According to the clause 43 of the Charter Act of 1813 the Company had partly undertaken the responsibility of education in India and a sum of one lakh of rupees had been earmarked for the purpose. But no concrete steps were taken in this regard before 1823. The section of the Charter Act of 1813 remained inoperative till 1823. The Company was reluctant initially to spend the money as it had no definite policy and agency with regard to the mode of expenditure of the said amount.
This uncertain situation for a decade gave rise to educational controversies. At last in 1823 an official agency (the G.C.P.I.) was created to deal with educational matters, particularly the expenditure of the sum of one lakh of rupees. “Thus a state system of education was begun almost simultaneously in all the three Presidencies by about 1823 and continued to expand till 1833. The educational grant of India was also increased from one lakh to ten lakhs of rupees per annum”.
The then British India was divided into five Provinces – Bengal, Bombay, Madras, U.P. and Punjab. The Presidency of Bengal first took up the work of educational reorganisation. The General Committee of Public Instruction was appointed on the 17th July, 1823 with this end in view for the Bengal Presidency.
The Committee consisted of ten members including H.T. Prinsep, Thomas Babington Macaulay and H. H. Wilson, who was a great classical scholar. Most of the members of the Committee were admirers of classical or oriental learning. The grant of one lakh of rupees provided by the Charter Act of 1813 was placed at the disposal of the Committee.
A. The Orientalist View:
(The Oriental School is represented by Warren Hastings, Lord Minto, Charies Metcalfe, William jones & H.H. Wilson)
(a) The controversy primarily arose with regard to the interpretation of certain words contained in the clause 43 of the Charter Act of 1843.
(1) The Orientalist argued that the word “Literature” stood for only literature of the two great sections of population – the Hindus and the Muslims, i.e. the “Sanskrit and Arabic literature”.
(2) By a “learned native”, the Orientalists further argued, meant an Indian having high proficiency in either of the two languages.
(3) “The revival and improvement of literature”, therefore, meant printing and publication of classical works.
(4) “The encouragement of the learned natives of India” obviously meant men of scholarship in classical learning. The Occidentalists held that “literature” meant English literature and “learned natives” meant persons versed in Western learning.
(5) As regards “the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences”,the Orientalists argued that “Indians had prejudice (or an inherent aversion to) against European knowledge and science and that they would not accept it at all unless it was presented to them through a classical language”. So they pleaded for a classical language as the medium of instruction.
b) As regards the content of education the Orientalists advocated strongly in favour of Oriental or classical learning which the Occidentalists opposed wholeheartedly. The Orientalists, therefore, were very much keen on preserving the existing institutions of Oriental learning which the English Party proposed to abolish.
c) The Oriental Party further argued that “Indians could never master the English language, that an imposition of English language upon the people would provoke their resentment”. But this was a very weak argument and far from the truth.
The actual situation was just the reverse. Indians themselves keenly wanted to learn English particularly after the acceptance of English as the official language in 1830 by the Court of Directors.
The urge of learning English among Indians was also reflected in the huge sale of English books published by the Calcutta School Book Society and the increasing enrolment in the Hindu College. The fear of public resentment was, therefore, baseless and not tenable.
d) The Orientalists argued that Western culture was a foreign culture and this was not healthy and palatable for the Indians and a foreign culture should not be transplanted in Indian soil. Moreover, Oriental culture was no inferior to Western culture. The Orientalists had a genuine love for Oriental culture.
e) The Classicists laid stress on imparting education to the traditional upper castes while the Anglicists emphasised on educating the upper and middle strata of the society. The main objective of the latter was to produce native Government employees and they, therefore, firmly believed that English education through the medium of English would serve the purpose best.
They wanted to create “a class of persons Indian in blood and colour but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect”. The classicists, on the other hand, intended to create a traditional aristocracy educated in classical learning through the medium of a classical language.
B. The Occidentalist View:
(The Occidentalist School is chiefly represented by Mr. Sullivan, Charles Metcalfe, Wilberforce, A. Duff, Rammohan Roy, Macaulay, Philip Francis and C. E. Trevelyan). The Occidentalist views were primarily based on the Macaulay’s Minute. The case of the English Party was argued by Macaulay, the President of the G.C.P.I. and Law Member of the Governor-General’s Council. Macaulay was a profound scholar in western learning, powerful writer and an eloquent speaker.
He was a brilliant product of English education of the time. The political conquest of India had been an accomplished fact. So the aim of Macaulay was to conquer India culturally. He wanted to establish that English language and culture was supreme on the globe. Macaulay came to India fully armored in these convictions.
When all the papers relating to the controversy were placed before the Executive Council, Macaulay submitted his famous Minute dated 2nd Feb. 1835. It is a document of great historical and educational significance. It opened a new chapter in the history of modern Indian education with far-reaching consequences.
Macaulay’s arguments are stated below:
(a) His first argument centred round the interpretation of certain words and clauses of the clause 43 of the Charter Act of 1813. His interpretation was entirely different from that of the Orientalists.
(1) By “literature”, Macaulay argued, meant the English literature and not literature of the Hindus or the Muslims.
(2) By “a learned native”, the Occidentalist further argued, meant a native well versed in Western or English learning. “The revival and improvement of literature” therefore, meant printing and publication of books on western learning.
(3) As regards the object of promoting “a knowledge of the sciences” the great Anglicist argued that the Indians had already exhibited a genuine urge for learning Western knowledge and sciences and this could only be accomplished by the adoption of English as the medium of instruction. Macaulay remarked that if his “interpretations were not accepted, he would propose an Act rescinding the clause 43 of the Charter Act of 1813. Obviously Macaulay was treading on a slippery ground here”.
b) As regards the content of education Macaulay pleaded strongly in favour of diffusing Western sciences and literature through the medium of English. He argued that the Indians really wanted European learning and if were necessary for them.
He claimed that classical learning of the East is full of errors and mysticism and detrimental to the interests of the Indians. He further argued that the books of the Calcutta School Book Society were sold in thousands with profits whereas the Government was spending a huge amount for the production of classical literature without any return.
He further observed that students receiving education in Oriental institutions have to be given financial assistance by the Government but the students of English schools, on the contrary, are willing to pay fees. Under the circumstances he pleaded that the Oriental institutions should be abolished or closed down. He held the view that these should be closed as they did not serve any useful purpose.
c) As regards medium of instruction there were three alternatives –
(a) the vernacular languages of the people,
(b) an Oriental classical language (Sanskrit, Arabic or Persian) and
Macaulay condemned the vernacular languages of the people as poor, rude and unfit for imparting western learning. Thus he brushed aside the claims of the mother-tongue of the people. Naturally the choice was left between an Oriental classical language (Sanskrit, Arabic or Persian) on the one hand and English on the other. Macaulay did not know any of the classical languages, and still with vanity and audacity he observed that “a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”.
Moreover, he believed that western learning was necessary for the reawakening and regeneration of Indians. It would bring about renaissance in India. Besides, Macaulay pleaded, English was the key to modern western knowledge. It was the language of the rulers. It was the language of commerce not only in the East but also throughout the globe.
It had been amply proved that Indians had a great urge to learn English and they could very well master that language. As an evidence of Indian love for English Macaulay pointed out that English books of the Calcutta School Book Society were sold in thousands with profit. Referring to the question of alleged prejudices of the Indian people against English education, Macaulay argued that “it was the duty of England to teach Indians what was good for their health, and not what was palatable to their taste”.
Hence Macaulay pleaded strongly in favour of English as the medium of instruction. Macaulay further pointed out that the Hindu and Muslim laws should be codified in English by the Government. Let us now sum up the whole case. Macaulay strongly recommended that the object of educational policy in India should be the spread of Western learning through the medium of the English language.
He also suggested that the existing institutions of Oriental learning should be closed forthwith and that funds thus released should be used for the promotion of English education. Macaulay did not plead English education for the masses but for the upper strata of the society.
He believed that education from the upper classes would filter down to the masses. He, through English education, wanted to create “a class of persons Indian in blood and colour but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”. This is known as the infamous Downward Filtration Theory.
Acceptance of the Minute by Lord William Bentinck:
Macaulay submitted his Minute on Feb., 15th, 1835, which was immediately accepted by Lord William Bentinck, the then Governor-General of India and who was a very liberal and progressive reformer, on 7th March, 1835.
In his Resolution (Award) Lord Bentinck passed the following orders:
1. The great object of British Government is to promote European literature and sciences among the natives of India. Hence all educational funds should be spent on English education alone.
2. The Oriental institutions should not be abolished. The existing teachers and students of these institutions shall continue to receive their salaries and stipends respectively.
3. No portion of the educational funds shall hereafter be spent on the printing of books in Oriental languages.
4. All the funds at the disposal of the G.C.P.I. will be henceforth employed in imparting knowledge of English literature and science among the natives of India through the medium of English language.
It may be stated in the following way:
1. The existing institutions of Oriental learning (Sanskrit and Arabic) would be continued. Adequate funds should be paid for their maintenance. The teachers of these institutions would be maintained and the students would continue to receive their stipends and scholarships as before.
2. Useful Oriental books would be prepared and published.
3. “Auckland restored the old grants sanctioned prior to Bentinck’s Resolution and desired that the funds for the Oriental colleges be first appropriated for oriental studies and the residue for English education”. The entire scheme involved an additional expenditure of Rs. 31,000/- per year.
4. “He also directed that the first duty of the Oriental colleges was to impart instruction in Oriental learning and that they may conduct English classes, if necessary”.
The above orders fully satisfied the Oriental party as expected. Later on the Court of Directors approved all the proposals with full satisfaction for the solution of a prolonged controversy.
Lord Auckland was also able to satisfy the demands of the Anglicist Party.
He was an Occidentalist by heart and he felt that the wind was blowing in favour of English education and as such he gave the following decisions in full support of the Anglicist view:
1. A sum of more than a lakh of rupees was sanctioned in favour of English education.
2. As regards the content and medium of education Lord Auckland held that “only partial and imperfect results could be expected from the attempts to teach European science and literature through the medium of Sanskrit or Arabic”.
3. So he declared that the “principal aim of educational policy should be to communicate, through the English language, a complete education in European Literature, Philosophy, and Science”.
4. Lord Auckland was a staunch supporter of the Downward Filtration Theory. So he decided that the Government would not take direct responsibility of mass education. Its efforts should only be restricted to the extension of higher education to the upper classes of the society whose culture would filter down to the masses.