Education Policies

The Charter Act, 1813 bore the hallmark of thinking of evangelists like CHARLES GRANT( Chairman of EIC) and imperialists like JAMES MILL. Unlike the erstwhile ORIENTALISTS like Warren Hastings and his friend Charles Wilkins (Translator of Geeta), William Jones( founded Asiatic Society of Bengal), these two gentlemen were openly contemptuous of Indian civilization and culture. Grant was an evangelist who “saw Indian society as not only heathen, but also as corrupt and uncivilised. He was appalled by such native customs as exposing the sick, burning lepers, and sati. He believed that Britain’s duty was not simply to expand its rule in India and exploit the subcontinent for its commercial interests, but to civilise and Christianise”. Mill too was out to prove the CIVILIZING MISSION of the British in India.

They lobbied to include many provisions in the Act. Among which, two were to pave the way for westernization of India.

  1. Company Govt accepted its responsibility towards educating the natives. Education was sanctioned Rs. 1 lakh. In this provision lies the germ of English education in India, which became the conduit for western thoughts to Indians.
  2. Missionaries were allowed to proselytize in India. The onslaught of Missionaries on Hindu religion gave urgency to the efforts Hindu reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy to reform Hindu religion. Western concepts like humanism and rationalism became the leitmotif of this movement.

The British East India Company officials wanted to maintain neutrality or non-intervention in the sphere of religion and culture of the Indian society, after the acquisition of political power in India in first half of 19th Century. The reason behind this policy was partly the fear of adverse reaction and opposition to their role by the indigenous people. However, due to certain constant pressure from different quarters, the Missionaries, the Liberals, the Orientalists, the Utilitarians compelled the company to give up its position of neutrality and to take up the responsibility of promotion of education. But, there was a conflict in the opinions which were divided on the issue that whether the company should promote western or oriental education, giving rise to the Orientalist-Anglicist controversy.

Orientalist-Anglicist controversy:

  • During the first quarter of nineteenth century a great controversy was going on regarding the nature of education and medium of instruction in schools and colleges.
  • The Orientalists led by Dr. H.H.Wilson and H.T. Princep advocated in favour of Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian as the medium of education.
  • In the initial stage, the company officials patronised oriental learning.
  • In this context, the establishment of the Calcutta Madrasa by Warren Hastings in 1781, the Benares Sanskrit College by Jonathan Duncan in 1791 and the Asiatic Society of Bengal by William Jones in 1784 are noteworthy.
  • Those who were in favour of continuation of the existing institutions of oriental learning and promotion of Indian classical tradition were called Orientalists. Orientalists were guided by some practical considerations.
  • They wanted to teach the British officials the local language and culture so that they would be better at their job.
  • This was the prime objective behind the foundation of the Port William College at Calcutta in 1800.
  • The other motive was to develop friendly relations with the elites of the indigenous society and to understand their culture.
  • This was the main reason behind the establishment of the Calcutta Madrassa and the Benaras Sanskrit College.
  • The Anglicists led by Charles Trevelyan, Elphinstone advocated the imparting of western education through the medium of English.
  • The Anglicists were supported by most advanced Indians of the time, like Raja Ram Mohan Roy who advocated for the study of western education as the “key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of the modern west.”
  • They could not compromise the idea of grafting the new Western learning upon the old stock of Oriental learning.
  • They argued the idea of diffusing Western sciences and literature amongst the Indians through the medium of English.
  • As they were firm in their conviction, so they desired to utilize the entire educational grant for the purpose of diffusing Western Education.
  • Countering these Orientalists, there was a strong opposition led by different groups in England, namely, the Evangelicals, the Liberals and the Utilitarians.
  • The Evangelicals had a firm conviction in the superiority of Christian ideas and western institutions.
  • Two great exponents of the Evangelical view were Charles Grant and William Wilberforce.
  • Also, others who did not share Evangelical faith also convinced of the superiority of western knowledge and one of the chief promoter of this idea was Macaulay.

Macaulay’s Minute of 1835:

  • Under the circumstances, the controversy between these two schools of thought was referred to the Government by the General Committee of Public Instruction.
  • Lord Macaulay, the Law member to the Supreme Council of Calcutta was appointed Chairman of the Committee of Public Instruction.
  • This famous minute finally settled the debate in the favour of Anglicists, that is, the limited government resources were to be devoted to teaching of western sciences and literature through the medium of English language alone.
  • Lord Macaulay was of the view that ” Indian learning was inferior to European learning”, which was true as far as physical and social sciences in the contemporary stage were concerned.
  • The Government soon made English as the medium of instruction in its schools and colleges and opened a few English schools and colleges instead of a large number of elementary schools, thus neglecting mass education.
  • The British planned to educate a small section of upper and middle classes, thus creating a class “Indian in blood and colour but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect” who would act as interpreters between the government and masses and would enrich the vernaculars by which knowledge of western sciences and literature would reach the masses.

Through the Macaulay’s system the British Government intended to educate the upper and middle classes who were likely to take up the task of educating and spreading modern ideas among them. Macaulay had faith in the “infiltration theory”.

In 1854, Sir Charles Wood, the President of the Board of Control sent his recommendations known as ‘Wood’s Despatch of 1854″ reorganizing the whole structure of education. Wood’s Despatch is regarded as the Magna Carta of English education in India. It recommended for the establishment of Anglo-Vernacular Schools throughout the districts, Government Colleges in important towns and a University in each of the three Presidencies in India.

Wood’s Dispatch Comprehensive education system and organizational structure :You have seen as to how Macaulay’s Minute influenced educational policy of Lord William Bentinck, which was in force for next 40 years.

In 1853, when renewal of the Company charter again came for the consideration, the British Parliament examined the progress of education in India. The observations and suggested reforms were issued as a Charter of Education, known as Wood’s Dispatch of 1854.

Wood’s Dispatch is considered to be the “Magna Carta of Education” in India. The Dispatch is a comprehensive important educational document and holds a unique place in the history of Indian education. It placed the responsibility of education of the Indian people fully on the company and made it quite clear that it must never be neglected. The Dispatch gave new direction to education in India and which has its impact on today’s education in the country.

The aim of education was stated as diffusion of European Arts, Science, Philosophy and Literature through English. Promotion of Indian languages was also to be encouraged. “Creation of a class of public servants”, was the important objective. For this purpose, expansion of mass education was given priority.

The Wood’s Dispatch, for the first time, recommended the creation of a Department of Public Instruction in each of the five provinces of Bengal, Bombay, Madras, Punjab and the North Western province.

For higher education, a scheme to establish universities was formulated along with total organizational set up. They were to conduct examinations and offer degrees in various subjects and languages. This led to the establishment of the first three universities in 1857, at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.

The Dispatch made important recommendations on most of the aspects of education like establishing network of graded schools all over the country such as elementary schools, high schools, intermediate, colleges and university, etc., grant in aid system for financial support to schools, provision for women education, training and professional development of teachers, establishment of medical, engineering law and other institutes of professional education to develop vocational efficiency of people.

The importance of wood’s dispatch was in a number of valuable and fundamental recommendations for future educational development in India. It gave new direction to issues like gradation of education, medium of instruction and proposed new schemes for future educational development in India with far reaching consequences.

The main provisions of the document were of great historical importance. It provided a boost to secondary education and to some extent to primary education also.

It was however observed that some of the most important recommendations of the Dispatch were not carried out for a long time and some were given effect in a distorted form.

During the first thirty years after the Dispatch, government institutions gradually increased, but except the Christian Missionaries, other private efforts were not encouraged.

Plans to spread mass education were not realized nor were vernacular high schools established. It did not sincerely promote universal literacy. The Dispatch could not visualize the progress of Indian aspirations even after a century.

As you know soon after 1857 revolt, the East India Company was dissolved and the government came directly under the British Crown. As a consequence, efforts were made to consolidate the empire and education was somewhat neglected.

Hunter Commission Vocationalization of Education:

Hunter Commission was appointed in 1882 to examine the implementation of the Dispatch of 1854, which tried to streamline school education into two streams of high school: one leading to the university education and the other to the commercial, vocational and technical education.

This was the first attempt to diversify school curriculum and introduce vocational education. However, despite the specific recommendations and emphasis of the Hunter Commission on commercial, vocational or non-literary education, neither the public nor the Govt. appreciated the value of this practical suggestion and the recommendations were totally ignored.

Not much was done in this regard in last hundred fifty years, not even in free India

Universities Commission Schools under the control of University: A new Commission was appointed in 1902 to examine the condition and prospects of the universities established in British Raj.

The Commission recommended the reorganization of university administration; strict and systematic supervision of the colleges by the university; and stricter conditions of affiliation and major changes in curricula and examinations.

More relevant and important for school education is, as a result of the recommendations of this Commission, secondary schools were brought under the control of the Universities. Under the Indian Universities Act of 1904, schools had to be recognized by the Universities and rules and regulations were framed for this purpose



  • K.Gokhale, the moderate Congress Leader, being aware of the intention of the British Government, made attempts to draw the attention of the people of India as well as in England towards the condition of Education
  • Hence, he introduced a Bill to make elementary education free, compulsory, for children aged between 6 and 10 years. Further, Gokhale’s effort had a far-reaching consequences in the subsequent period
  • However, the British Government rejected the Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s Bill and refused to recognise the principle of compulsory education for paucity of funds; instead they promised to extend grants for the widest extension of primary education on a voluntary basis and passed the Resolution on Education Policy on February 21, 1913


The Government Resolution on Education Policy, 1913

  • The Resolution advocated three cardinal principles of educational policy:
    • The curricula of primary and secondary schools should be made more practical and useful
    • Facilities of higher education should be provided in India so that Indian students may not have to go abroad
  • Instead of increasing the number of existing institutions their standard should be raised
  • Also in the resolution, the government refused to take up the responsibility of compulsory education, but accepted the policy of removal of illiteracy.
  • It urged provincial governments to take early steps to provide free elementary education to the poorer and more backward sections.
  • A university, it was decided, was to be established in each province and teaching activities of universities were to be encouraged
    • The universities were to be relieved of the responsibility of granting recognition to high schools
  • The Policy also provided for sufficient expansion of lower primary schools with a simultaneous opening of upper primary schools.
  • It proposed to streamline inspection and supervision, appoint trained teachers, subsidize Maktabs and Pathshalas, improve school facilities, and encourage girl’s education
  • The subjects of industrial importance were to be included in the curriculum
  • However, the First World War delayed the implementation of many recommendations set out in the Resolution


The next important development was realization of the need of improvement of secondary education for the improvement of University education, as observed by the Sadler Commission in 1917. This concern also stemmed from of the need for bifurcation of college courses.

Sadler Commission suggested bifurcation of higher education at the intermediate examination rather than at the matriculation examination, and suggested creation of Intermediate colleges which would provide instruction in Arts, Science, Medicine, Engineering, Teaching, etc; to be run as independent institution or to be attached to selected high schools. It also recommended that a Board of Secondary and Intermediate Education, be established and entrusted with the administration and control of Secondary Education. Perhaps the seed of the concept of +2 stage or Junior Colleges today, are laid by the Sadler Commission.

The Sadler Commission Report was a comprehensive one and many of the universities in India implemented its suggestions. It was also for the first time that a Commission had recommended the attachment of intermediate classes to the high schools and the setting up of a Board of Education to control high school and intermediate education.

In 1929, the Hartog Committee, appointed to review the position of education in the country, maintained that the Matriculation of the University still dominated the whole of the secondary course.

To remove this defect, the Committee recommended that a large number of students intending to follow certain vocation should stop at the middle school stage and there should be “more diversified curricula in the schools”.

The Committee also recommended diversion of more boys to industrial and commercial careers at the end of the middle stage, where they should be prepared for specialized education in technical and industrial schools.

The Committee also reviewed the problems relating to the training of teachers and the service conditions of the secondary teachers”.

In 1937, when the provincial governments were formed in seven provinces with the native representation, they concentrated their attention on educational reforms.

In October 1937, an all-India National Educational Conference was held at Wardha and the conference resolved to accept the proposal made by Mahatma Gandhi that free and compulsory education be provided for seven years through mother tongue on a nation-wide scale and the process of education throughout this period should centre around some form of manual and productive work.

All other abilities to be developed or training to be given should, as far as possible, be integrally related to the central handicraft chosen with due regard to the environment of the child.

The conference expected that this system of education will be self sufficient and gradually, will be able to cover the remuneration of teachers.

Accordingly, a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Zakir Hussain was appointed. The Committee prepared and submitted the first comprehensive national education scheme in its report on December 2, 1937, which was popularly known as the Wardha Scheme or Basic Education

The main features of the scheme are as follows:

  • The entire education is to be imparted through some industry or vocation with a basic craft as the center of instruction. The idea is not to teach some handicraft along with liberal education, but education integrated with a handicraft is to be imparted through samavaaya (Samavay) integration method. It’s a work-centric education.
  • Education is to be self-supporting to the extent of covering teachers’ salaries and aims at making pupils self-supporting after the completion of their course;
  • Every individual should learn to earn his living through manual work in life. Hence, education through manual labour is insisted. It is also considered non-violent, since an individual does not snatch away the living of others.
  • Learning is closely coordinated with home, community and the child’s life activities, as well as, village crafts and occupations. This philosophy had a strong impact on formulation of the educational policies, particularly at the elementary stage and for free primary education to find place in the constitution of free India.

Central Advisory Board of Education prepared a comprehensive report on educational development after the world war, known as the Sargent Report in 1944.

It visualized a system of education with pre-primary education for children between 3 to 6 years of age; universal, compulsory and free primary basic education for all children between the ages 6—11 (junior basic) and 11—14 (senior basic) as suggested in Wardha Scheme; the Senior Basic or the Middle School to be the final stage in the school career of majority of the students. The report also recommended that at the Middle School stage, provision should be made for a variety of courses.

These courses should be designed to prepare the pupils for entry into industrial and commercial occupations, as well as, into the universities. It was recommended that the High School course should cover 6 years.

The normal age of admission should be 11 years. The high schools should be of two main types (a) academic, and (b) technical. Degree course should be for three years for selected students.

The objective of both should be to provide a good all-round education combined with some preparation in the later stages for the careers which pupils will pursue on leaving schools.

The mother tongue is to be used as the medium of instruction in all high schools. Liquidation of adult illiteracy in about 20 years, full provision for the proper training of teachers, provision for the physically and mentally handicapped children, the organization of compulsory physical education, provision for social and recreational activities and creation of department of Education in the centre and in the states were also the recommendations of Sargent Report.

The Sargent Report was the first comprehensive scheme covering all stages and aspects of education – pre-primary, primary, high school and university education, as well as, technical, vocational and professional education.

It provided for equal opportunities to all the students.

Due importance was given to the teaching profession. Improvement of the salary scales and the service conditions of the teachers were also suggested. The report gave importance to productive education

Despite the recommendations of numerous committees and commissions, and the continuous efforts being made to bring about the changes in education, Govt. of India was not very happy with the progress of education in the country.

It was felt necessary to have a comprehensive policy of education covering all the sectors of education. Hence, the Education Commission was set up by the Government of India in 1964 under the chairmanship of Dr. D.S. Kothari, to advise the Government on the national pattern of education and on the general principles and policies for the development of education at all stages and in all aspects.

The Commission set twelve Task Forces for different educational sectors like School Education; Higher Education; Technical Education; Agricultural Education etc. and seven Working Groups to study, in detail, many of specific problems and to report.

The Reports of the Task Forces and the Working Groups enabled the Commission to examine some of the important issues in depth and in detail.

The Commission perceived education as the major tool of social reconstruction and making people aware about their partnership with government in nation building and development. The Commission wanted people to participate in national development. This is the base of the report of Kothari Commission.

Following are some of the major goals for education as visualized by the Commission and the recommendations to achieve them:

  • Education for increasing productivity: a) Make science a basic component of education and culture. b) Introducing S.U.P.W. as an integral part of general education. c) Vocationalising education to meet the needs of the industry of agriculture. d) Improving scientific and technological research and education in universities
  • Education for accelerating process of modernization: a) Adopting new methods of teaching b) Development of attitudes, values and essential skills like Self study. c) Educating people of all strata of society. d) Emphasizing teaching of vocational subjects and science. e) Establishing universities of excellence in the country.
  • Educating for promoting social and national integration: a) Introducing common school system of public education. b) Developing all modern Indian languages. c) Taking steps to enrich Hindi as quickly as possible. d) Encouraging and enabling students to participate in community living.
  • Education for inculcation of national values: a) Introducing moral, social and spiritual values. b) Providing syllabus giving information about religions of the world. c) Encouraging students to meet in groups for silent meditation. d) Presenting before students high ideas of social justice and social service.

Kothari Commission Report is a learned critique of Indian education, and even today, after half a century of years, is still regarded as the most in-depth study of primary and secondary education in Indian history



  • Vernacular language is a local language commonly spoken by a community
  • In general, it is a term used to refer to a local language or dialect as distinct from what is seen as the standard language.
    • In colonial countries like India, the British used the term to mark the difference between the local languages of everyday use and English – the language of the imperial masters
  • But initially, the British decided that the English language and literature and European history, science, etc. were to be taught
  • However, in 1853 a committee was built to check the progress of education. Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian knowledge was considered necessary, this brought the focus on vernacular education


Tracing the Development

Date/PeriodPolicy, SchemeAspect related to Vernacular Education
1800s and EarlierMughal period practices·         The leisured Hindu Class had the patronage of Zamindars, because of which they thrived and had access to Education

·         The course of studies offered by Sanskrit schools comprised Hindu Law, Logic and Literature

·         While the Persian and Arabic schools offered mainly courses of Muslim Law and Islamic religious sciences

1830sWilliam Adam’s report·         The Scottish missionary, toured the districts of Bengal and Bihar. He had been asked by the Company to report on the progress of education in vernacular schools

·         Adam found that there were over 1 lakh pathshalas in Bengal and Bihar. These were small institutions with no more than 20 students each. But the total number of children being taught in these pathshalas was considerable– over 20 lakh

·         The following defects were reported:

·         There were no fixed fee, no printed books, no separate school building, no benches or chairs, no blackboards, no system of separate classes, no rollcall registers, no annual examinations, and no regular time-table

·         It was discovered that this flexible system was suited to local needs

1843-53James Jonathan’s experiments·         These included opening one government school as model school in each Tehsil and a normal school for teachers’ training for vernacular schools
1853Dalhousie’s Minute·         In a famous minute, Lord Dalhousie expressed strong opinion in favour of vernacular education
1854Wood’s Despatch·         This despatch suggested the introduction of vernacular languages in the primary schools in India

·         The following provisions were made in this perspective for vernacular education:

·         Improvement of standards

·         Supervision by government agency

·         Normal schools to train teachers


1882Hunter Commission·         The Hunter Commission held that State should make special efforts for extension and improvement of vernacular education

·         Mass education was to be seen as instructing masses through vernaculars.

1904Education policy·         This policy put special emphasis on vernacular education and increased grants for it
1937Ministry encouragement·         The Vernacular schools received encouragement from Congress ministries.


Other Measures taken

  • It was particularly after 1854 that, the Company decided to improve the system of vernacular education
  • It felt that this could be done by introducing order within the system, imposing routines, establishing rules, ensuring regular inspections
  • How was this to be done?
    • It appointed a number of government pandits, each in charge of looking after four to five schools. The task of the pandit was to visit the pathshalas and try and improve the standard of teaching.
    • Each guru was asked to submit periodic reports and take classes according to a regular timetable.
    • Teaching was now to be based on textbooks and learning was to be tested through a system of annual examination.
    • Students were asked to pay a regular fee, attend regular classes, sit on fixed seats, and obey the new rules
    • Also, Pathshalas which accepted the new rules were supported through government grants.
    • However, this system didn’t work out for poor families as the discipline of the new system demanded regular attendance, even during harvest time when children of poor families had to work in the fields




  • If one studies the development process in totality and in historical perspective, it may not be difficult to establish beyond doubt that the roots of modern scientific and technical education can be traced to Vedic period (prior to 1000BC) and the Epic period (1000 BC to 800 BC) which comprised ashrams(hermitages) of acharyas and kulagurus (teacher sages)
  • Students came from far off places to study various arts and sciences and medicine, on the Indian Land


Early Developments during British Rule

  • If we examine the historical development of technical education, it will be discovered that the foundation of technical education in India was laid almost at the same time as in Europe but its growth in India was very restrictive and slow till India became Independent
  • After the Battle of Plassey in 1754, the status of presence of Britishers was changed from traders to colonizers. Therefore, to rule the country, it was essential that they should have an intimate knowledge of the country’s topography through physical survey of the land
  • For achieving this object, the English traders established a survey school in Madras (Chennai) in 1794 to train Indian personnel in land survey to assist British Surveyors
  • Also, the importance of civil engineering as a discipline of education for Indians started receiving emphasis in 1804s with road and canal projects as goals
    • The necessity to make the local population more efficient, led to the establishment of industrial schools attached to Indian Ordnance Factories and other engineering establishments
  • As a result, the first engineering college was established in the Uttar Pradesh in 1847 for the training of Civil Engineers at Roorkee, Thomason College (which later become IIT Roorkee)
  • Further, in pursuance of the Government policy, three Engineering Colleges were opened by about 1856 in the three Presidencies:
    • In Bengal Presidency, a College called the Calcutta College of Civil Engineering was opened in 1856
    • In Bombay Presidency, the Overseers’ School at Pune eventually became the College of Engineering, Pune in 1858
  • In the Madras Presidency, the industrial school attached to the Gun Carriage Factory became ultimately the College of Engineering, Guindy in 1858


Year Wise establishment of various Technical Institutions in India

1842James Thomson proposed the establishment of College of Civil Engineering at Roorkee
1854A school for the training of overseers was established in Pune. ‘Poona Engineering Class and Mechanical School’ to train subordinate officers for carrying out public works like buildings, dams, canals, railways and bridges.
1856A college called the Calcutta College of Civil Engineering was opened at the

Writers’ building. The name was changed to Bengal Engineering College in 1857

1887The Victoria Jubilee Technical institute was established in Bombay to commemorate the diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria Reign.

The main objective of V.J.T.I. was to train licentiates in electrical, mechanical and textile

engineering and technology

1906The first twentieth century College of Engineering and Technology was

established at Jadavpur in Bengal by the National Council of Education.

1911Sir Jamshed Tata established the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore
1916Banaras Hindu University was established.
1921-1937A number institutions were set up

·         The India School of Mines, Dhanbad;

·         The Harcourt Technological Institute, Kanpur; and

·         The School of Chemical Technology, Bombay

The Post-War Transition

  • As the World War II drew to its end, the British Government realized that the era of colonialism was over.
    • A transfer of power to Indian hands became inevitable
  • The British Government of India, therefore, considered it futile to hold on to its economic and industrial policies to suit the interest of British industry.
    • As a result, during the dusk years of its rule, the British Raj decided to release the brakes it had applied for a century to withhold industrial progress
  • The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) was asked to prepare a report on the post-war educational development in India
    • In the light of this report, an ad-hoc committee under the chairmanship of N.R. Sarkar was constituted in 1945 to advice on the provision of advanced technical education in India
    • The Government of India, thus, established the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to supervise all technical education above the high school stage, which had its first meeting under Chairmanship of Sarkar in 1946