Civilizing the “Native”, Educating the Nation Class 8 History Chapter 7 Explanation

Civilizing the “Native”, Educating the Nation Class 8 History Chapter 7

CBSE Class 8 History Chapter 7 Civilizing the “Native”, Educating the Nation – Detailed explanation of the chapter ‘Civilizing the “Native”, Educating the Nation’ along with question answers. Given here is the complete explanation of the lesson, along with all the exercises, Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson.

Class 8 History – Chapter 7

Civilizing the “Native”, Educating the Nation



As we already know that the British policies were affecting Indian kings, peasants, tribes, etc. now we will study the effect of British rule on Indian students.

Britishers had an aim of not only gaining power over the Indian territories but also they wanted to educate Indians to make them civilized.

Civilizing the “Native”, Educating the Nation Class 8 Video Explanation


How the British saw Education

What the British thought about our education system and how the Indians reacted to the idea of education which Britishers wanted to introduce in India is what we will study in this chapter.

The Tradition of Orientation

William Jones

In 1783, William Jones was appointed as a Junior Judge at the Supreme Court that was setup by the company in Calcutta. Jones was not only a law expert but also a linguist. He knew many languages like Greek, Latin, French and English. In Calcutta, he began spending time with pundits who taught him Sanskrit language, grammar and ancient texts on law, philosophy, politics, arithmetic, medicine, etc.

Many other Englishmen such as Henry Thomas Colebrooke and Nathaniel Halhed were also showing keen interest in ancient Indian heritage just like Jones. They were also translating Sanskrit and Persian works into English. Jones, together with Colebrooke and Halhed formed the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and also started a journal named Asiatic Researchers.

Jones and Colebrooke had a deep respect for ancient culture of Both India and the west. According to them, the Indian civilization had a glorious past which had subsequently declined. To understand India better, they decided to study the sacred and legal texts of India. These texts could serve as the basis for the future development of India.

So, they decided to study ancient texts which would help Indians understand their lost glory and also help British to become the guardians of Indian culture as well as their masters.

Many Company officials supported this idea and also encouraged the building of institutions which promoted learning of ancient Indian texts. They also believed that Hindus and Muslims should be taught those subjects that were familiar to them and not the unfamiliar subjects.

With this objective, a Madrasa was set up in Calcutta in the year 1781 for promoting the study of Arabic, Persian and Islamic law and the Hindu college was setup in Benares in the year 1791 to encourage the study of Sanskrit texts.

But some officers were not in favour of the Orientalists, so they were their strong opponents.

Grave errors of the East

Many officials started criticizing the concept of teaching Indians the Sanskrit and Arabic literature because they thought that Eastern literature was non serious and full of flaws.

James Mill declared that British should make Indians familiar with the scientific and technical advances that the West had made and not the poetry and sacred literature. The aim of education was not to please anyone or just to win a place in their heart.

Thomas Babington MacaulayIn the 1830s, the criticism against the orientalists grew stronger. One such critic was Thomas Babington Macaulay. According to him, India was an uncivilized country and needed to be civilized. No branch of Eastern knowledge could be compared to what England had produced. Macaulay declared that “Who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of Indian and Arabia”.  He requested the British government to stop wasting money on oriental learning. He asserted the need for teaching English to the Indians as this would enable them to read Western Science, Philosophy and the finest literature of the world.

Following Macaulay’s suggestions, the English Education Act of 1835 was introduced. The decision of making English as medium of instruction for higher education was taken. The Sanskrit college and Calcutta Madrasa were seen as temples of darkness in order to stop the promotion of oriental learning.

Education for Commerce

 In 1854, the court of Directors of the East India Company in London sent an educational dispatch issued by Charles Wood. This was known as Wood’s dispatch which was sent to the Governor-General of India. This also emphasized on European learning and opposed Oriental learning. It also laid emphasis on the learning of economics as it would enable Indians to understand the importance of expansion of trade and commerce. This would lead to the development of our country’s resources. Introducing Indians to the European ways of life would result in the demand for British goods as their tastes and preferences would be changed.

Wood’s dispatch also stressed that European education would generate some good qualities in Indians such as honesty and truthfulness. This in return would supply Britishers with good civil servants who would be trustworthy.

As per the dispatch, many new steps were taken. Education departments were setup to take control over all the educational matters. Universities were established in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay though a revolt was faced in Meerut and Delhi in the year 1857. Attempts were made to bring changes in the school education system.

So while these steps were taken by the Britishers to bring changes in the education system 

What happened to the Local schools?

Do you know how children were taught before Britishers came to India? And if there were some schools before British era, how they used to be and what happened to them?

Let’s see what the report of William Adam says about this-school

In 1830s, a Scottish Missionary named William Adam was asked by the Company to prepare a report on the progress of education in vernacular schools.

Adam reported that there were over 1 lakh pathshalas in Bengal and Bihar. These were small schools with students generally around 20. But the total number of students in these pathshalas was over 20 Lakh. These schools were basically set up by wealthy people or by the community. Even sometimes by a teacher (guru).

They were the schools with flexible education systems such as:

  • There were no blackboards, books, building, furniture, etc.
  • At some places, classes were held under a tree, at the corner of a shop, temple or at the guru’s home.
  • There were no separate classrooms or roll calls.
  • All students sat together. The teacher used to interact separately with the students having different levels of learning.
  • There was no annual examination or time table.
  • Fee was also received according to the status of the pupil’s family.

This flexible system was suitable to the local needs. For example, there were no classes during the harvest season as rural children had to work in the fields.

The pathshalas commenced after the crops had been cut, in order to facilitate even the children of peasant family.

New routines, new rules

Earlier the Company was only concerned about the higher education; therefore, it was not interfering in the functioning of local pathshalas. But after 1854 the Company took a decision to improve these schools. Pandits were appointed as in charge to look after 4 to 5 schools. The job of the pandit was to visit the pathshala and improve the education system.

Some new features were introduced such as:

  • Teaching now was to be based on textbooks.
  • Annual examination was to be conducted.
  • Students were asked to pay regular fee.
  • Gurus were asked to submit periodic report and take classes as per the timetable.
  • Students were asked to attend regular classes, sit at a fixed place and obey the rules.

Government grants were given to those pathshalas which accepted the rules and there were no grants for the schools that did not comply with the rules.

But it had some drawbacks also –

Gurus who wanted to retain their independence found it difficult to compete with government aided regulated pathshalas.

Children of peasants found it difficult to attend school regularly during harvest season.

So now we know both the benefits and drawbacks of the regulated pathshalas. Next we will discuss the agenda for a national education i.e. the need of education nationwide.

The Agenda for a National Education

Britishers were not the only one to think about education in India but there were many Indian thinkers who wanted to Introduce Western education in India because they wanted India to develop like the western countries. So, they urged the British to open more schools and colleges in India. On the other hand, people like Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi opposed the system of western education.

So, let’s see their views on this –

Mahatma Gandhi JiEnglish education has enslaved us

Mahatma Gandhi said that the Western education was like a poison as it had developed a feeling of inferiority among Indians. It had destroyed the sense of pride for our own culture and not only this, Indians who got educated from these institutions appreciated the British rule in India. Gandhi wanted the education system which could bring back the sense of dignity among Indians. Gandhi also felt the need of having local language as a medium of instruction as the English medium was alienating the youth from their own language and culture. The English education was unable to relate itself with the local masses. 

According to Mahatma Gandhi, western education system only focused on reading and writing whereas stress should be given on practical learning in which one uses his skills and practical knowledge as it led to the development of the mind and the capacity to understand.

As the nationalist thought grew stronger, many other thinkers also supported the system of national education which was different from the British education system.

Now let’s see what Tagore used to think of education system

Tagore’s “abode of peace”

abode of peace

Rabindranath Tagore started an institution named Santiniketan in 1901. During his childhood, Tagore hated going to school. To him, school appeared like a prison as he was not free to do what he wanted to. The experience of his school life in Calcutta resulted in a new idea of education known as Tagore’s idea of education. So, he decided to setup a school where a child was happy, free and creative. He/ she could explore his or her own thoughts. According to him, childhood is the time of self learning. The rigidity of the schools can destroy the creativity of the child. The duty of the teacher is to understand the child and help develop his curiosity. According to Tagore, creative learning could be encouraged only in a natural environment. So, he set up a school which was 100 km away from Calcutta, in a rural area. He named it Santiniketan, where while living in harmony with nature, the children could become creative.

Though Mahatma Gandhi and Tagore shared similar views on education but there were some differences also.

Gandhiji was totally against the western education system but Tagore wanted to combine the best elements of both the education systems. He emphasized on teaching science along with art, music and dance.

So, we can say that many individuals were thinking about the way a national education system could be designed. Some wanted changes within the education system set by Britishers and wanted to extend it to include more people. Others wanted an alternative system to educate people in a truly natural culture. The debate on what national education system should be is still prevalent.

Question and Answers

Q1. Match the following:

William Jones                         
promotion of English education
Rabindranath Tagore            
respect for ancient cultures
Thomas Macaulay                 
learning in a natural environment
Mahatma Gandhi                   
critical of English education


            William Jones                    
respect for ancient cultures
            Rabindranath Tagore   
learning in a natural environment 
            Thomas Macaulay                 
promotion of English education
          Mahatma Gandhi                    
critical of English education


State whether true or false

(a) James Mill was a severe critic of the Orientalists.

(b) The 1854 Despatch on education was in favour of English being introduced as a medium of higher education in India.

(c) Mahatma Gandhi thought that promotion of literacy was the most important aim of education.

(d) Rabindranath Tagore felt that children ought to be subjected to strict discipline.


(a) James Mill was a severe critic of the Orientalists. True

(b) The 1854 Despatch on education was in favour of English being introduced as a medium of higher education in India. True

(c) Mahatma Gandhi thought that promotion of literacy was the most important aim of education. False

(d) Rabindranath Tagore felt that children ought to be subjected to strict discipline. False

Q3- Why did William Jones feel the need to study Indian history, philosophy and law?

A3- William Jones was a Junior Judge at Calcutta. He was a linguist who knew French, Latin, English, Arabic and Persian. He believed that the texts on Indian philosophy would be a source of useful information on which laws of Hindus and Muslims were based. According to him, this would help in administering India properly. The study of Sanskrit and Persian text would enable Indians to understand their lost glory. On the other hand, it would help Britishers to administer India and become the guardian and master of Indian culture.

Q4- Why did James Mill and Thomas Macaulay think that European education was essential in India?

A4- James Mill and Thomas Macaulay favored European education because Mill was against Orientalists as he thought that the Western education was scientific and useful. According to him, there was no use of wasting the government’s money on poetry and literature. Macaulay was of the view that Asian literature was not good enough to be compared with European Literature. He wanted Indians to learn English so that they could read the world’s best literature.

Q5- Why did Mahatma Gandhi want to teach children handicrafts?

A5- According to Gandhi, western education was not practical. Children should learn practical work. This enables them to produce results at the beginning level of the learning. Handicraft is not only a mechanical activity with a scientific point of view but also a process in which children work with their hands which develops the mind and the capacity to understand.

Q6- Why did Mahatma Gandhi think that English education had enslaved Indians?

A6- Mahatma Gandhi was totally against the English education because it had created a sense of inferiority complex in the Indians. They started believing that western civilization was superior and advanced and they stopped feeling proud of their own culture. English Medium schools made them aliens in their own land. It cast an evil spell on Indians, making them slaves.