Thomas Babington Macaulay was a British historian and politician known for his presentation of ‘Minute on Indian Education’ on 2 February 1835. He suggested the establishment of a need that facilitated the imparting of English education to Indian ‘natives’.
In colonial India, the British education policy was almost non-existent initially. Their main objective was to earn profit through trade and other means. The importance of education started gaining appreciation gradually and a few institutes of higher learning were established by the company. These learning institutes imparted knowledge of Indian subjects in languages such as Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian. The court language was Persian.
The first main step taken towards modern education in India was the Charter Act of 1813. An annual sum of Rs.1 lakh was set aside by the Act for educating the ‘subjects’. Following this act, a conflict arose among the British based on the mode of education to be used for instructing the Indians. The orientalists believed that Indians should be taught their scriptures and texts and educated in their languages whereas the other group believed English education was the best knowledge to be imparted.
Macaulay became the President of the General Committee of Public Instruction (GCPI) in June 1834. He justified the importance of English as the medium of instruction in his minute education and also the teaching of western education to Indians. He also favored Western science over Indian knowledge and added,
“It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England.”
Recommendations of Macaulay’s Minute
Here are some recommendations Macaulay made in his minute education.
- He suggested the government should try to educate only a few Indians, who would consequently teach the rest. This is called the ‘downward filtration’ policy.
- He wanted Indians to serve British interests and be loyal to them. This class would be “Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and intellect.”
- Macaulay suggested the government spend money only on western education and not on oriental education.
- He also suggested that all colleges where only eastern philosophy and subjects are taught must be shut down.
- He felt that Indian knowledge and languages were worthless. On Indian literature, he stated, “…a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.”
Macaulay’s proposals were sanctioned in March 1835 officially. English was made the court language in 1837 and high government posts were open to Indians in 1844.