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THE education of an empire containing, with its allied Native States, 240 millions of inhabitants, is a topic that may well enkindle enthusiasm. And there are many advantages for carrying on the work. As the Pall Mall Gazette remarks:
"It would probably be difficult to find any population so teachable and so much interested in receiving instruction as large sections of the natives of India. There is no population on earth so completely imbued with the doctrine that it is the duty of the ruler to govern, and that his order ought to be obeyed. On the other hand, there is not in the world a Government which more fully appreciates the importance of education than the Government of India. We have accordingly a Government ready and willing to teach, a people willing to be taught, and, practically speaking, none of the disinclination to submit to authority which makes it nearly impossible to do any thing worth doing in many other parts of the world.”
Though the Muhammadan College in Calcutta was established by Warren Hastings in 1781, and efforts for the promotion of education were subsequently made on a small scale by Government, it was not till the land attained "rest," that the subject was taken up earnestly. The Educational Despatch of 1854, marks a new era. Gratifying progress has already been made, but far more yet remains to be done. The education of the people is still one of the most important problems of the day.
It cannot be denied that the education of such an empire is fraught with momentous consequences. "Knowledge is power," but it may be used for evil as well as good, Unless controlled by_moral principle, it may prove a curse-not a blessing.
Lord Northbrook said at the late Convocation of the Calcutta University
"To establish in this country, where there are so many different races and so many different religions, a system of education which
should unite them all in furthering the great object of the enlightenment and advancement of their fellow-countrymen was, I think, you will admit, a task of more than ordinary difficulty."
With regard to the future His Lordship remarked:—
"I have said that it would be bold indeed in me to venture to give any authoritative opinion upon the effects of the spread of education in India. I doubt whether any of those here present, however earnest they may be in the cause, could venture to prophesy what the effects of the spread of education in India may eventually be."
The Hon. H. S. Cunningham, in a recent address to educated Hindus in Madras, thus shows the terrible ordeal which they have to undergo:
"The educational process, to which a young Hindu is often submitted, is one which would be perilous to the most robust moral nature. He is transferred at a single bound from the primitive simplicity of his childhood's creed to the full blaze of European science: he finds physical philosophy advancing torch in hand into the innermost and most sacred recesses of his nature, and providing him with a ready-made explanation of everything that was full of mystery, sentiment and awe. Nature is stripped of all her illusions, and, with them, of all her tenderness, majesty and romance. The legendary tale that charmed his childhood's ear becomes a revolting puerility; the simple philosophy that satisfied his boyhood's curiosity, an old wife's tale; the dread secrets of existence, a mere affair of muscle and tissue; the inward cravings and aspirations of the soul, the result of indigestion; religion an hysterical malady; prayer a curious relic of the Fetish age; one philosopher traces his genealogy from a monkey, another points out a gland as what the superstitious call the soul. Between all his instructors, amidst the crash of shattered beliefs, and the babel of conflicting theories, the unfortunate neophyte acquires nothing tangible beyond a total disbelief in all existing creeds, and a profound disregard for an older, more credulcus and less instructed generation. He throws the last tatters of belief to the winds, hoists the flag of universal scepticism, and steers without any sort of moral compass, into the unmapped ocean which stretches far before him. Who shall wonder if the first storm shatters his ill-found vessel, or if he speedily makes shipwreck on hidden shoal or rock?
"I have drawn what I trust is for the most part an exaggerated picture, but dangers of this species, though not always in this intense degree, unquestionably beset the Indian Student."
Babu Keshub Chunder Sen thus describes the immediate results of the contact between Western science and Eastern systems:
In times of transition, in India as elsewhere, we always find that men for a time become reckless. The old faith is gone, and no new faith is established in its place. Society is unhinged and unsettled. Old principles of character and time-hallowed institutions are swept
away by innovations and revolutionary tumults, but no better principles are immediately established in their place. Thus for a season is confusion and recklessness. Such is the case in India at the present time."*
A. P. Howell, Esq., Under Secretary to the Government of India, Home Department, has for several years been charged with the general supervision of Government Education in India. The Friend of Indiat quotes the following from his last Report to Government:
"In India, not ouly is there no religious teaching of any kind in Government schools, but even the aided schools under native managers are generally adopting the same principle. I believe this result was never anticipated, and I am sure it requires attention. Looking to the rapid growth of our educational system, and to the enormous influence for good or evil that a single able and well educated man may exercise in this country; and looking to the dense but inflammable ignorance of the millions around us, it seems a tremendous experiment for the State to undertake, and in some Provinces almost monopolize, the direct training of whole generations above their own creed, and above that sense of relation to another world upon which they base all their moral obligations; and the possible evil is obviously growing with the system. It is true that things go smoothly and quietly, but this is attained by ignoring not only the inevitable results of early training on the character and the great needs of human nature, especially in the East, but by also ignoring the responsibility which devolves on the Government that assumes the entire control of direct education at all. If, therefore, while fanaticism is raging around, there is a calm in our schools and colleges, it is an ominous and unnatural calm, of impossible continuance, the calm of the centre of the cyclone."
Political considerations will not check the efforts of the British Government to promote the education of the people of India. The noble language of Lord Metcalfe embodies the feelings of those intrusted with the destinies of the country:
"The world is governed by an irresistible power which giveth and taketh away dominion, and vain would be the impotent prudence of man against the operations of its Almighty influence. All that rulers can do is to merit dominion by promoting the happiness of those under them. If we perform our duty in this respect, the gratitude of India, and the admiration of the world will accompany our name through all ages, whatever may be the revolutions of futurity."
Lord Northbrook, at the Calcutta University Convocation, quoted the words of the late Lord Mayo: "that whatever may be the effect of the spread of education in India, education was a chief duty of the Government, and that the Government went. forward in their work without fear and hesitation."
*English Visit, p. 263,
† March 6th, 1873,
The greatness of the work to be accomplished, its momentous consequences, and the resolution of Government to proceed with it, have been briefly noticed. The object of the following remarks is to endeavour to throw out some hints to increase the benefits and lessen the evils of the present system of Government education.
IMPROVEMENT OF SCHOOL BOOKS.
While Government seeks to extend education in India, it is at the same time desirous of improving the educational machinery. Matthew Arnold says that the following words of Wilhelm von Humboldt might be taken as a motto for his whole administration of public instruction in Prussia: "The thing is not, to let the schools and universities go on in a drowsy and impotent routine; the thing is, to raise the culture of the nation ever higher and higher by their means."*
Books forra an important part of the educational machinery. Their influence is of no mean value.
"Give me," says one, "the songs of a country, and I will let any one else make its laws." "Give me," says another, school books of a country, and I will let any one else make both its songs and its laws."
A German writer remarks, "Whatever you would put into the life of a nation, put into its schools." The most effectual mode of accomplishing this is to put it into the School Books. They are read by the children when the memory is quick and retentive. Impressions are thus produced which remain through life.
An intelligent teacher, if compelled to use inferior class books, will make up largely for their deficiencies by oral instruction. In India, however, except in a few superior schools, as Mr. Hodgson Pratt, formerly Inspector of Schools in Bengal, observes, "The book is every thing, for the Master cannot supply what it fails to give."+
But even in the case of the best teachers, it is a great advantage to have good text-books. Oral instruction must be limited, and if the pupils can read as well as hear, the lessons will be doubly impressed upon the mind.
In England any information which it is desirable to place before the people can at once be made known by means of the public journals. Here the Native Press is yet in its infancy, and probably does not affect more than one per cent of the population. The country is gradually being covered with a net-work of schools, and an influence will be exerted by them which will permeate every corner of the empire.
*Schools Inquiry Commission, vol. vi., p. 562.