Wood’s Despatch on Education

In Modern Indian History, Charles Wood’s Despatch had an impact on education in British India as it promoted the use of vernacular languages in the primary schools.

Charles Wood was the President of the Board of Control (Introduced through Pitt’s India Act, 1784) of English East India Company. He had also been the Secretary of the state of India.  He had a great impact on disseminating education in India.

In 1854 he sent a despatch to Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor-General of India. Wood’s despatch suggested that primary schools must Adopt vernacular languages. Through the despatch, he also suggested that high schools use anglo-vernacular medium and that English should be the medium for college-level education. Hence, the Wood’s Despatch is considered as ‘Magna-Carta’ of English Education in India.

Features of Wood’s Despatch

i. Acceptance of Responsibility:

It was accepted in the Despatch that the responsibility of educating Indians was that of British Government.

ii. Establishment of D.P.I. office:

The Despatch recommended that the existing Board of Control for Education be abolished and the office of the Director of Public Instructions should be established in the states.

iii. Establishment of universities:

The despatch recommended for the establishment of universities in the presidency towns, viz. Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The London University, which was then a purely examining goody, was to be taken as their models.

iv. Medium of instruction:

The medium of instruction of education in India would be English. The Despatch accepted the views of Lord Macaulay.

v. Grant-in-aid system:

The despatch proposed the system of grant- in-aid for the Indian educational institutions in order to encourage the private enterprise for expansion of education among Indians.

In order to be eligible for grant-in-aid, a school was to fulfill certain conditions such as:

(a) The school must impart a good secular education.

 (b) It must agree to inspection by government officers.

(c) It must realize a tuition fee, however, small, from the pupils.

vi. Training of teachers:

In order to secure properly qualified teachers for schools, the Despatch suggested the training of teachers in normal schools. To induce men of better calibre to come to school-service the Despatch recommended ‘sufficient salary’ for school teachers.

vii. Women and Muslim education:

As Indians were two orthodox, the British Government did not show any interest in education of females. It insisted on a policy of strict neutrality in religion.

viii. Vocational education:

The Despatch put importance on vocational instruction, and to that end suggested the need of establishing vocational colleges and schools of industry.

ix. Mass education:

The Despatch admitted that mass education had totally been neglected and so far the Government devoted its attention exclusively towards providing means of education for the higher classes.

Significance of the Wood’s Despatch:

The Wood’s Despatch was considered of great significance in the history of Indian education. It was for the first time that a comprehensive scheme could be presented by the British Government. Prof. S.N. Mukherjee observed in his book “History of Education in India”, “The Despatch is indeed a very important document. It was considered to be the ‘Magna Charta of English Education in India’.

“The Despatch is so comprehensive in nature that Indian educationists have not yet succeeded in fulfilling the tasks, which it had set. It provided a scheme which tried to touch all aspects of Indian education, rightly defined the comparative position of English and Indian languages in a general scheme of education for this country”.

Impact of Wood’s Despatch

The following developments were reflected post-Charles Wood’s Despatch:

  1. Bombay, Madras and Calcutta universities were set up in 1857
  2. In all provinces, education departments were set up
  3. Bethune School (founded by J.E.D. Bethune) was started for women education
  4. Agriculture Institute at Pusa (Bihar) and an Engineering Institute at Roorkee were started
  5. British India witnessed rapid westernisation of education system with European headmasters and principals in schools and colleges
  6. Private Indian educators appeared.

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