The Hunter Commission was required to enquire into as to what should be the agency for the expansion of secondary education; he was also required to suggest measures for removing defects in the secondary education.
Though there had been a remarkable progress the period 1854-1882 so far as the growth of secondary schools in e country was concerned, yet many defects had crept in. English as medium of instruction in secondary schools had by now acquired a place of dominance.
The study of vernaculars was neglected specially after 1862 when students in High Schools were required to answer the question papers in English. Secondary education instead of becoming a preparation for life became a preparation for the university.
Except Bombay, in no province there was any provision for vocational education at the secondary stage. The secondary school teachers were not adequately trained. There was an acute shortage of training institutions for them.
The first question ‘what should be the agency for the expansion of secondary education’ was answered with the following set of recommendations.
(a) “The government should gradually withdraw from the field of direct management of secondary schools and leave the expansion to private bodies through a system of grant-in-aid.”
(b) “The duty of the government was to establish one high school in every district and after that the expansion of secondary education in that district should be left to private enterprise.”
(c) “The government may establish secondary schools in exceptional cases, in place where they may be required in the interests of people, and where the people themselves may not be advanced or wealthy enough to establish such schools for themselves even with a grant-in-aid.”
(d) “With a view to making private institutions popular they should not be required to charge fees as high as those of a neighboring government institution.”
To remove the defects of secondary education, the Commission suggested improvements in curricula. Secondary education so far had been purely academic with no provision for vocational education. Hence the Commission recommended bifurcation in the curricula.
They said, “We recommend that in the upper classes of High Schools, there should be two divisions: one leading to the Entrance Examination of the universities, the other more practical character intended to fit youths for commercial and non-literary pursuits.”
This was not at all a practical proposal for the parents were not at all inclined to take advantage of such a system and hence educational system continued to remain academic and bookish.
The Commission’s recommendations regarding the medium of instruction were frustrating. It recommended that in Middle Schools the use of vernaculars was preferable to English as medium of instruction and suggested that students should have some elementary knowledge of English also. The implications of this suggestion were that even in Middle Schools English should be taught. The Commission favored the use of English.
The most poisonous effect of the domination of English as a subject of study and as a medium of instruction continued to ruin the cause of education even after 1882 in almost all the provinces English remained the medium of instruction at the secondary stage.
The dominance of English in the secondary schools continued to increase: and by 1902 the teaching of English came to be regarded as the prime object of the secondary course. “The study of Indian languages was consequently neglected”, said Nurullah and Naik.
It was in 1904 that Lord Curzon advocated the use of mother-tongue or vernaculars as medium of instruction upto High School stage and wished English to occupy the place of an optional subject.
The suggestions by the Commission regarding the training of secondary school teachers were rather half-heartedly given. Although the Wood’s Despatch had laid a definite stress on the training of secondary school teachers in 1854, yet only two training colleges, one at Madras and the other at Lahore were by now established. There was an urgent need for such training.
The Commission recommended that students of training colleges should be examined in Principles and Practice of Teaching and the training period for graduates should be shorter than for others.
The Commission recommended that the success in the examination should be a guarantee for permanent employment as a teacher in any secondary school, government or aided.
The Government of India accepted the recommendations of the Commission. It is difficult to understand why the Commission laid emphasis upon the use of English as the medium of instruction.
The Commission’s recommendations regarding the bifurcation of course at the high school level was a step in the right direction.
The emphasis on technical education as a part of general education was given by the Government of India after 1886 to meet the requirement of local industries. The main effect of the Commission’s recommendations was that secondary education began to expand rapidly.