Wood’s Despatch laid down that Government should provide education for those “who are utterly incapable of obtaining education worthy of the name by their own unaided efforts.”
It directed the government to concentrate its energies on primary education. Is also asked the state to withdraw itself from the field of higher education and attend to the general education of the masses. But the government neglected primary education altogether.
The Hunter Commission was appointed to enquire particularly into the manner in which effect had been given to the principles of the Despatch of 1854 and to suggest such measures as it may think desirable in other to further carrying out of the policy therein laid down.
So far as the progress of the primary education was concerned, the Commission was specially asked to enquire into whether the government had actually neglected the primary education and what the state of primary education was and how it could be extended and improved. It was especially asked to suggest how grant-in-aid could be further extended.
The main recommendations of the Commission on the different aspects of Primary education were as follows:
Policy of primary education
The Commission boldly acknowledged the importance of primary education by declaring “the elementary education of the masses, its provision, extension and improvement to be that part of the educational system to which the strenuous effort of the state should now be directed in a still larger measure than heretofore.
The Commission laid down in clear-cut terms the state policy in connection with the promotion of Primary Education. The state should give its fostering care to the fullest extent. The aim of primary education should be the instruction of the masses and not an instruction leading up to higher education.
Administrations of primary education
In England the Education Arts of 1870 and 1876 had placed the responsibility of primary education on the Country Council; so the Commission recommended that the control of primary education should be transferred to District and Municipal Boards.
These boards should deal with the whole system of primary education, keep a careful watch over the educational needs of classes and communities and provide for all such needs either by creating new schools or by aiding existing ones.
The government primary schools were also to be transferred to these Boards. In a nutshell, the entire responsibility of the administration of the Primary Education was placed on one body which was too weak to discharge its duties properly. A wiser step for the government would have been to assume the responsibility of primary education itself.
The Commission recommended “that primary education be declared to be that part of the whole system of public instruction which poses an almost exclusive claim on local funds set apart for education and a large claim on provincial revenues.”
The Hunter Commission took a decisive initial step to place the responsibility of meeting expenditure on primary education on different types of funds.
For example, the cost of direction, inspection and the provision of normal schools were made the first charge of provincial funds and the expenditure on Primary education was considered to have an almost exclusive claim on local funds (set apart for education) and a large claim on provincial revenues.
Every District and Municipal Board was required to have a separate fund for Primary education and the government was to give grants to local boards at the rate of one-third of the total expenditure or 50% of the total assets.
The grants to individual schools were to be made strictly on the basis of results. Giving grants on the basis of results was a mistake, as the system of payments-by-results had failed wherever it bad been tried. It might make the shirking teachers work, but it reduced the whole educational system to grind-as-dust-rule.
Training of Primary School Teachers
The Commission felt the necessity of training primary school teachers through network of normal schools widely distributed throughout the country. In order to make the Normal Schools function well they were assigned to one inspector or the other.
Cost, direction, provision and inspection of normal Schools was the first charge of the provincial funds and normal Schools were to be so localized as to provide for the local requirements of all Primary Schools whether government or aided within the jurisdiction of an Inspector.
Curriculum and Text Books
The Commission felt the need for broadening school curriculum by introducing subjects like the native methods of arithmetic, accounts and menstruation, elements of natural and physical sciences and their application to agriculture, health and the individual arts.
But it did not advocate rigidity in curriculum planning and construction. It neither liked uniformity in curriculum nor the use of text-books throughout India. Provinces were to be allowed full freedom in the use of text-books.
Thus the Commission made important recommendations on all the aspects of primary education for its speedy growth. But the progress of primary education was not satisfactory during 1886- 1902: the main reason for slow progress was the primary education continued to be neglected and sufficient money was not forthcoming for its full expansion.
The government did not give adequate financial aid to local bodies and while additional funds were spent on higher education, primary education was allowed to starve.
Initially, the government made some progress in the field of primary education but the pace of progress was checked partially because people who lived in the interior of the country were indifferent to education and also because the rules for recognition were made stricter.