BackgroundSince the establishment of its rule, the British East India Company had done almost nothing for education in India till 1813. In 1813, for the first time, the Company arranged some funds for promoting education in India. The medium of education was English. By the year 1855, there were only 1474 educational institutions that were run or aided by the government for the population of 200 million. Only 67,569 student were getting education from these intuitions. Also, here were 1628 Christian missionary schools with about 64,000 students in them. Since the Wood’s Dispatch of 1854 through 1882, the government took some important steps for higher education, but primary education was almost neglected. In the economical year of 1881-82, out of 70,00,000 rupees spent by government on education, only 16,77,000 were spent on primary education. On this background, Lord Rippon appointed an education commission under the chairmanship of William Hunter. This commission reiterated the key points of the Wood’s Dispatch, though it suggested to pay more attention of primary education and education to backward classes.
Memorial by Mahatma Phule to Hunter CommissionThe memorial to Hunter Commission by Mahatma Phule is a document of immense importance to understand the educational developments in Modern India. Recorded about a century and a quarter ago, it speaks of some key ideas that are an essential part of modern Indian educational system. He not only speaks of compulsory education to all, but also of creating a taste of knowledge among the backward classes.
In this document, Phule argues that the theory adopted by government that education should go down from the upper classes of society to the masses is nothing but a “utopian” idea. He further goes on to ask for a single example of the truth of this theory. To quote him, the higher classes have “kept their knowledge to themselves, as a personal gift, not be soiled by contact of the ignorant vulgar.” He claims that the educational system has become a monopoly of the higher classes and “if the welfare of the Ryot is at heart, if it is the duty of the Government to check a host of abuses, it behoves them to narrow this monopoly day by day so as to allow a sprinkling of the other castes to get into the public services.”
With regards to compulsory education, he says “I think primary education of the masses should be made compulsory up to a certain age, say at least 12 years.” He notes that the cultivating classes hold aloof of education owing to extreme poverty and also because lack of taste for learning. He asks for special inducements in the form of scholarships, annual prizes, etc. to create in them that taste.
He also notes his observations about the indigenous schools and higher education in this document. However, I do not plan to note it all in the present article. I believe that reading the Memorial in original would be much more beneficial, thus we, the Team of Ghalibana, are posting the original document in PDF form along with this post so that you can save it for yourself or take a print of it and read it thoroughly. This original document, though in public domain, was not available on net till date. We have typed it out ourselves and proofread it twice to avoid any errors from our side. It would be beneficial for both our general readers and scholars to present it in as-it-is form.
We would like to hear from our readers about this project. This is for the first time that we are presenting an original source to our readers. If you find this useful, please let us know. If you have any comments, queries, concerns, or feedbacks, please feel free to leave a note. We love feedbacks.
Once again, our heartiest tribute to that Nobel Soul, Father of Indian Social Revolution, Mahatma Phule.
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