Development of Vernacular Education



  • 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/Period Policy, Scheme Aspect related to Vernacular Education
1800s and Earlier Mughal 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

1830s William 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

1843-53 James 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
1853 Dalhousie’s Minute ·         In a famous minute, Lord Dalhousie expressed strong opinion in favour of vernacular education
1854 Wood’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


1882 Hunter 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.

1904 Education policy ·         This policy put special emphasis on vernacular education and increased grants for it
1937 Ministry 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