When Gandhiji visited London in 1931, he sadly observed that India at that time was more illiterate than it was a hundred years ago.
Indeed, extensive surveys conducted by the British during 1800-1830 and still available in library archives in London today, indicate that lakhs of pathshalas and gurukulas in India imparted indigenous education to children from all classes of society, even until 1830.
Sanskrit books were used to teach grammar, lexicology, mathematics, medical sciences, logic, law and Vedanta. Education in these traditional disciplines was supported by revenue contributions from the community.
Moreover, each Indian district had approximately a hundred institutions of higher learning.
Amrita research scholar, Mr. Probal Ray Choudhury, is conducting an in-depth study on these very facts, while also teaching classes for Cultural Education at the Coimbatore campus.
His doctoral thesis is titled Changing Profile of Community Participation in School Education in Madras Presidency: 1820-1920.
“By 1910, higher education in India was restricted to just a handful of communities. A study of the history of any of the indigenous higher/technical knowledge systems like Jyotisha, Ayurveda or architecture reveals that there was a great decay in the 19th century,” shared Probal.
“Probably only 12% of India was literate in 1931 and 17%-18% in 1951. The country which was the most literate in the world had become the most illiterate within a century of British colonialism.”
“Possibly our earlier system of indigenous education had a more significant level of community participation than what was possible during the British rule.”
Probal’s study will build on such findings first reported in a much-acclaimed and seminal work, The Beautiful Tree by Dharampal.
The study could potentially throw fresh light on the fundamental philosophy and organizational principles of the traditional educational system that thrived in India till the 1800s.
“Understanding some of these factors could be of help in devising suitable intellectual frameworks and organizational models for achieving comprehensiveness and excellence in education in India,” stated Probal.
Recently a bursary grant of Rs 40, 000 was received from the Prof. V.S. Sethuraman Center for Studies in Chennai for the scholar’s work.
“Mr. Probal’s research project relates to a very crucial period and area in the growth of education in India. This bursary is given to him as a support for his research and to complete his PhD project. We wish him all the best.”
March 26, 2012