6th November 2010
Refusal of the British to teach English in India
Given the hoopla about the alleged unilateral influence of Macaulay's Minute on Education and the subsequent total misrepresentation of his work, it is crucial that Indians understand a few basic things about the use of English in India:
i) It was not the British to who pushed it down our throats. Many enlightened Indians wanted it. Indeed, the British REFUSED to teach English for quite a while, and it had to be coaxed out of them.
ii) It is clear that India is a single nation today ONLY because of the English language. Without it, India would have long ago split into multiple nations, each speaking their own language. That is a basic truth.
a) The British Government in India OPPOSED English education
Nehru, in his Discovery of India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1981, paperback, p.316) writes:
[Instead, they focused on the local langauges]
"In 1781, the Calcutta Madrassa was started by the Government in Calcutta for Arabic studies. In 1817, a group of Indians and Europeans started the Hindu College in Calcutta, now called the Presidency College. In 1791, a Sanskrit College was started in Benares. Probably in the second decade of the nineteenth century some missionary schools were teaching English.
"During the twenties a school of thought arose in government circles in favour of teaching English, but this was opposed. However, as an experimental measure some English classes were attached to the Arabic schools in Delhi and to some institutions in Calcutta."
b) It was Indians (in particular the enlightened Hindus) who funded colleges for English education
A number of Hindu donors including Jai Narayana, Raja Badrinath Rai and anynomyous donors funded colleges for English education WELL BEFORE Macaulay even reached India or considered this matter. That this achieved immediate good results is evident from the fact that one of the Vidyalayas' "student body bought up a sizable shipment of Thomas Paine's Rights of Man and Age of Reason." What better than educating Indians in English so they could directly understand the dramatic and far-reaching conceptions about liberty?
c) Raja Rammohun Roy, the great Indian classical liberal, actively advocated English education and science during 1823-1831
"Rammohun Roy did much more to promote in India. In 1823, he sent a long memorial to Lord Amherst attacking the policy of the General Committee of Public Instruction. Under the leadership of H. H. Wilson, that committee had founded a Sanskrit College in Calcutta in I823. Roy called for the establishment of a college devoted to European learning instead of a Sanskrit college. He argued that the lakh of rupees devoted to education of Indians which Parliament had written into the East India Company's charter in 1813 should be laid out in employing European gentlemen of talents and education to instruct the natives of India in mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy, and other useful sciences that have raised them above the inhabitants of the rest of the world.