The story goes that once when he was in Ooty, in his residence, he saw an Indian officer coming and touching the feet of a peon sitting outside his office (which was near his residence.) and was obviously surprised. Why was an officer touching the feet of a peon? He was told, “You don’t know, this Indian society is a peculiar one. Here the Brahmins are respected and the peon belongs to that caste.” The changes that Macaulay brought after this are well documented and authenticated in books. The downward filtration method was formulated according to which the forward caste (even this was much later) was given preference in schools. To put it in his own words,” But it is impossible for us with our limited means to educate all in English. We must at present do our best to form a class of persons Indian in blood and colour but English in tastes, in opinion, in morals, and in intellect.’

To gauge how much he succeeded in his mission, we only need to look into the history of the Indian educated classes since that time onwards. The fact is that we have not tackled the Macaulayian issue even after Independence, and graver still, few realise that the problem exists at all. The system of giving preference to Brahmins in the govt. and missionary run schools went on for nearly hundred years. In the meantime other castes practicing any trade had lost their business due to the flooding of Indian markets with British goods and also due to the deliberate strangulation of their business by the British. Due to the land policy of the British, born out of their greed, the farmers had become landless labourers in their own lands, and the landlords the cruel stooges of the British. The systematic destruction of the Indian system of education deprived certain castes of education. Thus over a hundred years these castes had become impoverished and ignorant and the Brahmins who were supposed to lead the society became distorted in their understanding of things, due to foreign education.Lord Macaulay destroyed Indian education system

The Designs of Macaulay Frustrated

In Macaulay’s letter dated 12th Oct., 1836, he wrote to his father:

“Our English schools are flourishing wonderfully; we find it difficult to provide instruction to all. The effect of this education on Hindus is prodigious. No Hindu who has received an English education ever remains sincerely attached to his religion. It is my firm belief that if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolater among the respected classes 30 years hence. And this will be effected without our efforts to proselytize; I heartily rejoice in the prospect’

That was the confidence with which they set out. But the missionaries, after years of toiling in vain realised that their efforts of proselytization had not been successful. So after some years there was a conference of missionaries in India in 1882. They sat together and discussed the effects of their education on the Brahmins. They found that though to an extent they were successful in taking away the Brahmins from their ideals, their conversion had not taken place. A decision to slowly target the other castes and tribals in their educational institutions, was taken. Till the British started ruling India most of the castes were educated and prosperous but the delicate policies of the British are responsible for their later condition. The Brahmins who were supposed to set the standards of behaviour in the society were targeted, and when they strayed away from their path they were blamed for the condition of the other castes. The point to note here is that they are responsible not because they kept all the education to themselves, as is generally believed, but because they allowed themselves to be intellectually corrupted by the British and because they entered into all the professions practiced by other castes. They also took on government jobs thus paving the way for competition and hatred among castes in the society. Today they stand discredited in general, and are no longer considered to be the examples to be followed. But although the Brahmins became corrupted, it is to the credit of all the other castes that though they too were targeted, they stood firm, and thus foiled the designs of the British.

But as the poison induced by Macaulay continues to weaken this nation, we hardly even care to know about “Indian thinking”, Indian problems and Indian models and solutions to these problems. The best brains and the best energies are concentrated on evolving and applying western models and solutions. We seem to know less and less about our own nation. After all how does a nation die? One way is by physical destruction as the Europeans who settled in America destroyed whole civilizations there. Another is that people lose faith in their own way of life, their philosophies, their principles, their thought currents etc., and the nation is destroyed. Take for example, the Greek and Roman civilizations. What great civilizations they were! But there came a time when the intelligentsia lost faith in their own way of life, in their own wisdom. They adopted a totally different philosophy in their lives and where are these nations and their civilizations now? In a sense, in the museums and monuments!Indian education system

Compare that with India! The land with the most ancient cultural continuity, the oldest living nation Greece did not physically die. People did not die. People now in Greece, Italy and Persia are the descendants of those who were the originators of those great civilizations. But today if we ask them what are the ideals that sustained their nation they would say,” we do not know, it is in the books; it is in the museum; you may refer to it better there.” That is how a nation is destroyed, rather mummified. Now these countries are nothing more than geographical or political entities trying to evolve a nation out of their statehood. How does a nation get weakened? A nation gets weakened when the ignorance of the people about their own roots increases, or when they become ashamed of themselves or of their forefathers. Actually that is where real regression of a nation starts. A nation which wants to forget about itself and imitate other nations cannot redeem itself but is on the path of self-destruction. The regression is there in our nation at present. And if we truly do not want to weaken ourselves as a nation, we need to extricate our educational system out of its Macaulayian traits, and obtain a fresh and untainted understanding of our ideals; for these have held us together as a nation for nearly ten thousand years. Then put them up for renewed enquiry before the younger generations so that if at all they are imbibed, they are expressed with feelings that become stronger, nobler and grander with time.



Destruction of The Indian System of Education An article published in ‘Bharathi’, the cultural magazine of IIT-Madras contributed by V.Ravi Kumar

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Ashwin Arun
Ashwin Arun
7 years ago

Awesome articles.Long Read ,but truly worth it. Those who praise the British for “uniting” us should read this

6 years ago

You write : “Today they stand discredited in general, and are no longer considered to be the examples to be followed. But although the Brahmins became corrupted, it is to the credit of all the other castes that though they too were targeted, they stood firm, and thus foiled the designs of the British.” It ought to be realized how divisive this attitude is, by pitting the “sellout” brahmins (all of them?) against the rest of the “castes”. ALL elites (many of them non-Brahmins) got co-opted / “sold-out”. Please be perceptive enough to see the hidden Macaulayism at work here.… Read more »