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Ending Macaulayism and Regaining Ancient Glory with New Education Policy-2020 (Part-1)

Macanlay's education policy created differences among Indian regions and languages, and contributed in their preferences to English over their mother tongue. After independence the legacy of Britishers combined and created more rifts among different regions on language basis. — Dr. Rekha Bhatt


British rulers have used English as a tool of imperialism to dominate their colonies like India. In 1835, leading to the English Education Act, Thomas Babington Macaulay produced his famous memorandum on Indian Education, which was scathing on the inferiority of native culture and learning, “while western learning was superior which could only be taught through medium of English”, there was therefore need to produce Indians with English morals and intellect who could become tools to transmit western learning in vernacular languages of India. With this recommendation of Macaulay, the printing of Arabic and Sanskrit books and funding was immediately stopped by East India Company of Britain. British thus discontinued the traditional education and did not supported the vernacular language education.

British administrator Governor General Thomas Babington Macaulay was instrumental in making English as the medium of education in India. The cultural and ethnic inferiority was felt by people of India with a belief that cultural values of the colonizer are inherently superior to their own. Through cultural hegemony they were to support establishment by teaching a western curriculum with English language of instruction followed in administration and in law courts.

Macaulay’s wish to make Indians their slaves reflected in the minutes addressed by him about Indian Education system. He said, “to have found great people sunk in the lowest depth of slavery and superstition, we may educate our subjects to have made them capable of all the privileges of citizens, would indeed be a title of glory all our own into a capacity for better government”. He also said “English is better worth knowing than Sanskrit or Arabic, that the natives are desired to be taught English and are not desirous to be taught Sanskrit or Arabic, neither as language of law nor as the language of religion, that it is possible to make natives of this country thoroughly good English scholars. This led eventually to English becoming one of the languages of India rather than simply being considered as language of foreign rulers. 

With the onset of Macaulayism, native language Hindi was degenerated and vernacular Indian languages like Tamil, Kannada, Marathi, Telugu were discouraged, establishing them as competent to Hindi inspite of the fact that regional languages have the similar Sanskrit origin as Hindi. Macaulay system of education was thus successful in prevailing a fearful thought among people of southern regions of India about the question of regional languages to survive over preference to Hindi. Besides English was thought to be the language to become progressive and hence they insisted that only English language needs to be promoted in Education. 

British Education Policy resulted in violence, agitations, strikes and arrests in Tamil region to completely rule out Hindi from the Education system. In 1937, the Indian National Congress was elected to power and termoil of British power has begin The first Indian National congress Government of Madras Presidency led by C. Rajgopalachari passed an order for compulsory Hindi language in Secondary schools of Madras Presidency. The order was immediately opposed and statewide protests against mandatory Hindi lasted three years. Violence continued till British Governor of Madras Lord Erskine in 1940, ordered to withdraw compulsory Hindi and make Hindi an optional language in education. Even then opposition of students continued against the use of optional Hindi in Education.

The movements became more furious in 1946 after the formation of regional government of DMK (Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam). In the year 1950, the constitution of India came into effect which stated the adoption of Hindi as an official language of India while English to be continued as an associate official language of India for a period of fifteen years after which Hindi would become the sole official language. Many non-Hindi Indian states did not agree to make Hindi the sole official language, after the period of fifteen years which was to get over in 1965. To ally their fears, Prime Minister, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru enacted the official language Act two years earlier in 1963, to ensure the continuous use of English after 1965. But this text of Act could not satisfy the regional government of DMK. As a result anti-Hindi movement gained momentum and full scale riot broke out on January 25, 1965, in south city of Madras.

Following the policy of bilingualism, Hindi was completely abolished and English was continued accompanied by regional Tamil language. The same bilingual policy was adopted in various states of southern region and emphasized the use of regional languages like Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi and Telugu inspite of Hindi   being second language.

Macaulay’s education policy created differences among Indian regions and languages, and contributed in their preferences to English over their mother tongue. After independence the legacy of Britishers combined and created more rifts among different regions on language basis. Mutual riots continued for urgency of English language to bridge the linguistic gaps created among various regions

The Indian constitution committee in 1949 arrived at a compromise that while Hindi would be the official language of India, English would be used in courts, services and communication between one state and another from then onwards, Hindi became ‘Raj Bhasha’, an official language as well as a medium of communication all over India. Hindi has gained popularity since its adoption as an official language of the Indian union in 1950. Hindi is considered as public language or common’s language (‘Lok-Bhasha’ or ‘Sampark Bhasha’) among the speakers of more distantly related languages such as Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali and Nepali. Therefore Hindi is more prominent language not at just local, regional, national and international levels but also in administration, governance, education, media and literature in twenty two of the twenty eight Indian states and also three union territories.

Hindi is not only an official language but Hindi has become the prominent language now used as mother tongue of over five hundred million speakers in India alone and to increase regional dialacts which otherwise are getting extinct with advent of English resulting in lose of regional language which has been used in India for centuries. To curb the linguistic resentment of multilingual masses. After 1971  India’s language policy focused on promoting regional languages, by enlisting them in the eighth schedule of the constitution of India which meant that those twenty two languages would be entitled to the representation on the official language commission.

The unifying role of Hindi against British rule has long been proved as binding force for different regions of India. After colonization, the hegemonic imposition of English as language of administration and language of higher education created a separate mass of non-Hindi speaking people in south-India. This polarisation on language issue caused arrogances and protest in south over national usage of Hindi still in 2014, when Government ordered its officials to use Hindi on social media accounts and in Government letters.

After the colonization and subjugation of India in last millennium, English was the language of administration and the language of higher education. Indian masses were illusioned by the gimmicky and the dazzling lifestyle of few English speaking aristocrates groups isolating themselves from general masses, and got their education in convent missionaries. English speaking people with prestigious positions at various public and private institutions were seen as leading thinkers of India. English was thought to be capable of providing intellectual leadership and ability to rule, maintaining law and order. On the other hand, majority of people who couldn’t speak English, they were termed ill-educated and ill-mannered. In addition, skewed history created inferior psychosis about our ancestral culture and language.

On the other hand, English being a foreign language can never be spontaneous language for mutual expression and interactive conversations. The mainstay of Hindi vocabulary (in Devnagri Script) is Sanskrit, Tamil has 40%, Sanskrit vocabulary and most of the regional languages are closer to Sanskrit influences. It constitutes Hindi as common language among speakers of closely related languages such as Brij, Bhojpuri, Maithilli, Bundel, Maghai and large number of languages spoken in the plains of Punjab and Haryana and the Hills of Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal. 

Using a foreign language led people to place greater weight on outcomes of action and less emphasis intentions in making moral judgements. Several recent studies have focused on how ethics in a non-native foreign languages might take place. The findings suggest that when people are confronted with moral dilemmas, they do indeed respond differently when considering them in a foreign language than when using them in their native tongue. The research illuminates that our moral compass is a combination of the earliest forces that have shaped us but when using a foreign language with muted emotional response, diminish the impact of noble intentions. Emotional association might colour moral judgements made in our native language based on potent memories of our earliest transgressions. 

By comparison, languages acquired late in life enter our minds bleached of the emotionality. Memory intertwines a language with the experience and interactions through which that language was learned. Our childhood languages learned in the threos of passionate emotion - abundance of love, rage wonder and punishments become infused with deep feeling. The new education policy NEP- 2020, brings an end to British imperialistic Macaulayism deeply seeded for last century in Indian Education System and begins a new era of education system based on ethics.                                                                                                                    
The author is Assoc. Prof. Chemistry, Govt. Meera Girls College, Udaipur

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