the circumstances prevailing at that time. It is said that the commission tried to pattern Calcutta university in the line of Oxford and Cambridge Universities and this attempt was not appropriate as the condition of India is different from England. Creating a separate Board of High school and Intermediate education was also considered much ahead of the time.
But inspite of these shortcomings we must admit that the recommendations of the commission was able to give a new direction to all branches of education in India.


The recommendations of the Sadler Commission greatly influenced the subsequent educational development in the next three decades. These developments may be identified as :

Firstly, increase in the number of universities. Due to the suggestions of this commission a number of new universities were opened in the country. Of these, the universities at Patna, Osmania, Aligarh, Dacca, Lucknow, Delhi, Agra, Nagpur, Hydrabad and Annamalai may be mentioned. The number increased upto 30 within 1930.

Secondly, teaching work done by the universities. Not only increase in numbers, teaching work also started in different universities. It is worth mentioning that the functions of the first three universities established in India, namely, Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were confined to affiliation, examination and conferring degrees. Teaching was the function of degree colleges and there was no provision for post-graduate education. But after the recommendation of the commission the number of teaching universities and residential universities increased. Most of the newly established universities were teaching universities.

Thirdly, development of academic standard. Academic activities increased in the universities and colleges with the introduction Honours courses. The studies of different Indian languages started and facilities for higher studies and research were also created. The post of professor was created is the universities and the process of inviting learned faculties from abroad to broaden the academic outlook was also started. The department of Education was opened in Calcutta and Dacca universities.

Fourthly, development of internal administration of the universities. Internal administration of the universities improved due to the formation of university court and Executive Council in lieu of previous Senate and Syndicate. Beside these, the creation of the Academic Council to deal with academic matters, such, as, curriculum construction, examination, research etc. greatly helped in improving the academic standard of the universities. As suggested by the commission an Inter University Board was also set up in 1925 for connection and coordination among the different Indian universities.

Fifthly, provision for students’ welfare. For the first time attention of the universities were directed towards students’ welfare. A Board of students’ Welfare was formed in each university by following the suggestion of the commission.

After observing all these it will not be wrong to conclude that the recommendations of the commission have been much more important than those of any previous commission on education.

1921- 1937 : Education under Indian Ministers

  • All further recruitments to Indian Educational Service was discontinued, power was given to each province to organise its own educational services.
  • The education was given under provincial govt. and this led to increase in number of schools and rapid increase in enrolment.
  • The financial arrangement of of India Act 1919, made Central Govt. richer at the cost of provincial govt. and hence the budget for education decreased.
  • The situation of finances worsened due to Great Depression

1929 – Hartog Committee

  • The First World War started in Europe in 1914. The outbreak of the war had brought about significant changes in the British policy of administration in India. These changes had made long standing impact on both political and educational scenario of our country. It is necessary for us to know what these changes were and how they influenced the political and educational aspects of the country.
  • In this unit, we will first discuss the historical background of the setting up of the Hartog Committee in 1929. This includes discussion on the Montford reform and education in the System of Diarchy. This will be followed by formation of the Simon Commission in 1927 and the appointment of the Hartog Committee in 1929 alongwith its recommendations on Primary, Secondary, Higher and other aspects of education. We will conclude with an assessment and evaluation of the recommendations of the committee and its result.


  • It has already been mentioned above that outbreak of the First World War had brought some significant changes in the British policy of administration in India. In 1917, Edwin Montaque, the Secretary of State for India had announced in the British Parliament that the goal of the British policy is the progressive realisation of responsible Governance in India. This has created an impression in the mind of the nationalist leaders that the British Government was willing to give the power of self administration to Indian people. But when the war came to an end the British Government did not keep their promise. This made the Indian people offended and new political unrest was imminent. In order to meet the situation the Government passed the Government of India Act in 1919, creating a diarchy in the provincial administration. This Act is known as Montford Reform.The Montford reforms introduced diarchy in the field of education as well. Under this introduction of some subjects were under the centre and some under the provincial Governments. These were called reserved and transferred respectively. Education was transferred to the representatives of the people. Thus all the educational powers were transferred to the education ministers of the various Provincial Governments but they were given rights within a limited sphere. Finance was kept back as a reserved subject. Without finances education could not proceed. This created problems for the representatives of the people.

    The central Government had made the state administrators completely responsible for education in spite of very limited resources at their disposal. It was impossible for them to spend sufficient money for the progress of education. On the other hand, the Governors of the provinces were given unlimited powers. They could intervene even in the transfer of teachers. All these things created a difficult situation for the progress of education. Diarchy did not prove successful in India. A lot of criticism was levelled against it. Thus Montford reform did not help the development of education in the country.

    The Indian leaders were not satisfied with the working of diarchy. The nationalist movement by the time became more powerful in the states on account of the repressive measures taken by the Government. In 1921 Gandhiji had launched the Non-cooperation movement and as response to his call students had left their schools and colleges and joined the movement. Thus, the attention of the people was diverted towards political movement.


  • By responding to the dissatisfaction felt by the Indian people about the Government of India Act of 1919, the Simon Commission was appointed on November 8, 1927, to inquire into the working of the administration under the Government of India Act, 1919. About this time as agitation against the Government was going on, it was felt necessary to give due importance to education in India. The Government therefore authorised the commission to appoint a Committee to help it in preparing a report on education. So the commission appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Phillip Hartog to inquire into the conditions of education in India. Sir Phillip Hartog had served as a number of the Sadler Commission. Since he was the chairman of the Committee, the Committee was known as Hartog Committee.



Defects of Primary Education :

The Committee pointed out the following special difficulties in the path of progress of primary education—

  • The Committee realised that the majority of the Indian population reside in villages. Hence primary education is more a rural problem than an urban one. In rural areas school units are usually small, adequate staffing is more expensive, the conditions of living are not attractive to teachers, needs for supervision and inspection is much greater and it is more difficult to secure regular and prolonged attendance of children.
  • The Committee found that the villagers were poor, illiterate and conservative and unwilling to send their children to schools. The general economic conditions of the villagers were also unfavourable to the spread of mass education.
  • The villages were scattered, roads and means of communications were very bad. Physical and climatic conditions were also not favourable for education.
  • The Hartog committee noted that there were many inaccessible and economically backward areas where primary education had not been encouraged.
  • As villages did not have hygienic conditions, epidemic often broke out which affected the regularity of attendance of the children. Besides, agricultural work was also responsible for poor attendance. Children had to help their parents in agriculture and the parents found that if they sent their children to schools, their work would suffer.
  • The committee also found very serious barriers of caste, religion and communal feelings making the expansion of primary education complicated.
    Another big challenge is found by the Committee on primary level, is Wastage and Stagnation:According to the Committee ‘wastage’ meant premature withdrawal of children from school at any stage before the completion of the primary course.
    By ‘stagnation’ the committee meant detention in the same classes for more than one academic year. Regular promotion of the students to the next higher class is interrupted resulting in the withdrawal of the student from school learning. The committee had highlighted the following causes of wastage and stagnation in primary education—
  • As most of the parents are illiterate children don’t find suitable environment to retain their literacy.
  • The committee found that 60% of the primary schools were single teacher school.
  • The teachers are not trained and regular inspection of schools was not possible due to inadequate number of inspectors.
  • The method of teaching employed by the teachers was unscientific and stereo typed and the curriculum was not scientific and upto date.
  • Many of the schools were temporary and short lived. There were certain schools that did not hold their sessions regularly.

Recommendations for Improvement:

After describing the defects of primary education Hartog committee condemned the policy of its hasty expansion and recommended concentration on consolidation and qualitative improvement. Its main recommendations were—

  • Planning to make primary education compulsory: Primary education should be made compulsory, but there should be no hurry about it. Environment and circumstances of the locality should be carefully studied while making education compulsory
  • Quality Development: Policy of consolidation should be adopted and haphazard expansion should be dropped. Qualitative development should be made instead of increasing the number of primary schools.
  • Duration: The minimum duration of the primary course should be of four years.
  • Timetable: The time table of the schools should be drawn up in accordance with the environment and the circumstances of the schools.
  • Curriculum: The curriculum of primary schools should be liberalised. It should be based on the needs and conditions of village life.
  • Standard of teachers: Standard of the primary teachers should be improved. Training institutions should have better equipment and efficient staff. Refresher courses should also be arranged from time to time. Salary conditions of the service should be made attractive.
  • Reduction of wastage and stagnation: Special attention should be given to the lowest class in primary schools and determined effort should be made to reduce the large extent of stagnation and wastage that prevail therein.
  • Government inspection: The inspecting staff of the Government should be considerably strengthened both in quality and quantity.
  • Centres for rural welfare: Primary schools should serve as centres for rural uplift works, medical relief, adult education, mass literacy, sanitation, recreation etc
  • Finance: The Hartog committee opined that primary education should be a national concern and imperial Government should not entirely withdraw from the field of educational finance. It should provide necessary funds to meet financial deficiencies in the interest of India as a whole.

Recommendations on Secondary Education

Defects in the Secondary Education :

  • Examination Oriented: The committee found that the whole system of secondary education was dominated by the matriculation examination and the ideal of every boy who entered a secondary school was to prepare himself for the university examinations. It had no other purpose before it.
  • Failures: The percentage of failures at the matriculation examinations was very large. This involved the waste of time, effort and money of the pupils. This was mainly due to laxness of promotions in the secondary schools from class to class and the absence of reasonable selective system.



Recommendations for Improvement :

In order to remove the defects of the system of secondary education the committee made the following recommendations—

  • Diverting Pupils to Non-Literacy Pursuits : With a view to reducing the domination of the matriculation examination, the committee recommended—a) The introduction of a more diversified curriculum in the middle vernacular schools,,
    b) The diversion of more boys to industrial and commercial careers at the end of the middle stage, for which provision should be made by alternative courses in that stage. The students should be encouraged to offer these courses as they would be of great help in practical life.
  • Improvement in the training and service conditions of secondary teachers: In this regard the committee said—a) Remuneration and conditions of service of the secondary teachers are for from satisfactory. Therefore, the salaries and service conditions of the teachers should be improved so as to attract really capable persons into the job. Teachers should be provided with better service conditions, higher salary and better social status.

    b) The committee noted that there was no security of service for the teachers. Teachers were frequently sent away at short notice. Many schools recruit teachers for nine months only and thus avoiding the payment of vocation salaries and increments. The salaries of teachers are paid very irregularly. The committee recommended the removal of such evils for the improvement of secondary education.

    c) The training facilities of the teacher should also be improved.

Recommendations on Higher Education

Already you have learnt about the recommendation of the Hartog Committee regarding primary and secondary education. The committee gave some important suggestions for the university education as well. But before suggesting recommendations it evaluated the condition of higher education, as prevalent in India in those days. The committee looked at the defects and suggested for their remedy.

A) Defects in Higher Education:

  • Low standards: The committee praised the growth in the number of affiliated college but criticised the falling standards of education due to the worsening of environment in these colleges. The committee also stated that the lowering of standards is also due to indiscriminate admissions and poor work culture in secondary schools.
  • Failure to achieve purpose: The main aim of higher education is to inculcate a taste for learning in the students and to prepare the right type of person for the society. But the universities have failed to produce leaders of society both from the qualitative and quantitative points of view.
  • Overcrowding: The universities are over-crowded with students who are not exactly for university education.
  • Neglect of Honours Course: The universities have not properly organised the Honours courses. This led to an unbalanced growth in the field of education.
  • Inadequate Libraries: Libraries are ill equipped. Laboratory equipment and teaching aids are unsatisfactory which are so essential for higher educations are not up to the mark.
  • Unhealthy competition: The committee felt that there was unhealthy competition among the universities. They paid more attention to increasing the number of students than to raising the standard of education.
B) Recommendations: The Hartog Committee made the following recommendations for the improvement of higher education in India.

  • Unitary as well as teaching universities: The committee recommended the establishment of affiliated universities alongwith the unitary, residential and teaching universities, keeping in view the great demand for higher education in India. It admitted that the standard of education in the affiliated colleges of these universities would be poorer than in the teaching universities, but under the circumstances affiliated colleges alone could meet the demand for higher education of the people.
  • Appointment of teachers: The committee recommended that the teachers for affiliated colleges should be appointed by the universities. This procedure will raise the standards of education.
  • Provision for Honours course: The honours course should be of more advanced nature than the pass courses and these courses should be instituted only at the universities.
  • Employment: Provision should be made for technical education by the universities. Graduates should not suffer from unemployment and Employment Bureau should be opened in the universities to help the students get suitable employment.
  • Improving the standard of secondary education: In order to improve the standard of higher education, the standard of the secondary examination should be raised.
  • Restricted admission: The admission in the universities should be made on the basis of abilities and aptitudes of students.
  • Libraries: There should be a well equipped central library in each university in order to enable the teachers to keep themselves upto date in the field of education.
  • Examination for administrative services: Departmental examinations should be held to recruit the graduates in administrative services.
  • Improvement in university work: Efforts should be concentrated on improving university work cluture, on confining the university to its proper function of providing good advanced education to students, who are fit to receive it and to make the university a more fruitful agency in the life of the community.

Women Education

  • Equal importance should be given to the education of the boys as well as girls.
  • More primary schools for the girls should be established in rural areas where convenient, girls should also be allowed to study in the schools meant for boys.
  • Curriculum for girls should include home science, hygiene, music etc. in secondary schools.
  • Greater attention should be paid towards the training of women so that sufficient numbers of trained lady teachers could take up the teaching jobs.
  • The number of inspecting staff should also be raised.
  • The education of the girls at the primary level should be gradually made compulsory.
  • Priority should be given to education of women in India.


The report of the Hartog Committee holds a unique position in the history of Indian education. It greatly influenced the educational policy of the Government which was consolidation rather than expansion prior to independence. The recommendations of the committee regarding primary education were important and well thought out. The report was the first official recognition of the neglect of primary education. It blamed the provincial Governments for poor progress of primary education. The committee observed that primary education had become meaningless and ineffective. Therefore it argued for qualitative improvement. It pointed out that the problems of primary education were basically rural and it had also drawn attention to the problem of wastage and stagnation. The recommendations were welcomed by the officials but the Indian people, however, did not appreciate them. Indian nationalist opinion was in favour of quantitative expansion. The Government continued the policy of consolidation and it had an adverse effect on the primary education. The idea of compulsory primary education was sidetracked.

Regarding secondary education, the Hartog committee laid emphasis on industrial and commercial subjects, thereby making provisions for the students to take up practical occupations in life. The committee also recommended for improving the pay scale and service conditions of the teachers and rightly expressed that no education can be successful unless the teachers were well paid and enjoyed the security of service. But the Government did not choose to implement the recommendations on the teachers and no attempt was made to raise their salaries. The committee very distinctly remarked that qualitative improvement of education was not possible unless the conditions of the teachers were improved.

The Hartog committee had concentrated its attention more on primary and secondary education and less on university education. The committee praised the growth of affiliated colleges but criticised the falling standards of the university education. It expressed the opinion that the universities had failed to meet the needs of the people. It was the duty of the universities to produce such individuals who were tolerant, liberal and suitable to undertake great responsibilities. Giving importance on developing the libraries of the universities was one of the important recommendations of the commission.


We know that the essence of Hartog committee was the importance on qualitative improvement of primary education and not on the quantitative expansion. Accordingly some steps taken by the Government led to the qualitative improvement of this stage. But the general people of the country were asking for quantitative expansion. So the recommendations of the committee aroused sharp reaction. People wanted an education policy which could lead to the increase in the rate of literacy. In fact, increase in literacy was the need of the country. However, little was done up to 1937 to develop primary education. The total numbers of primary schools were 1, 96,708 in 1931-32. During 1936-37 the number came down to 1, 92,244. Such was the sorry plight of primary education in the country.

The condition of secondary education however, was better than that of primary education. From 7.530 schools in 1921-22 increased to 13,056 in 1936-37. The numbers of students were also doubled. But the real cause of improvement was not the committee’s recommendations because nothing had been done by the Government to implement the suggestions. The cause of the improvement had been the efforts of private enterprises and awakening of national spirit. A spirit of love for education was developed in all sections of the people. There was a healthy competition among the people for opening new schools and many teachers opened their own schools by being dissatisfied with the existing state of educational affairs.

Due to the growth of secondary education higher education also developed. A number of new universities and colleges were opened during this period. The number of teaching department in universities and colleges had gone up to 446 in 1936-37 from 207 in 1921-22. Besides new degree colleges and universities were opened during the period. Some special institutions like Shantiniketan founded by Rabindra Nath Tagore were also established. Delhi university was established in 1922, Nagpur 1923, Agra 1927, Andhra university in 1926 and Annamalai in 1929. Most of the students were attracted towards higher education because they realised that secondary education could not fulfill their aspirations. Moreover university educated persons were getting preference over matriculation passed individuals. Therefore there was a rush towards higher education.

But the report of the Hartog committee received cold and hostile reception in the nationalist circles because they felt that a definite programme of expansion was urgently needed for the liquidation of illiteracy and mass education in the country. It was criticised as political device to check the expansion of mass education.

January 2, 2018

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