Lord Macaulay‘s Minutes ended the controversy going about the education system in India, for about 20 years. An Educati policy was laid down. Following are the statements enabling student to evaluate Macaulay’s contribution to Indian Education.
1. Ending Anglicist Orientalist Controversy
In their book Student’s History of Education in India Nurullah and Naik say,
To call Macaulay a torch bearer in the path of progress, gives an exaggerated account of the role that he actually played.” Lord Macaulay was not the first person who pleaded the of Western Education.
He was not the sole founder of Occidentalism group, as these elements were working before his arrival in the country. These were started many years earlier by Christian Missionaries and men like Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Macaulay, however, ended the Oriental- Occidental controversy and laid the foundation-stone of modem education system in India.
2. Cause of Political Disorder
Some critics have called Macaulay responsible for Indian slavery. This is also not reasonable. Political disturbances could place in the absence of his education policy also, as many Indian students were studying in Mission Schools. The Indian Rulers, whose powers had been snatched away by the English Rulers, had also assisted the political disorder to a great extent.
A learned scholar like Macaulay could not recall even the European scholars, who had praised Sanskrit Grammar, Philosophy and literature. He cracked jokes on it though he himself as ignorant about it. This charge of ignorance is irrefutable.
4. Denigration of Indian Languages
Some scholars had criticised Macaulay for denigrating Indian languages with malicious remarks, like calling them rustic, undeveloped and inefficient. Thus he had given a great blow to the development of these languages.
However, as the chairman of the Society of Public Instructions, Macaulay said in his report of 1836, “We have much interest in the development of Indian languages we do not see any reason that the order of 7th March checks us in our efforts and we had already paid attention to its improvement… the development of Native languages our final aim and our all the efforts should be utilized in its cause.”
Macaulay cannot be blamed for denigrating native languages.
5. Religious Motive
Through English education Macaulay wanted to create, “a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but 8 is in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in the intellect.” Of his policy succeeded to a great extent. He did create a group of WOGS (Western Oriented Gentlemen) who would always cooperate with British rulers in exploitation of Indians.
In a letter to his father in 1836, Macaulay wrote “Our English schools are increasing with leaps and bounds and now the condition has reached to a position that it has become difficult to accommodate the students. Hindus are much influenced with education.
There is no Hindu, who may keep real faith in his religion after studying English. I have full confidence that if our education policy succeeds then no idolater will be left in Bengal. All this will be done naturally without any religious preaching and interference.” This statement clearly unravels the sinister motives of Lord Macaulay.
Merits of the British education system
Just as British administrative system teemed with defects, yet the hardships resulting there from inspired the Indians to fight for freedom, in the same manner the British educational system was undoubtedly defective, yet it was this very system which enabled India to develop deep cultural contracts with other progressive countries of the west.
Time and circumstances is the best Judges of everything. The evolution of the British system of education through the conditions prevailing in India at that time, and through the clashes and conflicts between the old and the new, Orientalism and Occidentalism and between tradition and progressivism, proved a boon for India.
1. More Good than Harm
It would be improper to imprecate British education whole-sale merely on the score that it did not conduce to the individual or national development, because in spite of these defects the system had also some such qualities and merits which proved very beneficial for the country both directly and indirectly.
Thus if we consider this system impartially and without the yellow in our eyes we shall find that this system did more good than harm to the country some people believe that the Indians were compelled to adopt this system and they lay all the sin at the door of Macaulay.
But this is not the truth. The British Government always remained indifferent towards the proper planning of education in India so much so that Hastings, Minto, Princep and others were the introduction of English education in India, whereas liberal leaders of India, like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, worked with heart and soul for its establishment in the country.
The efforts which Macaulay and Bentinck made for English education in India appear to have had their goodwill for the country.
The English system which Macaulay recommended for India did undoubtedly deal blow to Indian culture and literature, but from the point of view of the prevailing circumstances, it was necessary to introduce such a system of education which would put an end to the diversity and disunity created by the differences of languages.
For developing the country it was necessary to equip the Indians for taking part, like the people of other countries, in the quest for new knowledge as also to acquaint the Indians with the scientific discoveries and investigations so that they could also make their contribution to the scientific research in the world.
2. The British System Acquainted India with Western Knowledge and Sciences
During the last years of the eighteenth century India was in great throes due to political disintegration, social animosities, traditionalism and superstitions.
It had neither become acquainted with the new ideas of the West, nor did it have the power either to preserve intact its ancient culture, literature and ideals or to help them advance all the paths of progress in the country were beset with difficulties and clouds of pessimism overcast the firmament of India.
It was English education which showed India a way out of the darkness created by these circumstances.
3. English Education Brought out a Reawakening and a Desire to Recapture Our Ancient Glory
Apart from acquainting us with the progress that the world had made as well as with Western knowledge and wisdom, the English system dressed up a new, in the English medium, the old stories of our ancient culture, literature, history and religion.
All the treasures which we had forgotten and which had been destroyed by time, was given back to us in the English form by the kindness of such great men as Max Muller, Williams and others.
These scholars gathered together the scattered breads that had gone into the making of the texture of our ancient history and culture and gave them an organic form.
The critical investigations of these European scholars redirected our attention towards the glory that was India and inspired us to make deep critical study, and research in the field.
This resulted into bringing in us a reawakening and instilling in us a keen desire to recapture the ancient glory. We were thus put on the road to progress.
4. English Education Broadened the Path of a Better System of Education and Government in the Country
The introduction of English as the medium of instruction did adversely affect our mother tongues, but nevertheless it was this very factor which indirectly induced us to develop our languages.
Several languages were prevalent at the time of the introduction of English education, but apart from Sanskrit and Persian no other language was so developed as to be fit for being adopted as the medium of instruction besides, the English scholars and officers made philological studies of the various languages of the country and prepared dictionaries and grammar.
They even published magazines and periodicals in these languages. All this might have been done from a selfish motive for the propagation of their religion; nevertheless, India will always remain indebted to them on this score. Grierson’s ‘Linguistic Survey of India’ is for us the greatest gift of the English education.
It is due to the scholarship and research work of English scholars that we have been able to develop our mother tongue to such an extent as to make it a medium of even university education today.
Had English education not been introduced into India, we would have remained today totally ignorant of the Western scientific investigations and advancements.
English education produced such scholars in India who are thoroughly soaked in Western knowledge and wisdom and trying heart and soul for the establishment of a better system of education and government in the country.
5. Development of Nationalism through English Education.
Besides acquainting the Indians with the knowledge of the west and the glory of ancient India along with its literature and culture, English education also rekindled in the people the spirit of nationalism.
It was due to this education that the pearls of ancient Indian thought and feeling were wreathed together and it was again due to the universality of the English language that we could acquaint the world with ancient wisdom of our country.
Due to the uniformity in the English educational institutions and in the syllabi of the schools, colleges and universities, such an intellectual class was produced which could consider the problems of the country with amity and unanimity. The nefarious spirit of provincialism could thus be put an end to.
Apart from getting the facilities for an exchange of language and literature with other countries, India was enabled to understand the conditions of life in other countries as also to acquaint them with her own conditions.
This had the result which Macaulay had foreseen in 1833 at the time of the renewal of the Charter of the East India Company.
The wave of national awakening spread throughout the country and in all provinces the intellectuals who were the products of the English education became the leaders of the National Movement.
Thus it can be maintained that the English educational system has the credit for the development of the spirit of nationalism, emergence of the national leaders and for paving the way for the success of Indian struggle for independence.
There appears to be no need for holding the brief for English educational system because it is due to this very system that English ethics, arts and crafts, laws and rules, literature, science and administrative system are still prevalent in India and are useful also.