The education system in India has undergone significant changes over the centuries, starting from the Gurukul system in ancient times to the modern education system that we see today. But one of the major events that had a massive impact on India’s education was the British rule that lasted for almost 200 years. In a recent statement, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has claimed that the British rule destroyed India’s education system. In this article, we will analyze his claims and try to understand the role of the British in the Indian education system.

First, let’s look at what the RSS chief said. Mohan Bhagwat was speaking at a seminar organized by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Shiksha Mandal in Bhopal. He said, “The British education system did not suit our country, culture, traditions, and society. They demolished our education and literature, and it will take a long time to retrieve it.” He further added, “The British set up schools and universities to create a class that was educated in their way of thinking. Our own education system was destroyed systematically.”

Bhagwat’s claims have to be taken with a grain of salt because he is the head of the RSS, an organization that is known for its nationalist agenda. They have been accused of rewriting history to suit their narrative, and these claims have to be viewed in that context. However, there is no denying the fact that the British did play a significant role in shaping India’s education system.

Before the British rule, India’s education system was dominated by the Guru-Shishya tradition, where the teacher-student relationship was central to learning. This system was primarily designed for religious education, and the spread of knowledge was limited to specific castes and communities. The British introduced a new education system that was secular and aimed at producing a class of bureaucrats who could assist them in administering the country.

The British started by setting up English-medium schools that taught Western-style education. These schools were meant for the children of the British officials, but later, they were opened to Indians as well. The emphasis was on learning English, and the curriculum focused on subjects like science, math, and geography. The idea was to produce a class of Indians who could act as intermediaries between the British officials and the local people.

The British also set up universities like the University of Calcutta, the University of Bombay, and the University of Madras. These universities introduced new disciplines like law, engineering, and medicine, which were not prevalent in India before. While the British did make efforts to spread education among the masses, the focus was on creating a class of Indians who could assist in the administration of the British government.

One of the main criticisms of the British education system was that it undermined India’s traditional knowledge systems. The British saw India’s ancient knowledge systems as backward and irrational, and they tried to replace them with Western knowledge. This led to a loss of respect for traditional disciplines like Ayurveda, Yoga, and astrology, which had been practised in India for centuries. It also led to a decline in the quality of education and a shift away from practical learning.

Another criticism of the British education system was that it perpetuated a class system in India. The English-medium schools and universities were expensive, and only the wealthy and privileged could afford to attend them. This meant that education became a privilege of the upper castes, while the lower castes and the poor were denied access to it. The Indian education system became elitist, and the gap between the rich and the poor widened.

In conclusion, the British rule did play a role in shaping India’s education system, but its impact was not entirely negative. The British did introduce new disciplines and spread education, but it came at a cost. The traditional knowledge systems were undermined, and the Indian education system became elitist. The challenge now is to create a new education system that embraces India’s traditional knowledge while incorporating modern disciplines. As the RSS chief rightly pointed out, it will take a long time to retrieve what was lost, but it is not impossible.