Article: Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859): On Empire and Education http://www. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/1833macaulay-india. asp In the early 19th century, India was colonised by the British and many social and political reforms were made during this period. These reforms brought about both positive and negative effects. One of the greatest reforms during this period was the implementation of the western education system in 1835. On the surface it seems like the western education system was implemented in India to improve the social conditions of the people.
However, upon reading further, we realise that improving the lives of the Indians was not the motive for implementing the western education system. Educating the Indians was a profit-maximising tactic used by the British. The main reasons why the British wanted to educate the Indians were to convince them to adopt the western culture, to form the basis of western civilisation, to understand the value of British goods and buy them and to fill up the middle level jobs. This also reveals to us the British attitudes towards the Indians and how they were treated in the early 19th century.
The western education differs from the traditional Indian education system and impacted the Indian community both positively and negatively. This essay will discuss whether the British education was beneficial and examine its effects on the Indian society. During the British rule from 1757 to 1857, the Indians spoke mainly in their mother tongue language. There were several mother tongue languages in India during that period thus they spoke a dozen different languages. The most commonly spoken languages were Arabic and Sanskrit.
However, when it comes to educating the people, it was decided that it will be done in English because of several reasons as mentioned by Thomas Babington Macaulay. Firstly, ‘English was spoken by the ruling class and higher class of natives at the seats of government’. Thus, they wanted everyone to learn the language. Secondly, the two most celebrated languages in India, Arabic and Sanskrit were deemed as less valuable. This was mentioned by Thomas Babington Macaulay in his ‘Minute of Education’.
He said that ‘ It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England’. Also, trading between the European nations and East Asian countries was at its peak during the 19th century and English language, a language that was most commonly used in Europe continent, was likely to become the language of commerce as predicted by Thomas Babington Macaulay.
As a result, English was chosen to be the most appropriate language to be used to educate the Indians. Although the British rulers opened the doors of education to all Indians in 1835, not all were able to fully utilize this opportunity to improve their lives. One of the reasons for being unable to receive education was the high costs involved. Education was considered a luxury during the early nineteenth century and only the people who belong to the wealthier classes or city dwellers were able to afford it. Since the wealthier classes of Indians were the minority and the middle class citizens were the majority, very few people were educated.
Also, majority of Indians could not see any immediate use of education. Attending school on a daily basis to get educated is a long term process. Thus, people need to wait for years in order to enjoy the full benefits of education. However, to the majority of Indians, it was more important to work hard to be able to afford their basic meals for the day. Therefore, the lack of moral suasion and the high costs had served as obstacles that prevented the masses from getting educated. There was another reason to why only a small proportion of people were able to be educated in the early nineteenth century. If we go by the reports of a missionary to the governor general of India, in the early years of the nineteenth century while 100,000 schools could be counted in the two provinces of Bengal and Bihar, not one of them was for girls”. This tells us about the prominent issue of gender discrimination which was present in the early nineteenth century in India. Girls were considered an inferior gender and they were deprived of many privileges which includes education. Some were even deprived of the right to live as infanticide was being practiced in India.
Therefore, these factors limit the number of people who are able and willing to receive education. Thus, despite the fact that the British allowed all Indians to get educated, only a minority of higher class citizens were able to get educated. The establishment of the new western education system in the early 19th century was not well received by the Indian teachers due to differences in the British and Indian methods of teaching. The British education system emphasised on the use of textbooks which was previously not part of the Indian education system.
In the Indian education system, the teachers had the liberty to decide how and what they want to teach. However, in the new system, teachers could no longer decide on the lesson topic as they had to strictly follow the textbook content. This made the Indian teachers feel as though they had lost their respect. The British also emphasized literature over the sciences because it was a means of acculturation. This can be seen from the fact that there were only a total of 6 engineering and medical colleges in contrast to the numerous arts colleges in the early 19th century.
By making the students read the texts from the great works of English poets like Shakespeare, the British believed that the Indians would be convinced to completely adopt the values and customs of the English culture. This is one of the methods employed by the British to acculturate the Indian students. However, the Indian students could not relate to such literature works because it was very new and foreign to them. They even had to memorize texts, despite being unable to understand what it means, in order to pass the exam.
This shows that the British education system is very much different from the Indian education system. Although it was not well received by the Indian teachers, this system continued to exist and impacted the Indian community adversely. Such an education system in India had adverse effects on its community. ‘Education created a division between people, the English educated elites and the non-educated’. English gaining importance as the language of elite section of society alienated the masses from them. ’ This shows that the British education system caused segregation in the Indian community.
British education in India was supposed to bring about the synthesis of a western and eastern culture. However, it caused the uneducated to distant themselves from the educated leading to a social segregation. Social segregation is an undesirable situation thus, the British education system had affected the Indian community unfavourably. Also, the educated Indians were not allowed to own companies or to hold top government positions. But the British decided to provide education for people to fill middle level and professional jobs.
This tells us about the British attitude towards Indians. The British wanted to remain superior to the Indians and never wanted the Indians to enter the government sector which might cause them to have some power or control over certain issues. They have attempted to show that they can take fair decisions by allowing the entire Indian population of 200 million to get educated. However, their true intentions of remaining superior and not providing any form of equal chances can only be seen by their decision to not include Indians from the Government jobs.
In conclusion, the education system that was introduced by the British in the early nineteenth century was only effective to a certain extent due to the limited number of people who were able to pursue education and its effects. The British education system was generally not well received by the teachers and students because of the difference in methods of teaching and inability to relate to the content of the subject respectively. This issue was further aggravated by the fact that the education system led to a social segregation in the Indian community.
The British believed that their education system in India was going to be the basis of Western civilization. However, ‘this created a class of educated middle class Indians which would later lead the Indian independence movement against the British in the 20th century’. Some examples of such educated middle class Indians who led the Indian Independence movement against the British would be Mohandas Gandhi and Dadabhai Naoroji. This shows that the British education system, despite being manipulated in many ways, had benefitted the Indian community. The British education system is still in use in India today.
However, they have given equal importance to both the arts and sciences which can be seen from the large number of engineering and medical colleges as well as the arts colleges which benefits the people better. (1528 words) ——————————————– [ 1 ]. i Modern History Sourcebook: Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859): On Empire and Education http://www. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/1833macaulay-india. asp [ 2 ]. ii Modern History Sourcebook: Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859): On Empire and Education http://www. fordham. edu/halsall/mod/1833macaulay-india. asp [ 3 ].
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