Education: A Humble Beginning by Charter Act of 1813

The Charter Act of 1813 incorporated the principle of encouraging learned Indians and promoting knowledge of modern sciences in the country. The Charter Act of 1813 directed the East India Company to sanction one lakh rupees annually for the purpose. However, even this small amount was not made available till 1823, mainly because of the controversy raged on the question of the direction that this expenditure should take.

Meanwhile, efforts of enlightened Indians such as Raja Rammohan Roy bore fruit and a grant was sanctioned for Calcutta College set up in 1817 by educated Bengalis, imparting English education in western humanities and sciences. The Government also set up three Sanskrit colleges at Calcutta, Delhi and Agra.


In 1813 the Company s Charter came once again for renewal. By this time the missionaries prepared the ground through agitation in England for imparting western education in India and for proselytising activities there in. The officials of the Company, on the other hand, influenced the Court of Directors through agitation for revival and improvement of the literature of the learned natives of India.

It was against this background the Charter of the Company came up for renewal. The House of Commons set up a Commit tee for that purpose.

The main educational issues before this Committee for consideration were two:

1. Should the missionaries be allowed to go to India and work in the territories of the Company for the education and proselytisation of the Indian people?

2. Should the Company accept responsibility for the education of the Indi an people? If it should, what should be the nature and scope of its educational activities?

(i) With regard to the first the missionaries and their supporters scored a clean victory. That means the missionaries were allowed to enter India and continue their educational and proselytising activities completely and freely.

(ii) With regard to the second strong opposition came from the Directors of the Company.

The grounds for such opposition were mainly three in number:

a) Firstly, in those days, education was not regarded as a responsbility of the state even in England;

b) Secondly, the Company was not prepared to accept it in India pure ly on financial grounds;

c) Thirdly, the natives of India themselves were most apathetic in the matter.

But the opponents of the missionaries keenly intended to create a pow erful and rival and secular agency in Indian education to counteract the results of missionary enterprise. So the Company under the pressure of circumstances had to accept the responsibility.

It is stated clearly in clause 43 of the Charter Act of 1813 which runs as follows:

A sum of not less than one lac of rupees in each year shall be set apart and applied to the revival and improvement of literate and the encouragement of the learned natives of In dia and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the sciences among the inhabitants of the British territories in India.

The Charter Act of 1813 recognised educational development in India under the guidance and control of three distinct agencies, which are:

(i) the missionary enter prise,

(ii) non-official enterprise, both European and Indian and

(iii) Offi cial enterprise.

Significance of the Charter Act of 1813

  • The educational implication of the Charter Act of 1813 in India is immense. It is a turning point in history of Indian education.
  • It laid the foundation stone of modern Indian education and influenced the future educational develop ments in India in varied ways:

(a) The first implication is that the Company would undertake educational responsibility and duty of the Indian people. With this end in view the Company would incur an expenditure of one lakh of rupees each year which was conspicuously absent prior to 1813.

(b) In order to implement the clause 43 of the Act the Company would create an agency of its own.

(c) A system of educational grants was initiated. Prior to 1813 the Company used to provide occasional financial aids indirectly through the missionaries, but now the Company directly entered into the field of educational administration and management. Education in India had a claim on public revenue.

Thus, the State system of education began with the Charter Act of 1813. And parallely, private enterprise (viz. missionary en terprise) was also allowed to function. This educational partnership be tween official and non-official enterprises continues till date,

(d) The Charter Act brought to an end the era of agitation started by Charles Grant, Wilberforce and others. It allowed the missionaries to land in India in large numbers and establish modern English schools and thereby they laid the foundation of the well-organised modern educational system .

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