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Thursday, July 18, 2024

‘The Beautiful Tree-Indigenous Indian Education in the Eighteenth Century’ by Dharampal – Chapter VII

In this series of articles, we are introducing the book ‘The Beautiful tree’ by Shri Dharampal, to readers old and new. Shri Dharampal was one of the leading intellectuals & writers of Independent Bharat, whose work was subsequently marginalised & suppressed by the left-leaning academic establishment. We are grateful to for making this treasure trove of books/articles available for the common public.

Chapter VII

The significance of what Gandhiji said at Chatham House in October 1931 ought to have been understood not in the literal way in which Philip Hartog did, but within the total context of Mahatma Gandhi’s address, which attempted to reveal the overall disruption and decline of Bharatiya society and its institutions under British rule. That a great decay had set in by the 1820s, if not a few decades earlier, in the sphere of education was admitted by the Madras Presidency survey, as well as by W. Adam with regard to Bengal and Bihar.

In 1822-25, the number of those in ordinary schools was put at over 1,50,000 in the Madras Presidency. Evidently, the inference that the number was appreciably, perhaps a great deal higher some 20 or 30 years earlier, cannot be ruled out. At any rate, nowhere was there any suggestion made that it was much less than it had been in 1822-25. The population of the Madras Presidency in 1823 was estimated at 1,28,50,941, while the population of England in 1811 was estimated at 95,43,610.

It may be noted from this that, while the differences in the population of the two regions were not that significant, the numbers of those attending the various types of schools (Charity, Sunday, Circulating) in England were in all in the neighborhood of around 75,000 as compared to at least double this number within the Madras Presidency. Further, more than half of this number of 75,000 in English schools consisted of those who attended school at the most only for 2-3 hours on a Sunday.

However, after about 1803, every year a marked increase took place in the number of those attending schools in England. The result: the number of 75,000 attending any sort of school around 1800 rose to 6,74,883 by 1818, and 21,44,377 in 1851, i.e. an increase of about 29 times in a period of about fifty years.

It is true that the content of this education in England did not improve much during this half-century. Neither did the period spent in school increase: from more than an average of one year in 1835 to about two years in 1851. The real implication of Gandhiji’s observation, and of the information provided by the Madras Presidency collectors, W. Adam and G.W. Leitner, is that for the following 50-100 years, what happened in Bharat within the developing situation of relative collapse and stagnation proved the reverse of the developments taking place in England.

It is such a feeling, and the intuition of such an occurrence, that drove Gandhiji, firstly, to make his observation in London in October 1931, and secondly, disinclined to withdraw it eight years later. Gandhiji seemed to be looking at the issue from a historical, social, and human viewpoint. In marked contrast, men like Sir Philip Hartog, as so commonly characteristic of the specialist, were largely quibbling about phrases; intent solely on picking holes in what did not fit the prevailing western theories of social and political development.

Statistical comparisons were what Sir Philip Hartog and many others in his time wanted. And these can, to a large extent, settle this debate: some comparison of the 1822-25 Madras school-attending scholars is made here with the Madras Presidency data pertaining to the 1880s and 1890s. Because of the incompleteness of the earlier data available from Bengal and Bihar, and also from the Presidency of Bombay,78 such a comparison does not seem possible for these areas, much less for the whole of Bharat.

According to the 1879-80 Report of the Director of Public Instruction for the Madras Presidency, the total number of educational institutions of all types (including colleges, secondary, middle, and primary schools, and special, or technical institutions) then numbered 10,553.

Out of these, the primary schools numbered 10,106. The total number attending them: 2,38,960 males, and 29,419 females. The total population of the Presidency at this time is stated as 3,13,08,872. While the number of females attending these institutions was evidently larger in 1879-80 compared to 1822-25, the proportionate numbers of males were clearly much reduced. Using the same computation as those applied in 1822-25 (i.e. one-ninth of the total population treated as of school-going age), those of this age amongst the male population (taking males and females as equal) would have numbered 17,39,400.

The number of males in primary schools being 2,18,840, the proportion of this age group in schools thus turns out to be 12.58%. This proportion in the decayed educational situation of 1822-25 was put at one-fourth, i.e. at 25%. If one were to take even the total of all those in every type of institution, i.e. the number 2,38,960, the proportion in 1879-80 rises only to 13.74%.

From 1879-80 to 1884-85, there was some increase, however, to be found. While the population went down slightly to 3,08,68,504, the total number of male scholars went up to 3,79,932, and that of females to 50,919. Even this larger number of male scholars came up only to 22.15% of the computed school-age male population; and, of those in primary schools to 18.33%.

These figures are much lower than the 1822-25 officially calculated proportion. Incidentally, while there was an overall increase in the number of females in educational institutions, the number of Muslim girls in such institutions in the district of Malabar in 1884-85 was only 705. Here it may be recollected that 62 years earlier, in August 1823, the number of Muslim girls in schools in Malabar was 1,122; and, at that time, the population of Malabar would have been below half of that in 1884-85.

Eleven years later in 1895-96, the number of all types of educational institutions increased further. While the population had grown to 3,56,41,828, the number of those in educational institutions had increased to 6,81,174 males, and 1,10,460 females.

It is at this time then that the proportion (taking all those males attending educational institutions) rose to 34.4%: just about equal to the proportion which Thomas Munro had computed in 1826 as one-third (33.3%) of those receiving any education whether in indigenous institutions, or at home. Even at this period, i.e. 70 years after Munro’s computation, however, the number of males in primary education was just 28%.

Coming to 1899-1900, the last year of the nineteenth century, the number of males in educational institutions went up to 7,33,923 and of females to 1,29,068. At this period, the number of school-age males was calculated by the Madras Presidency Director of Public Instruction as 26,42,909, thus giving a percentage of 27.8% attending any educational institution.

Even taking a sympathetic view of the later data, what clearly comes out of these comparisons is that the proportion of those in educational institutions at the end of the nineteenth century was still no larger than the proportions estimated by Thomas Munro of the number attending the institutions of the decaying indigenous system of the Madras Presidency in 1822-25.

The British authorities in the late nineteenth century must have been tempted as we find state authorities are in our own times to show their achievements in brighter hues and thus err on the side of inflating figures: therefore, this later data may be treated with some skepticism. This was certainly not the case with the 1822-25 data which, in the climate of that period, could not have been considered inflated in any sense of the word.

From the above, it may be inferred that the decay which is mentioned in 1822-25 proceeded to grow in strength during the next six decades. During this period, most of the indigenous institutions more or less disappeared. Any surviving remnants were absorbed by the late 19th-century British system. Further, it is only after 1890 that the new system begins to equal the 1822-25 officially calculated proportions of males in schools quantitatively. Its quality, in comparison to the indigenous system, is another matter altogether.

The above comparison of the 1822-25 Madras indigenous education data with the data from the 1880s and 1890s period also seems to provide additional support if such support were required to the deductions which G.W. Leitner had come to in 1882. These reveal the decline of indigenous education in the Panjab in the previous 35-40 years.

(Note: Minor edits have been made to the content to conform with HinduPost styleguide)

(Click here to read the previous article in the series)


Book: The Beautiful Tree

Author: Dharamapal

Originally published: 1983

Published by: Voice of India

Available on: Amazon, PDF

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