English Education Act 1835

Legislative Act of the Council of India

The English Education Act 1835 was a legislative Act of the Council of India, gave effect to a decision in 1835 by Lord William Bentinck, then Governor-General of the British East India Company, to reallocate funds it was required by the British Parliament to spend on education and literature in India. Previously, they had given limited support to traditional Muslim and Hindu education and the publication of literature in the then traditional languages of learning in India (Sanskrit and Persian); henceforward they were to support establishments teaching a Western curriculum with English as the language of instruction. Together with other measures promoting English as the language of administration and of the higher law courts (instead of Persian, as under the Mughal Empire), this led eventually to English becoming one of the languages of India, rather than simply the native tongue of its foreign rulers.

In discussions leading up to the Act Thomas Babington Macaulay produced his famous Memorandum on (Indian) Education which was scathing on the inferiority (as he saw it) of native (particularly Hindu) culture and learning. He argued that Western learning was superior, and currently could only be taught through the medium of English. There was therefore a need to produce—by English-language higher education—"a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect" who could in their turn develop the tools to transmit Western learning in the vernacular languages of India. Among Macaulay's recommendations were the immediate stopping of the printing by the East India Company of Arabic and Sanskrit books and that the Company should not continue to support traditional education beyond "the Sanskrit College at Benares and the Mahometan College at Delhi" (which he considered adequate to maintain traditional learning).

The act itself, however, took a less negative attitude to traditional education and was soon succeeded by further measures based upon the provision of adequate funding for both approaches. Vernacular language education, however, continued to receive little funding, although it had not been much supported before 1835 in any case.

Contents

British support for Indian learning

When the Parliament had renewed the charter of the East India Company for 20 years in 1813, it had required the Company to apply 100... ...read more

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