Despite such efforts the ancient system of education could not progress. The main reason for this decay was the empire- building policy of the British according to which they tried to stabilise their supremacy by modifying or overhauling the social, literary and cultural values of the conquered country.
So the Britishers in order to give a permanent footing to their political supremacy, besides introducing Western pattern of educational system and culture, tried to discourage the Indian method of education. They succeeded in their policy.
Because of these destructive blows since the beginning of the nineteenth century, decay set in gradually in the Indian traditional educational system.
In destroying the traditional Indian education, the Christian missionaries played a more important role than the East India Company did. They established primary, secondary and higher schools on the Western pattern with the aim of spreading Christianity.
The British Parliament under the Charter of 1813 authorised the East India Company to spend rupees one lakh yearly for the education of Indian people, development of scientific work and the progress of Indian literature. But due to the indifference of the Directors and Officers of the Company, the order remained completely un-implemented for about ten years.
The main interest of the Company in India was trade and earning more and more profits. Hence, it considered the efforts of the missionaries’ sufficient and showed indifference towards the development of education.
There was also the practical difficulty in following the Charter in the true spirit because the sum of rupees one lakh was too meager in view of the vastness and large population of the country and it was difficult to decide on which particular sphere this money should be utilised.
These problems were reviewed in 1824 and it was decided to spend a certain percentage of the allotted money on primary education.
During the rule of the Company upto 1857, the efforts in the sphere of education remained completely unsatisfactory. In the Wood’s Despatch of 1854, while criticising the educational activities of the Company, it was admitted that the Company had completely neglected education in India.
Accordingly, the Despatch urged that the responsibility of encouraging the Indian schools, expansion of primary education, proper financial assistance and provision of useful and practical education for the Indian people should be the duty of the Company.
But during the Company rule prior to Indian revolt of 1857, financial help was given only to higher and secondary education. No expansion of primary education worth the name took place.
After the revolt of 1857 the rule of the Company ended and the British Parliament took the administration of India directly in its own hands. The direct rule by the British Parliament was better organised.
The next 30 years were particularly important in the history of primary education. In the Stanley Charter of 1859 it was announced that the responsibility of primary education in India would be the direct responsibility of the Indian administration.
The right to tax the Indian public for expansion of education was given to the Government of India. By 1882 nearly 29,000 primary schools with the capacity to teach 21 lakh students had been established in the country. For the expansion of primary education this provision was so inadequate that only 1.2 per cent children could be made literate.
Despite the patronage extended by the Government during the nineteenth century, proper expansion of education in India could not take place.
This was even accepted by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India. Lord Curzon held the view that primary education whose object was to educate the common people in the local or mother tongue should be fully developed and available to everyone. Full patronage of the Government was necessary for primary education.
The then Government in order to free itself from this responsibility took an inadequate step and without considering the recommendations of the Indian Education Commission of 1882 transferred the responsibility of primary education to local bodies.
It was expected that this step would help the expansion of primary education but due to willful indifference of the government the local bodies had to face financial difficulties in this task. Lack of finances was a major obstacle in the progress of primary education and despite continuous efforts of the local bodies, its progress remained unsatisfactory.
The result was that during the period of 20 years from the year 1882 to 1902, an increase of only 66 lakhs of students could be recorded at the primary stage of education.
Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, made commendable efforts for the expansion and development of primary education. As a matter of fact, the Curzon era could be called the first stage in the development of primary education. Lord Curzon gave much encouragement to the Indian people in the sphere of education.
For the first time, without any fear the people asked the Government to discharge its responsibilities towards primary education. It was also expected that primary education would make much headway during Curzon’s regime, but Lord Curzon’s unfortunate policy of the partition of Bengal made all his reformatory efforts seem insignificant.
The public rose against Lord Curzon’s policy. The Indian National Congress held its session at Calcutta in 1905 and strongly criticised the government policies. Under this adverse and unfavourable situation neither the governmental nor the non-governmental policies, despite their importance, could be successfully implemented. In spite of all the controversy the primary education took root during this period.