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Why did the British impose English on India

Why did the British impose English education on India? There were many reasons, the foremost of which was convenience as it was difficult for them to learn so many Indian languages. It was far simpler to have English-speaking menials to help them govern the millions of unwashed masses.

There was, however, a more devious and sinister motive behind the British policy of imposing the English language and English education on India. It was to make the Indians, especially the sepoys ‘disloyal’ to their own language and culture. The British were acutely aware of the danger posed by regional education. They realized that if the Indian sepoys of the British Army continued learning in their own languages, they would turn against the British someday. The Muslims sepoys would look down on them as infidels if they studied Islamic literature and the Hindu sepoys would look down upon them as adharmic mlecchas if they studied their Sanskrit texts.

The British contrived an ingenious, if cunning solution to this tricky problem by educating the elite class of Indians in English and thereby creating a separate class of ‘learned natives’. This policy of the British is best summed up by the statement of Charles Trevelyan who played a role in formulating the educational policy, and who was also the brother-in-law of Thomas Babington Macaulay. Trevelyan said, “familiarly acquainted with English literature the Indian would speak of the great Englishman with the same enthusiasm as the British themselves, they would reject the teachings of Brahmin priests, the natives shall not rise against us, because we shall stoop to raise them.”

After almost 15 years of deliberations between the Anglicists and the Orientalists in England, the Minute of Macaulay was circulated to arrive at a decision regarding the kind of educational institute they should fund. The infamous Macaulay’s Minute reads, “We must at present do our best to form a class, who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern. A class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English and tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class, we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.”

This was how the English Education Act of 1835 came to be passed.

Sahana Singh describes the rationale behind the insidious English Education Policy aimed at subverting the ancient, indigenous Indian education system in her Srijan Talk on “Educational Heritage Of Ancient India”, a relevant snippet of which is presented here.

To watch the full Srijan Talk by Sahana Singh, click on the following link:

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