It is essential to put some light on the historical background of education in order to have a better understanding of the present and the future.
The Ancient education system in India can be broadly divided into 5 eras.
1.Vedic period : In Vedic era, education occupied an important place in the society. Acquiring education brought prosperity for the people in different fields. Education brought discipline and culture into the lives of people and this is what distinguished man from beasts. Education was considered as a means to help people attain salvation. It helped people realize the supreme truth that during this period education was regarded as true and through education only a man can get rid from the debt of the Guru. In other words, education was given utmost importance in this era.
2.Buddhist education system : The Indian society was divided into four social caste of whom the Brahmans were the superior. They enjoyed the right to education and other superior amenities by the virtue of being born into a Brahman family. Whereas people from other castes were denied religious and educational rights. It was in this background that a religious revolution started in India and a new doctrine was developed called the Buddhist Doctrine. Buddhism played a crucial role in the development of education system in India. The main objective of Buddhist doctrine was to attain wisdom. Under Buddhism colleges were opened for people from all castes. Entry to these educational institutions was not just restricted to the Brahmans. Buddhist education helped attract students from distant countries and helped in the development of Hindu logic and philosophy.
3.Islamic System : According to Islam every human activity starts with education. Islam places a lot of importance on the process of teaching and learning knowledge. Education is essential for one’s development. Islam also states that all the factors which are necessary for acquiring knowledge are provided by God. One of these factors is ‘freedom of research’.
Education under East India Company
The East India Company was interested in educating the Indians from the outset of the company’s rule in Bengal. In the last two decades of 18th century and 19th century, the company’s officials pursued a series of policies to establish their dominance. Most of the policies were in relation to the education policy. The three goals of the policy were:
i) To sponsor Indians in their own culture
ii) to advance knowledge of India
iii) to employ that knowledge in government
The first goal was supported by administers. Vernacular learning also benefited it. In 1781, Madras ‘Aliya, and institution in Calcutta was founded for the study of Arabic and Persian languages and Islamic Law.
The second goal was motivated by the concerns that the company officials were seen as foreign rulers. So if the company wanted to maintain its dominance and win the trust of its subjects it had to outdo the regions previous rulers and do something better in the indigenous system of education. As a result, in 1971, the Benares Sanskrit College was founded in Varanasi.
The company officials believed that they would make better administrators if they are well versed with the language and culture of India, and that is how the third goal grew. It led to the establishment of College of Fort William, in Calcutta in 1880. The college played an important role in the development of modern Indian languages and the Bengal renaissance.
English was increasingly used as a medium of instruction. Therefore Persian was abolished as the official language of the East India Company. Bilingual Education Institutions were established, such as the Poona Sanskrit College taught both Sanskrit and English. Sir Robert Grant, was appointed Governor of the Bombay Presidency in 1834, played an essential role in the establishment of the first medical college, which was named Grant Medical College when it was established in 1854. During 1852-53, citizens of Bombay appealed the British officials to establish and fund University education in India. This resulted in Education dispatch of July 1854. The state-sponsored education for India as outlined by dispatch:
i) Establishing a Department of Public Instruction in each presidency or province of British India.
ii) Establishing universities modeled on the University of London, in each of the Presidency towns (i.e.Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta)
iii)Establishing teachers-training schools for all levels of instruction
iv)Maintaining existing Government colleges and high-schools and increasing their number when necessary.
v)Increasing vernacular schools for elementary education
vi)Introducing a system of grants-in-aid for private schools
1855 : Department for Public Instruction
January, 1857 : University of Calcutta was established
June, 1857 : University of Bombay was established
September, 1857 : University of Madras was established
Elphinstone institution,Grant medical College, and Poona Sanskrit College, were affiliated to University of Bombay.
High-schools in different provinces and presidencies were founded by the Company.