After the downfall of the Mughal Empire, the progress of education in India declined. – After the battle of Buxar, the East India Company became a territorial power.

The Court of Directors of the East India Company was reluctant to shoulder the responsibility for education of the people of India and: left education to private efforts.

However, the British Parliament; compelled the company to devote its attention to the existing educational system of India.

Importance of Education in India

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The East India Company’s charter of 1098 had directed the company to maintain the schools and therefore the first school, called St. Mary’s Charity School was started in Madras in 17,15. In 1781 Warren Hastings set up the Calcutta Madrasah for the study and learning of Persian and Arabic. In .1791, Jonathan Duncan, the British Resident of Benaras started a Sanskrit College there for the study of Hindu Law, philosophy and literature.

However these early attempts for the spread of oriental languages met with little success. Then the christian missionaries and many humanitarian begin to put pressure on the Company to promote medium education through the medium of English.

A humble beginning towards the development of education in India was made in 1813 when the Charter Act (1813) provided for an annual expenditure of one lakh of rupees “for the revival and promotion of literature and the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories.”


However this small amount of money was not made available by the company till 1823. Between 1823 (o 1833 the principal aim of the educational system was to spread English because the company required young clerks well acquainted with English for its officer.

Orientalist-Anglicist Controversy:

(Introduction of English Education-1835). During the first quarter of nineteenth century a great controversy was going on regarding the nature of education and medium of instruction in schools and colleges. The Orientalists led by Dr. H.H.Wilson and H.T. Princep advocated in favour of Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian as the medium of education. The Anglicists led by Charles Trevelyan, Elphinstone advocated the imparting of western education through the medium of English.

The Anglicists were supported by most advanced Indians of the time, like Raja Ram Mohan Roy who advocated for the study of western education as the “key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of the modern west.” Lord Macauley, the Law member to the Supreme Council of Calcutta was appointed Chairman of the Committee of Public Instruction.

In his famous Minute of 2nd February 1835, Macauley fired the final shot of the battle between the Orientalists and Anglicists. He gave his verdict in favour of English as the medium of instruction and western education, literatures and sciences as the subjects of study for the Indians.


Lord Macauley showed his hatred towards Oriental Literatures when he said that, “a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.” Lord William Bentick, the then Governor-General of India, approved Macauley’s Minute and on 7th March 1835 passed a resolution declaring that, “His Lordship in Council is of opinion that, the great object of the British Government ought to be the promotion of European literature and science among the natives of India and that all the fund appropriated for the purpose of education would be best employed on English education alone.”

Through the Macaulayian system the British Government intended to educate the upper and middle classes who were likely to take up the task of educating and spreading modern ideas among them. Macauley had faith in the “infiltration theory”. He wrote in his minute, “We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions, whom we govern, a class of persons, Indian in “blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country.”

Hereafter between 1835-39, the Government had established twenty- three schools. In 1842 a Council of Education was established in place of the Committee of Public Instruction. During 1843-53, Mr. James Thomason, the Lieutenant Governor of North Western Provinces had introduced a comprehensive scheme of village education.

Under this scheme some villages were grouped in one unit and every Zamindar of the unit had to pay one percent cess on the revenue for the maintenance of the schools in his jurisdiction. In 1835 Bentick had established a Medical College at Calcutta.

Gradually similar colleges were founded in different parts of the country. The introduction of English education led to the growth of the English literature and civilization and marked the dawn of a new epoch in the intellectual life of India.

The social and religious outlook of the Indians also underwent a great change. With the spread of western philosophy and science the ground for Indian Renaissance was prepared. The educated Indians spread the ideas of democracy, nationalism, social and economic quality among the common people.

Sir Charles Wood’s Despatch of 1854:

In 1854, Sir Charles Wood, the President of the Board of Control sent his recommendations known as ‘Wood’s Despatch of 1854″ reorganizing the whole structure of education. Wood’s Despatch is regarded as the Magna Carta of English education in India. It recommended for the establishment of Anglo-Vernacular Schools throughout the districts, Government Colleges in important towns and a University in each of the three Presidencies in India.

It also recommended for the grants-in-aid system to encourage private enterprise in the field of education. A Department of Public Instruction under the charge of a Director was to be established in each province. The despatch also encouraged female education. Almost all the recommendations of woods were implemented.

A Department of Public Instruction was established in 1855 in each province under the Director of Public Instruction. In 1857 examining universities on the model of London University were established at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.

These Universities were to conduct examinations and award degrees. Vernacular schools were established in the villages and education was imparted to the children through vernacular language of the province in the lower classes. Due to Bethane’s efforts girls schools were established under the Government’s grant-in-aid and inspection system. There were no arrangements for the training of the teachers.