Rediscovering India by Dharampal

Indian Education in 1820   

Before arriving at a conscious policy regarding education in India the British carried our certain surveys of the surviving indigenous educational system. A detailed survey was carried out in 1822-25 in the Madras Presidency (i.e. the present Tamil Nadu, the major part of the present Andhra Pradesh, and some districts of the present Karnataka, Kerala and Orissa). The survey indicated that 11,575 schools and 1,094 colleges were still then in existence in the Presidency and that the number of students in them were 1,57,195 and 5,431 respectively. The more surprising information, which this survey provided, is with regard to the broader caste composition of the students in the schools.

According to it, those belonging to the sudras and castes below formed 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the total students in the Tamil speaking areas, 62 per cent in the Oriya areas, 54 per cent in the Malayalam speaking areas, and 35 per cent to 40 per cent in the Telugu speaking areas. The Governor of Madras further estimated that over 25 per cent of the boys of school age were attending these schools and that a substantial proportion, and more so the girls, were receiving education at home. According to data from the city of Madras 26,446 boys were receiving their education at home while the number of those attending schools was 5,532.

The number of those engaged in college-level studies at home was similarly remarkable in Malabar, 1,594 as compared to a mere 75 in a college run by the family of the then impoverished Samudrin Raja. Further, again in the district of Malabar the number of Muslim girls attending school was surprisingly large, 1,122 girls as compared to 3,196 Muslim boys. Incidentally, the number of Muslim girls attending school there 62 years later in 1884-85 was just 705. The population of Malabar had about doubled during this period.

If one looks deep enough, corresponding images of other aspects of Indian life and society emerge from similar British records of the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century. Those indicate not only a complex structure of science and technology (according to tests carried out by the British, the best steel in the world during this period was produced by relatively portable steel furnaces in India, and inoculation against small-pox was a widely-extended Indian practice) but also the sophisticated organizational structure of Indian society. According to Mr. Alexander Read, later the originator of the Madras land revenue system, the only thing which seemed to distinguish the nobility from their servants in Hyderabad around 1780 was that the clothes of the former were more clean.

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