Monday 3 June 2013

An English school that owes nothing to Macaulay and everything to a Raja

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) is credited with having introduced English education in India and books on history and education by both Indians and foreigners have “tomtommed” this fact so much so that an English speaking Indian is even called a Macaulay’s child.
While it is true that Thomas Macaulay pushed for English as a medium of education in India, it is wholly wrong to credit the Britisher with the concept of English in India and in schools.
A few years even before Macaulay came up with his seminal :Minutes on Education”, meant for India in which he advocated English as a language, there was already a school in a princely state that was teaching in English.
The native state was Mysore and the King who introduced it in his capital was Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1794-1868), the third.  The Raja was enthroned back on the Mysore royal seat after the death of Tipu on May 4, 1799 in Srirangapatna. However, in 1831, the British took over the administration of the State, citing maladministration.
The unperturbed Raja, however, went about his task with equanimity. Though he accepted the takeover, it did not stop him from voicing his rights with the British over the injustice meted out to him and the need for them to revert back Mysore to him as per the articles of the Subsidiary Alliance that he had signed with the British.
He was well versed in many languages and a scholar in Sanskrit and a writer. He realized the importance of teaching English to his subjects and he set up what could possibly be one of the earliest such institutions in native India-provinces ruled by Indian rulers.
This was how the Maharaja's High School came into being in Mysore in 1833. The Maharaja saw the institution as one offering free education in elementary English. The Raja's Free School as it was known then taught English to Indians, employing Englishmen and Anglo-Indians.
Thus this school, whose contribution is forgotten now, was the pioneer of English education in India and this was a few years before Macaulay’s Minutes on Education.
What surprises me is that votaries of Macaulay and his minutes of education forget the reason why Macaulay wanted Indians to be taught English. This reason is the principle underlying the minutes and it was aimed at perpetual preservation of the British Raj.
However, the Raja's Free School had no such agenda. Initially housed in a building near the Residency (Government Guest House today), it offered primary education till 1863 after which it was upgraded to a high school.
In 1879, a college too was set up at Nazarbad and the institution shifted to its present building in 1893.
The High school boasts of some of the best known Indians such as novelist R K Narayan, his brother R K Laxman and former Chief Minister D Devaraja Urs.
More than anything else, the school was beacon to Indians to learn Emglish along with their native tongue, a factor not envisaged by Macaulay in his minutes.   
The Mysore school was established in 1833, a good two years before the “Minute on Indian Education” by Macaulay in February 1835.
In his Minute, Macaulay called for a educational system to establish solidly a class of anglicised Indians who would serve as cultural intermediaries between the British and the Indians. He had favoured the replacement of Persian and Sanskrit with English as the official language, the use of English as the medium of instruction, and the training of English-speaking Indians as teachers.
Macaulay convinced the then Governor-General, William Bentinck, to adopt English as the medium of instruction in secondary education, from the sixth year of schooling onwards/
He strongly believed that the body of writing available in Sanskrit and Arabic was no match for the scholarship available in English. He stated this implicitly in the Minute: “All the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgements used at preparatory schools in England.”
So much for Macaulay and his English. Contrast this with the Mysore Maharaja’s selfless gesture. Which of the two would you choose.  

1 comment:

  1. hi samyuktha,

    i m working on book history of education in mysore, will u be able to tell where is raja free school was in mysore at nazarbad. call me 9731442667 bangalore