In fact, education in the pre-British days made the Hindu and Muslim pupils the uncritical subscribers to their respective religion.
Despite these limitations it has been admitted on all hands that there had been a general inclination for education in those days.
Besides, a very large section of the population used to receive vernacular education in a good number of elementary schools spread all over the country.
Under the Company’s rule this indigenous elementary education suffered a decline.
b. Initiative taken by the Missionaries:
There had been the beginning of English education in India under the initiative of the Christian missionaries.
Since the East India Company did not allow any missionary to settle within its territorial possessions, the Christian missionaries had preferred to settle in the neighbourhood of the Company’s settlements where they established a few English schools.
Such type of missionary schools were first established in Madras, and then in Bengal and Bombay.
c. Controversy regarding the Govt. Policy:
In course of time, however, demand was raised from various quarters for the introduction of English education in India.
Under the circumstances a humble beginning was made in the Charter Act of 1813, which provided that a sum of rupees one lac was to be set apart per year for the promotion of learning in India.
But nothing could be done in this respect because of a controversy of opinion.
The opinion that favoured the introduction of Western scientific knowledge in India came to be known as the Anglicist while the Orientalist view was in favour of promoting and disseminating the traditional oriental learning.
This Anglicist-Orientalist controversy continued for quite some time. Ultimately, the two controversies were settled in 1835 under the Governor-Generalship of Lord William Bentinck.
d. English Education adopted by the Govt :
Hands of Lord William Bentinck, an Anglicist to the very core of his heart, were strengthened by the coming of Lord Macaulay to India.
Lord Macaulay, a Law Member of the Governor-General’s Council, was also in favour of introducing Western education in India. On the strength of the opinion of Macaulay as expressed in his famous ‘Education Minute (1835)’.
Governor-General Lord William Bentinck declared in 1835 that the government would devote the stipulated amount to promote ‘European literature and sciences among the natives of India’ through the English language alone.
e. Wood’s Dispatch:
Woods Dispatch, also known as the Education Dispatch of 1854 was a great leap forward in the growth of Western education in India.
Sir Charles Wood in his Dispatch made 12-point recommendation for the advancement of both the vernacular and English education in India.
Sir Wood also had recommended for the establishment of universities. Accordingly, in 1857 Universities were established in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.
Indian socio-cultural and religious thoughts underwent a transformation as a result of the Western contact.
The newly- emerged English educated middle class, being influenced by the scientific and rational outlook of the West, now began to examine the Indian socio-religious institutions and sought to find a justification on the basis of reason.
This spirit of enquiry gave birth to irresistible forces of socio-cultural and religious reforms in the first half of the nineteenth century.