The universalization of elementary education in India has been a long-cherished but unrealized goal which India has been striving towards ever since her independence in 1947. The purpose of this paper is to review the policy of elementary education in India under the British raj. It also aims to examine how the Government implemented modern school education and teacher training.
As the British government expanded its rule in India, education for Indians gradually became their concern. However, their main purposes were, as stated in Macaulay's infamous Minute on Education in 1835, creating a class of people who would be interpreters between the British rulers and the Indian masses, and preparing government employees to bolster and further the imperialist aims of the raj. Sir Charles Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 suggested that the government should abandon the strategy of providing only higher education and promote mass education. However, teacher training for elementary education progressed at a very slow pace.
Indigenous Indian elementary education, whose features were popularity in the community and flexibility in its setup, was on the decline under the sluggish expansion of modern elementary school system. Although many reports under the British rule stressed the importance of elementary teacher training and recommended establishing more normal schools, elementary schools were woefully insufficient.
In the final analysis, the British Government never accepted responsibility for educating the masses in India, and the problem of wastage and stagnation in school education remained unsolved. Further examination on the educational policy after independence for universalization of elementary education requires careful consideration regarding the historical background of school education in India.