July 15, 2020
Alternative in Basic Education
Can we think of developing a similar community funded alternative in education?
Last week I was very happy when I read an article describing education in pre British India. Gandhiji talked about it in 1931. He was in England for the Round- table conference. In one of his speeches he said, “The beautiful tree of education was cut down by you British. Therefore to day India is far more illiterate than it was 100 years ago.”
It was widespread and of good quality. The beauty of the system was that it was relatively low-cost and locally funded by the community. We can have similar systems for schools and even for health and civic services as an alternative to state funded and centrally administered ones.
This Information comes from extensive surveys conducted by the Britishers about two hundred ago covering all over the four regions of India. Shri Dharampal, one of Gandhiji’s followers had been to the British museum and examined the reports and archives. He published a book “The Beautiful Tree” where this matter has been discussed in great detail. I am submitting herewith excerpts of an article published in ‘Bharathi’, the cultural magazine of IIT-Madras contributed by V. Ravi Kumar (B.Tech, Mech. Engg.) You can read it here .
FROM: DESTRUCTION OF THE INDIAN SYSTEM OF EDUCATION
In India 35% to 50% of village lands were revenue free and that revenue was utilised for running schools, conducting temple festivals, producing medicines,feeding pilgrims, improving irrigation etc. The British in their greed brought down the revenue free lands down to 5%. When there was a protest they assured Indians that the government would create an irrigation department to take care of irrigation, an educational board to take care of education. etc. The initiative of the people was destroyed. But the rulers found to their chagrin, that though they had conquered this nation, it was still strongly rooted in its own culture. They found that as long as the nation was aware and even proud of its traditions, their ‘white man’s burden’ remained as ‘heavy and cumbersome as ever’! India had, at that time, a very well spread system of education and that system had to be made ineffective for their purposes. Now, most of us are taught to believe that the education was in the hands of the Brahmins and in Sanskrit medium and that the other castes had no education. But here are the facts about how the British destroyed the Indian educational system and made one of the most literate nations illiterate.
In the Round- table conference in 1931, Mahatma Gandhi in one of his speeches said, “The beautiful tree of education was cut down by you British. Therefore today India is far more illiterate than it was 100 years ago.” Immediately, Philip Hartog, who was a parliamentarian stood up and said, “Mr.Gandhi, it is we who have educated the masses of India. And therefore you must take back your statement and apologise or prove it.” Gandhiji said he would prove it. But the debate did not continue for lack of time. Later one of his followers, Shri Dharampal, went to the British museum and examined the reports and archives.He published a book “The Beautiful Tree” where this matter has been discussed n great detail. By 1820, the British had already destroyed the financial resources that supported our educational system- a destruction that they had been carrying out for nearly twenty years. But still the Indians persisted in continuing with their system of education. So, the British decided to find out the intricacies of this system. Therefore a survey was ordered in 1822 and was conducted by the British district collectors. In the survey it was found that the Bengal presidency had 1 lakh village schools, in Madras there was not a single village without a school, in Bombay, if the village population was near 100, the village had a school. Teachers as well as students of all castes were in these schools. The Brahmins accounted 7% to 48% of the teachers, and the rest of the teachers in any district, came from other castes. Further all children had their education in their mother tongue.
The equivalent of the present day primary education lasted 4 to 5 yrs. We all know that it is universal primary education that is important for taking the nation ahead, not just a few getting higher education. The British administrators admired the dedication and capacity of the Indian teachers. By the time the students came out of the schools they had acquired the capacity to be competitive, and to understand and have proper insight into their own culture. One Mr.Bell, a Christian missionary in Madras took the Indian system of education back to England, and introduced it there. Until then, only the children of the nobles were given education there and he started education for the masses in England. So,we gather that it is from India that the British adopted the system for educating the masses.
FROM:DESTRUCTION OF THE INDIAN SYSTEM OF EDUCATION An article published in ‘Bharathi’, the cultural magazine of IIT-Madras contributed by V. Ravi Kumar (B.Tech, Mech. Engg.) based on a study of Kum. B. Nivedita’s “The Tormented Indian Spirit- Redemption or Regression