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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Impact of Modern Education on Indian society before Independence

Impact of Modern Education on Indian society before Independence

Introduction – Foundation of modern education in India

In 1835, Lord Macauley laid successfully the foundation of modern education in India. The sole purpose was to educate Indians in such a way that they “should through western education get Anglicised in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainments”.


Served Double purpose – Introduction of modern education had served a double purpose for the British rulers- they got the credit for the amelioration of the Indian society. Also at the same time, through it, they devised a unique method of distribution of power, kept balance of power and prolonged their rule in India by keeping the natives busy in their in-fights.

After the introduction of new modern education system, the traditional Indian system of education gradually withered away for the lack of official- support. And with it, Indian people got dis-associated from traditional way of learning. 

Purpose of introducing Modern education

Lord Macauley clearly said that, “we must at present do our best to form a class, who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” 


The reason of introducing the modern education was that it was too costly and practically impossible to import a large number of Englishmen to fill up the large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration.

Emphasis on English medium

The emphasis of British rulers was on English medium education system. In 1844 through a Declaration knowledge of English was made compulsory for Government employment. It made English medium schools very popular.

Introduced new system of higher education

The universities at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were started in 1837 and higher education spread rapidly thereafter. Since the British were not much interested in scientific and technical education, only three Medical Colleges one each at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras was established by 1857. There was only one good engineering college at Roorkee.

Modern education produced many national leaders, intellectuals and reformers

Modern education not only provided personnel to fill the lower levels in administration, as desired by the rulers, but also produced national leaders, intellectuals and reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Ambedkar, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Neta Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel and many more. They took upon themselves the responsibility to build a modern, open, plural, culturally rich, prosperous and powerful India out of a fragmented, poverty stricken, superstitious, weak, indifferent, backward and inward looking society.

Impact of Modern education

Access to liberal thoughts of Western philosophers – As was thought, modern education offered to Indian people access to the thoughts of many liberal thinkers, like Locke, Mill Roussseau Voltaire, Spencer and Burke. Also it familiarised Indians with the knowledge about English, French, American revolutions. Western literature and philosophy widened the mental horizons and knowledge of Indian people.

Atmosphere, completely ready

At the time when modern education was introduced, the atmosphere was completely ready. Different sections of society had welcomed it wholeheartedly for different reasons. They not only welcomed, but exerted pressure on the company to encourage and promote western education in India.

British rulers in India – As hoped, British rulers found modern education very economical and convenient y the rulers. It provided personnel to fill the lower levels in administration and made it possible to keep contact with local people.

Missionaries welcomed modern education – Missionaries and their supporters found that modern education would encourage local people to adopt Christianity in large numbers. Christian missionaries brainwashed many people especially the poor by preaching and educating them and developed in their minds a complex about the primitiveness of Indian society, influenced them towards the alien culture and then converted them into Christianity. With the help of British rulers, Christian missionaries and religious minded Westerners like William Webberforce or Charles Grant, they succeeded in converting many persons into Christianity.

Indian intelligentsia, key to enter Modern World- For Indian intelligentsia, Humanitarians and intellectuals considered modern education the best remedy for social, political and economic ills of the country. The intellectual ferment was strongest in West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Intellectuals and their organizations had purely an economic and social thrust. They were aware of the real issues hampering the progress of Indian society. They also got alarmed at the erosion of Indian Culture and divisible policies of the rulers. 

National leaders – The understanding of liberal, and humanitarian ideas thought of Western World gave birth to Indian national leaders.  Educated national leaders welcomed rationality and other good features of Modern English education. Modern education equipped them with the intellectual tools, with which they could fight the oppressive British Raj. They realized the impact of British racial discrimination and their repressive policies on the Indian people.

National movement gained momentum – The destructive character of British imperialism lit the fire and gave birth to national movement. Economic loot, political subjugation, assertion of lordly superiority over the subject on the ground of race, assumption of a haughty exclusiveness, persistent insulting and supercilious behavior towards all Indians, exclusion of Indians from all places of authority and responsibility and denial of their capacity for self-governance united Indians against British rule. They tried to bring social awakening and awareness amongst masses about their rights.

Modern education for reformers – Modern education highlighted the weaknesses, rigidity and harshness of society towards the weaker sections of the society. It had attracted the attention of the intelligentsia and reformers towards social evils, which had developed in the system.

Spread awareness amongst people – Social reformers fought against many social evils caused by ignorance, superstitions or irrationality like Sati, Polygamy, child marriage, and inhumane treatment to women, untouchablity and many superstitions prevalent at that time. They criticized the mumbo-jumbo of rituals and superstitions created by some selfish people to entangle the ignorant and poor masses. Emphasis was laid on education and science.

Organized people with emphasis on education and science Reformers organized people and made them aware of social evils like Brahma Samaj, founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1928, inspired the people of Bengal, UP, Punjab, Madras and other provinces, to form similar organizations and interpret religion rationally.

Advised people to remain firmly rooted to the Indian Culture – Social Reformers advised people to remain firmly rooted to the Indian Culture. They tried to revive their own rich ancient culture and prevent the masses from being swayed away by the glamour and materialism of alien culture. They talked about the greatness of Hindu Vedic culture and about Vedas as the source of all knowledge and truth. Swami Vivekanand founded the Rama Krishna Mission tried to reveal to the world Indian Philosophy and culture.

Organisations like Brahma Samaj (1928) in Bengal, Prarthana Samaj in Maharashtra (1867), Arya Samaj in Northern India, Rama Krishna Mission, Theosophical Society of India (1879), Dev Samaj in Lahore and Servants of India Society took up the job to awaken the masses.

Some reform institutes like Vivekanand’s or Rama Krishna Mission or Theosophical Society of India tried to familiarize the Western World, too, to the charm and graciousness of Indian Culture.

Opened the doors of education for all sections

The new education system opened the doors of education for all sections of Indian society to get educated irrespective of caste or creed. Earlier Muslims were more dependent on the use of sword. Only few could get the opportunity to study in Madarsas (Muslim’s educational institutions).

Brahmins, quicker to gain from modern education

Brahmins, having learning background earlier, were quick to opt for modern education with a purpose to earn something respectfully for their livelihood. With the result, they were able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by Modern education in the job-market. Non- Brahmin communities lagged behind in matter of modern education and the opportunities offered by it.

Some adverse affects of modern education on Indian society

Disassociated people from traditional way of learning – While welcomed by different sections of society, the new system of education had some adverse affects also. It had disassociated Indian people from their traditional way of learning and livig, their classical roots and indigenous knowledge. Along with it faded Indian values, philosophies and traditions.

Divided Indian people – Census operations started by British Government in India for administrative purposes and the purpose prolonging its rule in India along with the disparities created by modern education had divided Indian people into water-tight compartments (SCs, STs, OBCs, Upper castes and minorities etc).

Loosened the bonds of caste system and led to casteism – Modern education had loosened the bonds of caste system, which kept discipline in various sections of society and believed in inter-dependence. It also made Indians to loose their faith in social values and systems. So much and so that some groups of Indian society considered the social practices and customs prevalent in India as indefensible.

Costly nature of modern education – Though British rulers opened the doors of education to all, they were not concerned much about mass education. The costly nature of education tended to make it a monopoly of the richer classes and city dwellers. Initially, it was an impoverished group of Brahmin and caste Hindus in search of livelihood, who in desire to live with dignity and honour opted for modern education. Except for a few, masses could not avail its advantages despite the relentless efforts of missionaries with an aim to convert poor people into Christianity. 

Reasons for masses being deprived of the benefits of modern education – Only a small number of persons could be benefitted from Modern education. Reasons being:

  • Modern education was very costly and, therefore, unaffordable by the masses.
  • Masses did not see any immediate use of education. It was more important for them to work and arrange two square meals day.
  • The relentless effort of missionaries and the reformers could educate a very small number of people from amongst them.
  • The medium of instruction was a foreign language – English.
  • English gaining importance as the language of elite section of society alienated the masses from them.


Modern education did produce manpower, as desired by the rulers. But it also generated groups of visionary national leaders and reformers. The second half of the nineteenth century saw the impact of modern education on Indians.

Swami Vivekanand and many others gave a call to “Return to Vedas”. He said, “Each nation like each individual has a theme in this life, which is its center, the principle note, around which every other note comes to form the harmony. If any nation attempts to throw off its national vitality, the direction, which has become its own through the transmission of centuries, the nation dies.”

September 17, 2009 - Posted by | Education and training of civil services |


  1. thanks !! very helpful post!

    Comment by recepti | December 5, 2010 | Reply

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  3. Its very good

    Comment by Naresh | February 24, 2012 | Reply

  4. You are living in a fantasy world dreaming that ancient India was united and cultured.. V.S.Naipaul, Nobel laureate, says in his book, An Area of Darkness, “It is well that Indians are unable to look at their country directly, for the distress they would see would drive them mad. And it is well that they have no sense of history, for how then would they be able to continue to squat amid their ruins, and which Indian would be able to read the history of his country for the last thousand years without anger and pain? It is better to retreat into fantasy and fatalism, to trust to the stars in which the fortunes of all are written – there are lectures in astrology in some universities – and to regard the progress of the rest of the world with the tired tolerance of one who has been through it all before. The aero plane was known to ancient India, and the telephone, and the atom bomb: there is evidence in the Indian epics. Surgery was highly developed in ancient India: here, in an important national newspaper, is the text of a lecture proving it. Indian shipbuilding was the wonder of the world… Naipaul stresses the fantasy of Indians. If there were eminent scientists in ancient India, and if there were airplanes, why is it bullock carts are still to be seen today in every city in India? Naipaul gives a common street scene on page 215. “A child was squatting in the mud of the street; the hairless, pink-skinned dog waited for the excrement. The child, big-bellied, rose; the dog ate.”Eighteenth century India was squalid. It invited conquest. But not in the Indian eyes: before the British came, as every Indian will tell you, India was rich, on the brink of an industrial breakthrough.” pp.212-213.

    Comment by P.Premananda | June 7, 2012 | Reply

  5. Reblogged this on Latasinha’s Weblog.

    Comment by latasinha | November 5, 2013 | Reply

  6. Very informative and makes Indians aware about their rich culture which is almost vanishing.

    The western impact has totally ruined the family culture,respect for elders,following traditional rituals which were very helpful to maintain our family and nation ethically and morally.

    Comment by neetu | November 22, 2013 | Reply

  7. Simply wanna comment on few general things, The website design is perfect, the content is real superb : D.

    Comment by Habibi | November 26, 2013 | Reply

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  10. nice information i loved it

    Comment by Chinta Rushitha | May 12, 2016 | Reply

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