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Pranab Jyoti Phukon


The introduction of western education was an event of great historical significance for the emergence of an education policy in India. Before the introduction of modern education, opportunities for learning were generally confined to a very small portion of the population. Those from castes and classes placed lower down in the social hierarchy had hardly any access to education. The pioneering work in the field of education under the British was done by missionaries. They did make efforts to spread education but often it was motivated by the desire for the spread of Christianity among the natives of India. One important result of the great efforts by missionaries was to stir up governments both in England and in India to realise that it was their duty to do something for the education of the people under their rule (Keay 1972). The Charter of 1698 clearly stated that it was the duty of English ministers of religion to give education along with their primary duty of spreading the Gospel. But the East India Company had realised the political significance of a policy of religious neutrality and therefore refrained from carrying out the directions of the Charter of 1698. However, the Company encouraged educational activity by establishing schools with liberal grants-in-aid. Thus the St. Mary’s School was established in Madras in 1715, followed by the establishment of two more charity schools in 1717 by the Danish missionaries. In 1718 a charity school in Bombay and another in 1731 in Calcutta were opened. In 1787 two charity schools for boys and girls separately were established in Madras (Singh 2005). But their curriculum was mostly limited to the acquisition of the 3R’s (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) and Christian teachings. In 1781, Sir Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India, established the Calcutta Madrasa for the cultivation of Arabic and Persian studies and he also founded the Benares Sanskrit College in 1791 to promote classical studies in Sanskrit. 

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