Mohan Bhagwat, chief of federally ruling BJP’s parent organization RSS, stated that Indians were more educated due to a better school system until the British empire’s rule.
In a scathing attack on the British Raj, Hindu nationalist organization RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently underlined the long-held general belief that the British destroyed Indian education system which existed prior to imperial rule.
While speaking during the inauguration of a hospital in the Atma Manohar Jain Aradhana Temple Complex in Haryana’s Karnal district, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) head Bhagwat said: “Before British rule, 70 percent of our country’s population was educated and there was no unemployment.”
“Whereas in England, only 17 percent were educated. They implemented their education model here and implemented our model in their country. Hence 70 percent in England became educated, while India was left with just 17 percent of its population educated,” he added.
Sputnik spoke with Dr. Anirban Ganguly, Director of the Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation (SPMRF), to understand if Bhagwat’s allegations were based in fact.
India’s Ancient Education System
“Prior to the British, India had a well-developed system and an indigenous system of education. We had network of schools across India, across regions, even in rural India and these schools. These network of schools were sufficient to impart education and livelihood skills to Indians,” Dr. Ganguly told Sputnik.
He said many Indian authors have mentioned the Indian education system in their books.
“And, India’s education system was not dependent on government or the King but supported by society and villages,” Dr. Ganguly said, focussing on the Gurukul concept.
Gurukul is a known Indian system of education where teachers and students used to live together, and children were aimed to fulfill the responsibility of not just studying but they would learn gardening, sports, daily chores and household work, among others.
He also mentioned Taxila and Nalanda, India’s renowned ancient institutions of higher learning, and said that British orientalist GW Either had appreciated the Indian education system.
“For understanding, when Bakhityar Khilji in the 12th century burned down Nalanda University, it took over 6 months alone to burn the library, it is said that library has thrived for 700 years and it had nine million manuscripts,” Dr. Ganguly stressed.
What Did the British Do?
Ganguly, a scholar in history and culture, stated: “the British education system was meant to earn revenue, and the revenue was dedicated to the upkeep of the administration, their arms, and [the rest was] sent back to London.”
“The bond between teachers, society, and students got disconnected. The education, started in English language, started neglecting Indian languages, cultural education, and it prepared individuals to serve them,” Ganguly said.
In about 1886, the British launched the Imperial Civil Service, which later started selecting employees on a merit basis using competitive exams. However, higher posts were reserved for the British until India’s independence in 1947.
“India’s [original] education system was never about passing an exam or to clear exams to be the clerk,” Dr. Ganguly remarked while referring to the system of education that predated the Muslim conquest of India.
Yes, this is a multidimensional debate because it has many facets. But the core remains that India was an advanced society in terms of education.
This is not the first time that Indians have slammed the English for ruining the country’s systems. In the past, many Indian scholars and authors have done the same.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too reiterated these sentiments, and said that the education system developed by the British was not a part of the Indian ethos and created a “service class”.
Shashi Tharoor, a former undersecretary general of the United Nations in Oxford union, said, “Britain owes reparations to her former colonies, including India,” and stated “colonialism was the horror.”