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The Beautiful Tree: Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century

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Preface   A great deal of scholarly work has been published on the history of education in India, especially during the 1930s and 1940s. In fact, writings on the subject initially by British officials-cum scholars, started to appear as early as the mid-nineteenth century. Most of these histories however relate to the ancient period sometimes going as far back as the tenth or twelfth century A.D. Others deal with the history of education during British ru...

Preface

 

A great deal of scholarly work has been published on the history of education in India, especially during the 1930s and 1940s. In fact, writings on the subject initially by British officials-cum scholars, started to appear as early as the mid-nineteenth century. Most of these histories however relate to the ancient period sometimes going as far back as the tenth or twelfth century A.D. Others deal with the history of education during British rule and thereafter. Besides detailed scholarly works on specific ancient educational institutions (such as those at Nalanda or Taxila) there are more general works like that of A.S. Altekar' on the ancient period. For the later period there have been several publications: besides the two volumes of Selections from educational Records published and recently reprinted by the Government of India itself," the work of S. Nurullah and J.P. Naik may be mentioned here." The latter work is interestingly described by the two authors (thus indicating its time and mood) as an attempt at a 'well-documented and comprehensive account of Indian educational history during the last one hundred and sixty years and to interpret it from the Indian point of view."

 

Reaching a far wider audience is the voluminous though perhaps less academic work of Pandit Sundarlal, first published in 1939. The 36th chapter of this celebrated work entitled. 'The Destruction of Indian Indigenous Education' runs into 40 pages, and quotes extensively from various British authorities. These span almost a century: from the Dispatch from England of 3rd June 1814 to the Governor General in India to the observations of Max Mueller; and the 1909 remarks of the British labour leader Keir Hardie. However, given the period in which the book was written and the inaccessibility of the detailed manuscript records it was inevitable that the author had to base his work entirely on existing printed sources. Nevertheless, as an introduction this chapter of Bharat mein Angreji Raj is a landmark on the subject of indigenous Indian education in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

 

Very little however has been written on the history or state of education during this period starting with the thirteenth century. and up until the early nineteenth century. Undoubtedly there are a few works like that of S.M. Jaffar" pertaining to Muslim education. There are a chapter or two or some cursory references in most educational histories pertaining to the period of British rule and to the decayed state of indigenous Indian education in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Nurullah's and Nark's book? devotes the first 43 pages (out of 643 pages) to discussing the state of indigenous education in the early nineteenth century. and in challenging certain later British views about the nature and extent of it.

 

Most of the discussion on the state of indigenous Indian education in the early nineteenth century and the differing viewpoints which give rise to it use as their source material (a) the much talked about reports by William Adam, a former Christian missionary, on indigenous education in some of the districts of Bengal and Bihar 1835-8, (b) published extracts of a survey made by the British authorities regarding indigenous education in the Bombay Presidency during the 1820s and (c) published extracts from another wider survey of indigenous education made in the Madras Presidency (from Ganjam in the north to Tinnevelly in the south. and Malabar in the west) during 182225. A much later work on the subject. but more or less of a similar nature is that of G.W. Leitner pertaining to indigenous education in the Punjab.

 

Amongst the above-mentioned sources. G.W. Leitner's work. based on earlier governmental documents and on his own survey is the most explicitly critical of British policies. It holds the British authorities responsible for the decay and even the destruction of indigenous education in the Punjab-the area with which his book is concerned. The reports of Adam, as well as the reports of some of the collectors in the Madras Presidency'" refer likewise to the decay of indigenous education in the areas of India with which they were concerned. Of course they do so much less explicitly-and in language more suited to British officers and gentlemen-(Leitner though a British official was 'not an Englishman).

 

Mahatma Gandhi's long address at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. London on 20 October. 1931, stated that literacy had declined in India in the past 50-100 years and held the British responsible for it. The statement provided a real edge to the observations of Adam, Leitner and others and to the view which Indians had held for decades. It was then that all the above sources relating to indigenous education in the earlier part of the nineteenth century assumed their great importance. The person who perhaps not only as an individual, but also as a representative of British rule in India contested what Gandhiji had said was Sir Philip Hartog, one time vice-chancellor of Dacca University and chairman of the 'auxiliary committee of the Indian Statutory Commission'. He asked Gandhiji for 'precise references to the printed documents on which' Gandhiji's 'statements were based. Not finding satisfaction (during much of this period Gandhiji and his colleagues were in prison) Hartog, four years later delivered a series of three lectures at the University of London Institute of Education with the aim of countering Gandhiji's statement. After adding three memoranda and necessary references, Hartog got these published in book form in 1939.

 

Countering Gandhiji and the earlier sources in this manner, Sir Philip Hartog was really not being original. He was merely following a well-trodden British path in defence of British acts and policies in India; a path which had been charted some 125 years earlier by William Wilberforce, later considered as the father of Victorian England, in the British House of Commons.:" Hartog had been preceded in his own time in a similar enterprise by W.H. Moreland, who could not accept Vincent Smith's observation that 'the hired labourer in the time of Akbar and .Jahangir probably had more to eat in ordinary years than he has now."? Smith's challenge appears to have led Moreland from the life of a retired senior revenue settlement officer into the role of an economic historian of India. Quite understandably, at least till the 1940s, and burdened as they were with a sense of mission, the British could not accept any criticism of their actions, deliberate, or otherwise, in India (or elsewhere) during the two centuries of their rule.

 

A major part of the documents reproduced in this book pertain to the Madras Presidency Indigenous Education Survey. These were first seen by this writer in 1966. As mentioned above, an abstract of this survey was included in the House of Commons Papers as early as 1831-32. Yet, while many scholars must have come across the detailed material in the Madras Presidency Distract Records, as well as the Presidency Revenue Records (the latter incidentally exist in Madras as well as in London) for some unexplained reasons this material seems to have escaped academic attention. The recent Madras University doctoral thesis pertaining to the various Madras Presidency districts covering this period also does not seem to have made any use of this data, despite the fact that some of it does contain some occasional reference to matters of education.

Introduction

 

Indian historical knowledge by and large has been derived at least until recent decades from the writings and accounts left by foreigners. This applies equally to our knowledge about the status of Indian education over the past five centuries. The universities of Taxila and Nalanda and a few others until recently have been better known and written about primarily because they had been described centuries ago by some Greek or Chinese traveller who happened to keep a journal which had survived or had communicated such information to his compatriots who passed it down to our times.

 

Travellers and adventurers of a new kind began to wander around parts of India from about 1500 A.D. and more so from about the close of the 16th century. Since for centuries the areas they came from had had no direct links with India and as they had come from wholly different climates and societies to them most aspects of India-its manners. religions philosophies ancient and contemporary architecture wealth learning and even its educational methods-were something quite different from their own backgrounds. assumptions and experience.

 

Prior to 1770, (by which time they had become actual rulers of large areas) the British on whose writings and reports this book is primarily based' had rather a different set of interests. These interests as in the subsequent period too were largely mercantile. Technological or were concerned with comprehending and evaluating Indian statecraft; and. thereby extending their influence and dominion in India. Indian religions, philosophies. scholarship and the extent of education-notwithstanding what a few of them may have written on the Parsts, or the Banias of Surat-had scarcely interested them until then.

 

Such a lack of interest was due partly to their different expectations from India. The main reason for this. however lay in the fact that the British society of this period-from the mid-sixteenth to about the later part of the eighteenth century-had few such interests. In matters like religion, philosophy, learning and education, the British were introverted by nature. It is not that Britain had no tradition of education, or scholarship, or philosophy during the 16th, 17th, or early 18th centuries. This period produced figures like Francis Bacon, Shakespeare, Milton, Newton, etc. It had the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh which had their beginnings in the 13th and 14th centuries A.D. By the later part of the 18th century, Britain also had around 500 Grammar Schools. However, this considerable learning and scholarship were limited to a very select elite. This became especially marked after the mid-sixteenth century, when the Protestant revolution led to the closing of most of the monasteries; while the state sequestered their incomes and properties.

 

Before the Protestant revolution, according to A.E. Dobbs, 'the University of Oxford might be described as the "chief Charity School of the poor and the chief Grammar School in England, as well as the great place of education for students of theology of law and medicine? and 'where instruction was not gratuitous throughout the school some arrangement was made by means of a graduated scale of admission fees and quarter ages and a system of maintenance to bring the benefits of the institution within the reach of the poorest." Further while a very early statute of England specified: 'No one shall put their child apprentice within any city or borough, unless they have land or rent of shillings per annum: but they shall be put to such labour as their fathers or mothers use. or as their estates require;' it nonetheless also stated that 'any person may send their children to school to learn literature."

 

From about the mid-16th century. however a contrary trend set in. It even led to the enactment of a law 'that the English Bible should not be read in churches. The right of private reading was granted to nobles, gentry and merchants that were householders It was expressly denied to artificers' prentices to journeymen and serving men "of the degree of yeomen or under" to husband men and labourers' so as 'to allay certain symptoms of disorder occasioned by a free use of the Scriptures." According to this new trend it was 'meet for the ploughman's son to go to the plough and the artificer's son to apply the trade of his parent's vocation: and the gentlemen's children are meet to have the knowledge of Government and rule in the commonwealth. For we have as much need of ploughmen as any other State: and all sorts of men may not go to school.

 

A century and a half later (that is, from about the end of the 17th century), there is a slow reversal of the above trend leading to the setting up of some Charity Schools for the common people. These schools are mainly conceived to provide 'some leverage in the way of general education to raise the labouring class to the level of religious instruction'; and more so in Wales 'with the object of preparing the poor by reading and Bible study for the Sunday worship and catechetical instruction.?.

 

After a short start, however the Charity School movement became rather dormant. Around 1780, it was succeeded by the Sunday school movement." 'Popular education', even at this period, 'was still approached as a missionary enterprise.' The maxim was 'that every child should learn to read the Bible. The hope of securing a decent observance of Sunday"? led to a concentrated effort on the promotion of Sunday schools. After some years this attention focussed on the necessity of day schools. From then on. school education grew apace. Nevertheless, even as late as 1834, 'the curriculum in the better class of national schools was limited in the main to religious instruction, reading, writing and arithmetic: in some country schools writing was excluded for fear of evil consequences.'

 

The major impetus to the Day school movement came from what was termed the 'Peel's Act of 1802'. This Act required the employer of young children 'to provide, during the first four years of the seven years of apprenticeship, competent instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic, and to secure the presence of his apprentice at religious teaching for one hour every Sunday and attendance at a place of worship on that day.'12 'But the Act was unpopular', and its 'practical effect ... was not great.':" At about the same time, however, the monitorial method of teaching used by Joseph Lancaster (and also by Andrew Bell, supposedly borrowed from India)”came into practice and greatly helped advance the cause of popular education. The number of those attending school was estimated at around 40,000 in 1792, at 6,74,883 in 1818, and 21,44,377 in 1851. The total number of schools, public as well as private in 1801 was stated to be 3,363. By stages, it reached a total of 46,114 in 1851.

 

In the beginning, 'the teachers were seldom competent', and 'Lancaster insinuates that the men were not only ignorant but drunken.':" As regards the number of years of schooling, Dobbs writes that 'allowing for irregularity of attendance, the average length of school life rises on a favourable estimate from about one year in 1835 to about two years in 1851.

 

Contents

 

 

Preface

1

 

Introduction

7

 

DOCUMENTS:

 

A.

Survey of Indigenous Education in the Madras Presidency 1822-26

89

B.

Fra Paolino Da Bartolomeo on Education of Children in India, 1796

256

C.

Alexander Walker on Indian Education, Literature, etc., circa, 1820

262

D.

Extracts from W. Adam's State of Education in Bengal: 1835-38

270

E.

Extracts from G.W. Leitner's History of Education in the Punjab since Annexation and in 1882

343

F.

Correspondence between Sir Philip Hartog and Mahatma Gandhi on the Question of Indigenous Indian Education in the Early British Period, and other papers

348

G.

List of Tanjore Temples Receiving Revenue Assignments

386

 

List of Individuals in Tanjore receiving Revenue Assignments

413

 

Index

421

 

Item Code: NAK815 Author: Dharampal Cover: Paperback Edition: 2007 Publisher: Aditya Prakashan ISBN: 8185569509 Language: English Size: 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch Pages: 432 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 470 gms
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