The Agenda for National Education


The British came to India with the motive of expansion and exploitation. The many European powers before the Britishers colonised the part of Asia and Africa such as the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French, etc, these countries were preceded by the Britishers that has ruled the world in such a way that an Indian nationalist commented that the British empire is such a large that sun never sets in the empire.

The British entered India through trade but established their rule with the sword(violence). The expansion of the British empire was so great that it needed effective administration as well as the cooperation of the native people. Initially, for cooperation and collaboration, the Britishers were dependent on the monarchical as well as aristocratic class.

But from 1813 the Britishers started promoting scientific knowledge in the colony. Initially, British education was limited to the elite class, for e.g. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, after getting western education, set up at Calcutta college in 1817.

Macaulay Minutes

The Lord was the pioneer of modern English education in India, there was controversy among British officials known as oriental Anglicist controversy in which Oriental argued that along with modern studies the British Govt should expand the Indian traditional education system while the Anglicists said that only modern studied should be financed and patronised by the government.

Finally, in 1835 lord Macaulay settled the controversy in the favour of Anglicists. His idea was to make a class of “Indian in blood and colour but English in taste”. This means if education is provided to the elite Indian class this will result in downward filtration.

Though the main goal of the Britishers was to create a civil society class that will serve the interest of the Britishers both in administration as well in society. The Britishers also tried to expand their cultural hegemony in the colonies.

Although such a policy by Britishers was criticised by many Indian nationalist leaders such as Gandhi, Aurobindo, Tilak, etc.

English Education has Enslaved Us

Gandhi, being a staunch Indian nationalist criticized the education system for ruining the soul of the Indian people. Gandhi was of the opinion that English education was one of the tools used by the British to rule India. Gandhi has many times during the national movement asked the Indian students to leave the Indian universities and come on the road. Gandhi said that the British language has made Indians believe that Indians are inferior to the British.

Gandhi was of the opinion that education should not be restricted only to making humans skilled labour. Gandhi criticised the “read and write” education; he was of the opinion that only reading and writing do not amount to an education. Education should be inculcated in the mind and body of the person. Gandhi also of the education that education should not be restricted to elites but it should be given to the masses, one of his advice was to give free education to children in primary and secondary education.

Gandhi focused more on moral virtues rather than the skill of education.

Tagore Abode of Peace

Rabindranath Tagore, a poet highly educated in western as well as vernacular languages, was granted knighthood by the British. During his childhood, he disliked the school system of education because of its restrictions and discipline, which he describes as a prison. Unlike Gandhi, he did not oppose modern education. But he wanted synergy between modern western education as well as the traditional Indian education system.

He founded an abode of peace which is known as Shantiniketan. This educational institute focused on the principle of self-learning rather than the principle of the classroom which English educationists have implemented in India. He wants to inculcate the skill of creative learning.

He is of the opinion that creative learning comes with freedom and nature, that is the reason he set up his education institute 100 Km away from the city life of Calcutta. He worked with the Santhal tribal community because of the community's proximity to the Shantiniketan.

Difference Between the Educational View of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore

On Modern Education

  • Gandhi- Gandhi was against modern education as it made Indian inferior

  • Tagore- Tagore was not against Indian education.

On Traditional Education

  • Gandhi- Gandhi gave primacy to the traditional Indian education.

  • Tagore- While Tagore combined both modern as well as Indian traditional education

On the outcome

  • Gandhi is of the opinion that the outcome of education will be overall development.

  • While Tagore focused more on moral virtues.

  • Gandhi was a supporter of a nationalistic curriculum of education.

  • Tagore is of the opinion that education should make us Human.

  • Gandhi opposed British education and focused on swadeshi education while Tagore has not opposed any particular education. He believed that education should come from wherever it comes.


The Englishman expanded English education in India to assert their cultural hegemony and make Indian vernacular language speakers look inferior. The Britishers wanted skilled bureaucrats from the indigenous community to sustain their big empire in India. That's the reason they spread modern western education to the elite class. The famous Macaulay's minute gave downward filtration theory but the real intention was to make Indians in colour and Britishers in taste so that Englishman could rule the mind of the masses through the Anglophone Indian class.

Although the policy of the British had some backlash from the Indian nationalist intelligentsia such as Gandhi. Gandhi opposed English education because it made Indians inferior in comparison to the British. The new western educated leaders of India such as Nehru did not oppose English education but rather spread it. He was of the opinion that the growth of India will be through the path of modern western education. He set up many IITs and scientific research institutions such as ISRO, AIIMS, Bhabha atomic research centre, etc. to give the scientific temper to the masses.


Q1. What is the famous wood dispatch of 1854?

Ans. It rejects downward filtration theory as it is not working. It has outlined the roadmap for the education policy of India. The primary education should be given in vernacular languages then the higher education should be in English and vernacular languages. It also focused on teachers' training and women's education.

Q2. What is the Indian university act 1904?

Ans. During the time of lord Curzon, to curb the nationalistic activities in the university British govt brought the Indian university act. This act restricted the freedom of the universities in their activism. In the name of improvement of education, it restricted its freedom.

Q3. Why did Tagore renounce knighthood?

Ans. The Jaliawala Bagh massacre that took place in Punjab in 1919 has angered the whole country; the leaders from top to down level have harshly criticised the British action. Rabindranath Tagore renounced the knighthood in the protest against the police action.

Q4. What is the planning commission?

Ans. The planning commission was the body assigned the task of framing the policy for the development of the nation. The planning commission makes policy for 5 years. The head of the planning commission is the prime minister. In 2015, the planning commission was changed to NITI AYOG.