Article: Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859): On Empire and Education http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1833macaulay-india.asp
In the early 19th century, India was colonised by the British and many social and political reforms were made during this period. These reforms brought about both positive and negative effects. One of the greatest reforms during this period was the implementation of the western education system in 1835. On the surface it seems like the western education system was implemented in India to improve the social conditions of the people. However, upon reading further, we realise that improving the lives of the Indians was not the motive for implementing the western education system. Educating the Indians was a profit-maximising tactic used by the British. The main reasons why the British wanted to educate the Indians were to convince them to adopt the western culture, to form the basis of western civilisation, to understand the value of British goods and buy them and to fill up the middle level jobs. This also reveals to us the British attitudes towards the Indians and how they were treated in the early 19th century. The western education differs from the traditional Indian education system and impacted the Indian community both positively and negatively. This essay will discuss whether the British education was beneficial and examine its effects on the Indian society. During the British rule from 1757 to 1857, the Indians spoke mainly in their mother tongue language. There were several mother tongue languages in India during that period thus they spoke a dozen different languages. The most commonly spoken languages were Arabic and Sanskrit. However, when it comes to educating the people, it was decided that it will be done in English because of several reasons as mentioned by Thomas Babington Macaulay. Firstly, ‘English was spoken by the ruling class and higher class of natives at the seats of government’. Thus, they wanted everyone to learn the language. Secondly, the two most celebrated languages in India, Arabic and Sanskrit were deemed as less valuable. This was mentioned by Thomas Babington Macaulay in his ‘Minute of Education’. He said that ‘ It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England’. Also, trading between the European nations and East Asian countries was at its peak during the 19th century and English language, a language that was most commonly used in Europe continent, was likely to become the language of commerce as predicted by Thomas Babington Macaulay. As a result, English was chosen to be the most appropriate language to be used to educate the Indians. Although the British rulers opened the doors of education to all Indians in 1835, not all were able to fully utilize this opportunity to improve their lives. One of the reasons for being unable to receive education was the high costs involved. Education was considered a luxury during the early nineteenth century and only the people who belong to the wealthier classes or city dwellers were able to afford it. Since the wealthier classes of Indians were the minority and the middle class citizens were the majority, very few people were educated. Also, majority of Indians could not see any immediate use of education. Attending school on a daily basis to get educated is a long term process. Thus, people need to wait for years in order to enjoy the full benefits of education. However, to the majority of Indians, it was more important to work hard to be able to afford their basic meals for the day. Therefore, the lack of moral suasion and the high costs had served as obstacles that prevented the masses from getting educated. There was another reason to why only a small proportion of people were able to be...
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