Lord Curzon by nature was a benevolent autocrat and by training he was a diehard imperialist. He had an implicit faith in a strong rule. As soon as he landed in India he took up the programme of administrative reconstruction in education.
He called an educational conference in 1901 at Shimla and appointed the Indian Universities Commission (1902) for bringing out changes in the university education.
He saw that Indian universities had become out-moded. Though the London University had been reorganized in 1898, but Indian universities maintained the old structure and pattern.
The expansion of higher education was too great for excising universities to manage, the pressure of work on them was so great that they could not discharge their dutieswell, and no university attached any importance to its real functions.
So Curzon appointed the Indian Universities Commission to report upon any proposal that might be made for “proving the constitution and working of universities and to recommend to the Governor-General-in-Council such measures as may elevate the standard of university teaching and promote advancement of learning.
The Commission made valuable recommendations on the reorganized model of London University and wanted to improve the existing system. The main recommendations were embodied in an Act, viz., Indian Universities Act (1904).
The Act introduced some welcome measures of reform long overdue. For example, it introduced efficiency in university administration by giving statutory recognition to the Syndicate, and by making the new Senate more efficient and manageable than the previous ones.
“It is true”, say Nurullah and Naik, “that the act of 1904 by itself did not achieve much. But Curzon will still have the credit of having been the pioneer to start a new movement in university reform which slowly and laboriously, but nevertheless steadily has ever been progressing to its destined goal.”
There was an appreciable change in the college education with a change in university education. A grant of 13.5 lakhs given to colleges on the basis of their improved their teaching standards, and provided better facilities in the form of well-equipped libraries and laboratories
The reforms in secondary education were not of less significance. The Government of India Resolution, 1904 laid down the educational policy of Curzon in clear-cut terms.
So far as secondary education was concerned, the G.R. said, “The Government is bound in the interests of the Community to see that the education provided in the Secondary Schools is sound.”
For achieving this objective Lord Curzon substituted in place of the old policy of expansion the new policy of control and supervision. Stricter rules of recognition of secondary schools were framed.
No student from an unrecognized school could appear at the Matriculation Examination after 1904. No unrecognized school could get government grant. The result was that all the secondary schools came under the control of the government.
For improving the quality of instruction the G.R. 1904 made some very good suggestions. The work of improving distinction was to be entrusted to Inspectors, and the neighbouring government high schools were to be made exact models, and the teachers were to be trained.
It was Lord Curzon’s government that for the first time said that Vernacular should be the medium of instruction in Middle Schools and even in high schools pupils should not be permitted to leave the study of Vernaculars, and that English should, in no case, be taughtbefore a child attains the age of 13.
Lord Curzon’s ideas about Primary education were very liberal. He said that the active expansion of primary education was the first duty of the state. The Government of India Resolution, 1904 laid down a clear-cut financial policy for primary education.
Primary education had a claim on provincial revenue and a still more predominant claim on the local bodies’ funds. Hence, the G.R. lay down clearly that Boards should spend their educational funds for primary education alone.
These bodies should submit their budget to the Director of Public Instruction through their Inspector.
The government advised the primary schools to apply simpler methods of teaching and to base instruction on rural needs. A distinction was also made as regards curricular for rural and urban primary schools.
Lord Curzon tried to reform other aspects of education also. It was on account of his boundless enthusiasm for educational reforms that conferences for technical, agricultural, commercial education were organized; professional education in medicine, engineering, forestry, veterinary science and agriculture was expanded and improved; grants for professional education were initiated; and state scholarships for technological subjects were instituted.
For seven years (1899-1905) Lord Curzon went on toiling hard to reform every aspect of Indian education. He improved University, Secondary and Primary education. He fought vigorously for the cause of mass education and the vernaculars.
There was no sphere in education which he did not enter, no space in which his reforming touch was not felt.
“What Curzon achieved in 7 years’ time would certainly have required twice or thrice as much time for any other man said Nurullah and Naik.”Lord Curzon was the author of the movement for educational reconstruction which started in the beginning of this century.
He laid the foundation of the reform of Universities which gathered momentum in later years. In Primary education it was he who started a drive for expansion. Today these services that Indians remember”
Though the Indianopinion opposed his reforms, though his casers tried to revise his policies, yet it was his educational
Policy that was followed firmly it was admitted by all that his educational reforms introduced a better system of education; proper control was exercised over private enterprise; universities were reorganized; secondary education was improved and a better organized system of primary education was evolved.
The attempts at reforming Indian education by Lord Curzon were not well-received. The Indian opinion considered his reforms sinister in intentions. People were suspicious of his motives.
“He fell far short of the achievement which might have been his”, says Cuningham, “had his temperament enabled him to win the sympathies of the people and enlist their cooperation in a congenial progress.”
The Indian public opinion wanted a free charter to private enterprise and Curzon curtailed it. His education policy was associated with his political ideas that started a violent agitation in Bengal.
Swaraj in the freedom of development and unchecked expansion appeared to the people their birthright and therefore they did not cooperate even in his best efforts at reforming education.