Essay on Wood’s Despatch and Growth of Education in India

The British educational policy continued on the basis of recommendations of Macaulay till changes were made under Dalhousie. Here again Dalhousie stands at partnership with Bentinck. When Dalhousie came to India in 1848, the condition of education was little different from one existed when Bentinck arrived. The British Empire had grown to full shape. Many Indians had joined the Government services at lower grades.

Dalhousie realized that the Government had neglected the education for the masses. Vernacular education had declined and village schools (pathasalas) were not in a position to take up the responsibility of educating the mass. The teachers (abadhans) were too traditional and there were no school-houses and no printed books.

The teachers were not paid regularly. The subjects taught in those schools were old and outdated. Thus, Dalhousie thought a scheme to make arrangement for the mass education of the primary education in vernacular languages.

By that time Sir Charles Wood was the President of the Board of Control of the Company. Sir Wood prepared a scheme on education policy for India and through it recommended details to be worked out. The scheme was sent to India and was known as "Wood's Despatch" of 1854. Dalhousie implemented the scheme in the same year.

Wood's Despatch:

Wood's Despatch was a complete scheme with certain innovative aspects. It repudiated the "downward filtration theory" that provided education for upper classes.

In stead Wood's Despatch emphasized on the education of the masses and announced the duty and responsibility of the Government to provide education for the people of India.

Thus, the British attitude towards education as the medium for cheap supply of clerks changed and elementary education in vernacular languages was considered as a welfare scheme under the Government. Accordingly, schools were to be established by the Government and primary schools built by private efforts were to receive Government grants.

Schools receiving Government grants were to follow the rules and regulations of the Government and were to be inspected by the authorities of the concerned department.

Education Department of each province of the British Empire was put under the Director of Public Instruction (DPI). The DPI exercised overall supervisory power overall educational institutions of a province starting from primary schools to colleges.

The DPI took care of the maintenance of the standard of education. Under the DPI, school Inspector worked to control and administer of the education system. The Despatch also encouraged Indian education in Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian languages and texts of English languages were translated into Indian languages.

Government laid emphasis to make the education secular and religious teaching in schools was discouraged. Training schools were opened to train the teachers in modern knowledge and teaching methods. The Despatch also laid stress on technical and women education and made provisions for award of scholarship for proficiency in studies to encourage meritorious students.

However, there was gap between the theory and practice. Though the "downward filtration theory" was repudiated, it continued in practice and English medium of education was preferred.

The Government did little to execute the recommendations. Knowledge in English was essential for appointment in Government services and English medium schools gained popularity. Emphasis on English medium also prevented the spread of education to the masses. It was not possible to open English Medium schools in rural areas.

That created wide gap between educated persons and the masses and higher education, being costly, it remained confined to rich classes and urban areas. Though female education drew attention through the Despatch, little was done for the purpose.

The Government partly, was unwilling to hurt the orthodox Indians and partly considered female education not useful as women would not join offices. The major constraint was the unwillingness of the Government to spend for education of the people.

In spite of certain limitations, Dalhousie brought significant changes in the condition of education in India by implementing Lord's Despatch. Immediate effect was the establishment three universities in India on the pattern of University of London.

In 1857, the Universities of Calcutta (Kolkata) Bombay (Mumbai) and Madras (Chennai) were established. By 1857 three Medical Colleges were functioning in the country one each at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.

There was only one Engineering College at Roorkee for technical education. No doubt, the education policy of the Company Government in India helped in propagating the modern ideas in India and led the country towards modernization.