India had been under British rule (raj) for more than two centuries, before its independence in 1947. Indigenous elementary education in India, whose features were flexibility and popularity, was on the decline under the period of expansion of the raj. This paper aims at reviewing the policies on education under the raj until the middle of the 19th century and clarifying problems regarding elementary education and elementary teacher education after independence.
There had been a rich learning tradition in ancient India. There was hardly a village or local community in which there was not at least one school. Further, the school teacher was a man from within the community, who knew the children he taught. Although there teachers taught the rudiments of the 3 R's (reading, writing and arithmetic), they were qualified to impart basic education which had relevance to people's lives. However, instead of promoting education for the Indian masses, the raj created a class of people who would be interpreters between itself and the people of India.
In 1854, the raj finally changed its educational policy and introduced a system of education from primary school to university, including teacher education institutions, because they became aware that education could be a prime tool for maintaining its hold on India and also a source of social change. However, participation by Indians in administrative matters was limited. Although the raj stressed the importance of education, its basic purpose was to train peons for Indian government service who worked in a servile manner and lived on meager salaries.
The participation of the Indian people in new modern school education and changing teacher professionalism remained a subject for future review and crucial re-examination.