One should be aware that a well-documented and comprehensive account of Indian Educational History during the last two centuries is available for understanding and to interpret from our point of view. Though very little is known to us on the state of education earlier to British rule, there are many references available on the state of indigenous education during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are available. These references discuss the state of indigenous education their challenges against the British views and its decline and destruction by these rulers. It is necessary for us to understand the value of our indigenous education system prevailed and the necessity to revise it and to reintroduce it in our system today.
The indigenous system of Education was not founded or supported by the British rulers. Even then, majority of the population was educated irrespective of their gender, caste, creed or religion. Though the educational institutions are not supported by public contribution, the education in many places are supported by the local philanthropists and the poor class obtain all their education through this way. The teacher, who is poor himself, had the means of giving food and clothing to his pupils extremely through charity grant received form the inhabitants of the village he brings.
The books used in these institutions are various sastras, Vedas, puranas, ganitha (mathematics) Jyotish sastras (Astrology) Sanskrit and Sanskrit grammar and literature. The pupils who want to learn these may not get teachers in their villages and so they are obliged to go too far off places. Theology, law and astronomy who also taught to some scholars generally by the learned Brahmins without payment of any fee or reward since these teachers live on ‘manniyam’ land granted to their ancestors by the ancient zamindars.
As per the report of Adam on the state of indigenous education submitted in 1836 and 1838, we understand that there are four stages in elementary education. The first stage which extended for ten days to a month, the young student was taught to form letters of the alphabet on the ground with a small stick or slip of bamboo on the sand board. The second stage he was taught to read and write, commit to memories the Couric table, the Numeration Table as far as 100, the Kartha Table (land measuring table) and the Ser table. This period extended from two and a half to four years. In the third stage, he learnt addition, subtraction and other arithmetical rules apart from learning shlokas and sodas. The third stage extended for a period of three years. For another two to three years, in the fourth stage, student learnt to write on paper, to read and learn the epics, qualified in accounts, writing letters, petition etc. Throughout these periods the student learnt all his subjects in his mother tongue and in Sanskrit. The teaching of Sanskrit and Sanskrit literature and grammar was given predominant significance.
There were institutions and scope for higher learning of these students. The subjects taught were as to the choice of the students. They were taught logic, grammar, mythology, astrology, medicine, Vedanta, tantra, mimanosa, sankhya etc. These were teaching and training of technologies, arts and crafts, music and dance, technology, art and craft were generally taught to them through family tradition. Music and dance were largely taken care by the temple organization. The technology included the manufacture of iron and steel, materials made of other metals like brass, bronze, ornaments made of gold, silver and gemstones, fashioning of agricultural tools, cotton and silk textiles, materials used in architecture and buildings, building of boats and ships, the manufacture of ice, paper etc. This is very significant to note that most of these crafts were learnt in homes and taught by their parents as traditional art.
The assessment of the history, the indigenous system of education in 18th and 19th century in such a great value that the people of our country did not rely on their rulers for anything. Hence the British rulers wanted this system of education to be updated and they wanted to produce workers and laborers to work for them as through a new system of education as mentioned by Lord Macaulay in the British Parliament in 1835. Hence the indigenous educational system was in great stress in the early decades of the 19th century. A.D Camp bell, the collector of Bellary in his long letter states how ‘bad’ the Indian system was and mention that education should be given ‘soley with the view to the transaction of business’ and ‘nothing except reading, with a exception of writing and a little arithmetic’ can be the education of the great majority. He further mentioned about the grants both in money and land in support of learning given by the Hindus for centuries, should be immediately be withdrawn. Almost the same was the opinion of GW Leituer of Punjab and W. Adam of Bengal and Bihar and all other British collections of other provinces.
William Wilberforce in 1813 depicted that Indians are being ‘deeply sunk’ and by their religious and suggestions fast bound in the lowest depths of moral and social wretchedness Sanskrit was less valuable than what is found at the preparatory schools in England. To Macaulay all Indian knowledge, was at least history meta physics theology. According to him Indian life had always been undignified, signatory, vegetative and passive, given to a brutalizing worship of nature instead of man since Man being the ‘sovereign of nature’ as contemplated in the European thought. There was a complete denunciation and rejection of Indian culture and civilization.
The indigenous Indian Education had the complete agreement on the nature of Indian Culture and its institution and because of its crucial social and cultural role, the education fared well. British and dispread the Indian system and made them to starve out of its resource base.
Since physical measures were taken to devise the system of education, there was dismantling or shutting up of educational institution. London authorities expressed their appreciation and approved of their collectors in destructing the indigenous Indian system of education. The neglect and uprooting of the Indian Education had several consequences for India. To begin with it led to a total destruction of literacy and knowledge of such great dimensions our forefathers had for them. Next it destroyed the Indian social balance, which traditionally we had among all the sections of people. Similar is the damage to our economic sphere which is the community based economy. Most importantly, it has kept most of the so called educated Indians ignorant of the value of their great culture which sustain this society. Yet more tragically for over a century it has induced a lack of confidence among our people.
The education system we have since independence does not differ much from the system introduced by the British. We are at the cross roads today. It has become a necessity for us to revise the present system of education order to devise a new indigenous education system based on the needs of the day.
Education should be a powerful tool to face the emerging challenges for which intellectual skills are needed more than knowledge. Education must provide the efficiency for students to translate their knowledge into skills. It should shape the total personality of the students to facilitate the development of full potential of every individual learner for his own benefit and for the benefit of the large society. We may have to bring back all the good things that we had in the indigenous system of Education before the advent of British in our country and to revise it to suit the requirements of today.