Spread of Modern Education

1781: Hastings set up the Calcutta Madrasah for the study and teaching of Muslim law and related subjects

1791: Jonathan Duncan started a Sanskrit College at Varanasi for the study of Hindu law and philosophy.

1813: Charter of 1813 directed the Company to spend Rs. 1 lakh for promoting modern sciences in the country. This sum was however made available only in 1823.

1835: Macaulay’s minute.

English was made the medium of instruction in schools. Education of masses was however neglected. British advocated the ‘downward filtration theory’ for education. As per this theory, since the allocated funds could educate only a handful of Indians, it was decided to spend them in educating a few persons from the upper and middle classes who were expected to assume the task of educating the masses and spreading modern ideas among them.

1844: Compulsion for applicants for government employment to possess knowledge of English. This made the English medium schools more popular.

1854: Wood’s Dispatch asked the government of India to assume responsibility for the education of the masses. It thus repudiated the ‘downward filtration theory’. As a result, Departments of Education were instituted in all provinces and universities were setup in 1857 at Madras, Calcutta and Bombay.

The main reason why British adopted some measures towards education in India was because:

  1. They needed educated people to man their system of administration. It was not possible to get enough Englishmen to man all the posts.
  2. Another important motive was the belief that educated Indians would help expand the market for British manufactures in India.
  3.  Lastly, it was expected to reconcile the people of India to British rule.

Major drawbacks of the English education system:

  1. Neglect of mass education. Mass literacy in India was hardly better in 1921 than in 1821. High fees in schools and colleges led to the education becoming a monopoly of the rich.
  2. Almost total neglect of the education of girls. As late as 1921 only 2 percent Indian women could read and write.
  3. Neglect of scientific and technical education.
  4. The government was never willing to spend more than a scanty sum on education.

Development of Education


  • Charter act of 1813
    • Sanctioned 1 lakh rupees annually for promoting education and modern sciences
    • Not made available till 1823
  • Orientalist-Anglicist Controversy
  • Lord Macaulay’s minute (1835)
  • Wood’s Despatch (1854)
    • Rejected the downward filtration theory
    • Asked the government of India to assume the responsibility of education of the masses
    • English as medium for higher studies and vernaculars at school level
  • 1857: University of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras
  • Hunter Commission (1882-83)
    • State care required for promotion and spread of primary and secondary education
    • Transfer control of primary education to district and municipal boards
  • Raleigh Commission, 1902
  • Universities Act 1904
  • Saddler Education Commission (1917-19)
    • School course should cover 12 years
    • Less rigidity in framing university regulations
  • Hartog Committee (1929)
    • No hasty expansion or compulsion of education
  • Wardha Scheme of basic education (1937)
    • Vocation based education


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