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Of Continuing Relevance

Jyotsna Jha

Edited by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya , Joseph Bara and Chinna Roa Yagati
Kanishka Publishers, New Delhi in association with Educational Records Research Unit, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 405, Rs. 1500.00


This edited volume presents a collection of documents on the discourse of national education during the late 19th and the early 20th century. It includes views from nationally known figures such as Gopal Krishna Gokhale, B.G. Tilak, Rabindranath Tagore, Jotiba Phule, Lala Lajpat Rai, and many more from not so well known but equally important figures. The documents have been taken from various sources and are in different forms, articles, pamphlets, public meetings, petitions, resolutions, rejoinders, submissions made to different Commissions and even poetry in some cases, and have been classified under ten sections. These sections are: What is National Education? Criticism of Inadequate Funding, Racial Discrimination in the Government Education Services, Elementary and Primary Education, Debates on Vernacular Education, Women’s Education, Science and Technical Education, Academic Autonomy, Native States: Some Exemplary Initiatives and The Hindu Muslim Divide and Educational Thinking. Under each of these sections, carefully selected documents have been placed in chronological order. This classification is one of the highlights of the book, as without this, it would have been difficult to track the debate and understand the issue.   The collection of materials is preceded by a detailed introduction by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya in which he has presented a very interesting and informed analysis of the discourse in each section. The analysis takes note of the available researches on the issue, thereby providing a review of literature then and there. The idea of the collection, as mentioned in the acknowledgements, emanated with an objective to fill the gap in availability of materials to understand the voice of the Indian public spokesmen on the issue of education as opposed to information available on the British government’s policies and reports. The book definitely succeeds in achieving this objective.   The period, 1880-1920, witnessed intense critique of the colonial education system and debates on alternatives to ‘English’ education. However, the voices that critiqued English education or the colonial hegemony were not uniform in their views on the alternatives. The collection brings out this diversity of ideas and also shows how they progressed and concretized over time. For instance, different individuals and groups held different views and interpretations on secular education. While the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha supported the British policy of not touching syllabi and funding educational institutions in 1882, the Bengal National Council of Education took a different stand by supporting denominational education up to a certain age. On the other ...

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