Education during the British Period-MPSC Study Notes

By Ganesh Mankar|Updated : November 7th, 2021

The Education system in India during British rule is part of the history of modern India.  This topic is useful for MPSC State services, Group B, Group C and all types of direct service recruitment. More information about this component is given below.

This article is important for MPSC State Services Exam and MPSC Combined Exam.

Education System in India during British Rule

India's traditional education system and educational institutions suffered a tremendous setback after the fall of the Mughal Empire and due to political instability in the country, the education environment began to decline continuously. Even after the company's conquest of India, the British allowed education to remain in private hands.

The idea of ​​setting up a network of schools to teach English first came to the mind of a civil servant of the East India Company, Charles Grant. He described the English language as the most suitable medium for the promotion of education. In fact, it was Charles Grant who created the advanced design of English education. That is why he is called 'the father of modern education in India'.

Important Events


Individual efforts under company rule

  • Calcutta Madrasah was established by Warren Hastings in 1781 to study Muslim laws and customs.
  • Jonathan Duncan established Sanskrit college at Banaras in 1791 for Hindu laws and philosophy.
  • Fort William College was set up in 1800 by Wellesley for the training of civil servants of the Company. (It was closed in 1802).

Charter Act of 1813

  • 1 lakh rupees were to be spent by the company for the promotion of education in India.

Lord Macaulay’s Minute of 1835

  • Amidst Orientalist-Anglicist controversy, Macaulay supported the latter view. 
  • The English language was chosen as the sole medium of education.
  • The government decided to spend the limited resources for teaching western sciences and literature.
  • They adopted ‘downward filtration theory’ instead of mass education.

Note: ‘Downward filtration theory’ means teaching a few upper- and middle-class people would produce interpreters which would eventually penetrate to the masses. However, this theory failed miserably as envisaged by the British but has helped in the growth of Modern Intelligentsia who shaped the struggle for independence.

Wood’s Despatch, 1854

  • This was also known as the “Magna Carta of English Education in India”.
  • It rejected ‘downward filtration theory.
  • It recommended English for higher studies and vernaculars at the school level.
  • Secular education.
  • Encouraged private enterprises.

Hunter Education Commission, 1882-83

  • Its objective was to assess the Wood Dispatch.
  • It emphasized on state’s role in improving education.
  • Advocated for transfer of control to local bodies (district and municipal boards).

Rayleigh Commission, 1902

  • To review the performance of universities in India.

Indian Universities Act, 1904

On the recommendation of the Rayleigh commission, the act provided for:

  • greater control over universities
  • Universities were given due importance for research and studies.
  • the number of fellows reduced.
  • Rules were made stricter for private college affiliations.
  • Gopal Krishna Gokhale called this move a “retrograde measure”.

Government Resolution on Education Policy, 1913

  • The government refused to take up the responsibility of compulsory education.
  • It urged the provincial government to do the same.
  • Even private players were encouraged.

Saddler University Commission, 1917-19

  • The commission was set up to review Calcutta University which later extended to all universities.
  • 12+3 program (12-year schooling and 3-year degree)
  • A separate board of secondary and intermediate education were to be set up.
  • It laid stress on Female education, applied scientific and technological education, teachers’ training.

Hartog Committee, 1929

  • Laid emphasis on primary education.
  • Quality of education was given priority over a number of schools and colleges.
  • Admissions were highly restricted.

Wardha Scheme of Basic Education (1937)

  • Zakir Hussain committee formulated this national scheme for basic education.
  • The main principle of ‘learning through activity.
  • secular in approach.
  • First seven years of schooling through mother tongue and English after 8th.

Sergeant Plan of Education, 1944

  • Sergeant was the educational advisor to the British Government.
  • He advocated the number of reforms and aimed to make the Indian education system equivalent to that of England in 40 years. But it seriously lacked methodology for implementation. It was just lip service of the government.

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