We have been led to believe that Lord Macaulay had insisted on substituting traditional education in India with western education with a view to churning out generations of loyal natives indoctrinated in western ideas. This extract from an essay on Indian education, published in the year 1864 will disabuse us of this notion. Years before Macaulay made his pronouncement, the natives had shown a distinct partiality for western arts and sciences.
Update 15/08/13 : Extract from the letter written by Ram Mohun Roy in 1823:In 1781, Hastings established, the Mahomedan College at Calcutta, and in 1792, the Sanskrit College was founded at Benares. The object of these seminaries was to furnish a supply of Hindu and Mussulman natives, sufficiently qualified by their knowledge of their respective laws to perform the duties of judicial administration. In 1816, the Hindu College was set up at Calcutta by means of voluntary contributions from the natives who desired a knowledge of the arts and sciences of Europe.
The general Committee of public instruction, began its work by undertaking on a large scale the printing of Sanskrit and Arabic books. The Orientalists, by whom are meant those members of the Committee, who, while not neglecting European science, yet evinced a decided preference in favour of instructing the natives in their own literature, possessed most influence, and the whole tendency of the early acts of the Committee was rather to the extension of Eastern than Western learning. That the course thus pursued by the Committee was distasteful to the natives is shown by a letter, addressed to Lord Amherst, through Bishop Heber, on the proposed establishment of a Sanskrit College at Calcutta, in the year 1823, by one of their body, who was esteemed, and rightly, to be at that time the most learned of our Indian subjects.
Ram Mohun Roy, after praising the Government for the exertions it was making in the cause of native education, goes on to say that, however thankful the natives must feel for the interest thus shown in their welfare, yet they cannot help perceiving that the labours of the Government are being misdirected, whether through ignorance of native wishes, or from other causes not specified. He therefore thinks it incumbent upon him to place before the authorities some statement of the native opinions and desires upon the subject. When therefore it was known that a certain sum of money had been voted for the purpose of promoting and encouraging education among our Indian subjects, " We were filled," he says, "with sanguine hopes that this sum would be laid out in employing European gentlemen of talent and education to instruct the natives of India in mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy, and other useful sciences, which the natives of Europe hare carried to a degree of perfection that has raised them above the inhabitants of the other parts of the world."
These hopes, however, were suddenly dashed to the ground by the information that one of the first acts of the Committee would be to establish a Sanskrit College at Calcutta, a step as they conceived in a backward direction. One of the great evils of native education was that so much time used to be expended in the acquirement of what was in after life of little value. To obtain a complete knowledge of the Sanskrit language, was the work of a lifetime, and it was no uncommon thing for a native youth to spend twelve of the best years of his life in mastering the grammar alone. If, he observes, the Government wished to preserve the study of the Sanskrit language, it could have done so by holding out certain premiums, and granting allowances to professors, already too numerous, by whom those who were desirous of learning the language, might be instructed; but he regards the establishment of a Sanskrit College, in which the native youth, besides spending much valuable time in acquiring a knowledge of the Sanskrit tongue, would learn that which was taught two thousand years ago, and waste their energies in speculations suggested by the Vedanta, in metaphysical subtilties and logical niceties, much as an Englishman would have looked upon an attempt to replace the Baconian philosophy by the system of the schoolmen, calculated, as it alone was, to perpetuate ignorance. Impelled by these considerations, and a sincere desire for the good of his country, and the spread of true knowledge amongst its inhabitants, Ram Mohun Eoy prays the Governor-General to expend the grant of money in the promotion and extension of Western rather than Oriental learning.
Notwithstanding this remonstrance, the Sanskrit College was founded; but English classes were, as we have mentioned, attached to the colleges at Calcutta, Benares, and Agra, and some time later, in 1824, in deference to popular opinion, and the loudly expressed wishes of local authorities, a separate institution was raised at Delhi for the special cultivation of European learning.
At Agra and Delhi the elements of Geography, Astronomy and Mathematics formed part of the college course, and in addition to the English classes attached to the native seminaries, two distinct schools had been founded at Delhi and Benares for the dissemination of the English language. The patronage which the Committee had extended to the Vidyalaya, or Hindu College at Calcutta, had resulted in a great command among the students of the English tongue, and a familiarity with its literature and sciences rarely equalled in English schools, while the establishment of schools under Vidyalaya pupils, which was everywhere taking place, had widely disseminated the taste for English.
Nothing is more conclusive that at this time the natives would, only be satisfied by a thorough English education than the fact that Arabic and Sanskrit books, published by the Committee at great expense, remained on their hands, while English books were being bought up with the greatest avidity. From the printed report of the.Schoolbook Society from January 1834 to December 1835, the following sales were effected:
English books 31,649
Anglo-Asiatic, or books partly in English, partly in some Eastern language 4,525
If further proof were wanted of the growing bias of the native mind, we may mention that pupils could not be obtained in the Oriental schools without being taught gratuitously, and, in addition, supplied with monthly stipends, while the demand for instruction at the English seminaries was so great, that the native youths were themselves ready to pay for the privilege of being admitted, and the average monthly collection on this account from the pupils of the Hindu College for February and March 1836, was 1,325 Sicca rupees. This Hindu College was under the same roof as the Sanskrit College, at which thirty pupils were hired at eight rupees each, and seventy at five rupees, amounting to 590 rupees a month in all. The English classes attached to the Oriental schools had failed lamentably, the pupils not having time to master both studies. The rich natives were everywhere founding English schools under the superintendence of young men reared in the Vidyalaya.
Everywhere arose a cry for European education;
We find that the Government are establishing a Sanskrit school under Hindoo Pundits to impart such knowledge as is already current in India."From these considerations, as the sum set apart for the instruction of the natives of India was intended by the Government in England for the improvement of its Indian subjects, I beg leave to state, with due deference to your Lordship's exalted situation, that if the plan now adopted be followed it will completely defeat the object proposed, since no improvement can be expected from inducing young men to consume a dozen of years of the most valuable period of their lives in acquiring the niceties of Vyakaran or Sanskrit Grammar."If it had been intended to keep the British nation in ignorance of real knowledge, the Baconian philosophy would not have been allowed to displace the system of the schoolmen, which was the best calculated to perpetuate ignorance. In the same manner, the Sanskrit system of education would be best calculated to keep this country in darkness, if such had been the policy of the British legislature. But as the improvement of the native population is the object of the Government, it will consequently promote a more liberal and enlightened system of instruction ; embracing mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy, with other useful sciences, which may be accomplished with the sum proposed by employing a few gentlemen of talents and learning in Europe, and providing a college furnished with necessary books, instruments and other apparatus