"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world".
With time, education has repeatedly proven its importance in various fields from basic survival, nation-building to development in the economic sector, quality of life, subjective wellbeing and advanced medicine which has increased life expectancy. Humans have been imparting education in different forms ever since the beginning, earlier the reasons were different like maybe just for hobbies, to help learn the way of living, to understand the culture, to know our needs better, to earn a living and many more.
The history of education in the Indian subcontinent began with teaching of traditional ingredients like India Mathematics, Indian religion, Indian logic etc at early Hindu and Buddhist centres of learning like Taxila and Nalanda. The system of education has been ever-evolving, it changed with the introduction of various rulers and religions in different eras. During the Islamic reign, Islamic education got ingrained in the system with their language and practices; with the coming of Europeans, Western Education was introduced to colonial India. These series of changes laid the foundation of education in the Republic of India and other parts of the subcontinent.
George Washington Carver aptly quoted," Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom".
Education has played a significant role in India's Freedom. Britishers came to India in the mid-18th century with the sole purpose of trade, after they saw the Philippines gaining great profits. They took permission for trading from Indian rulers and over time they established their permanent authority in India for which they utilised Indian natural resources. The British started the East India Company to handle trading activities. As time passed, Britishers noticed the divisions in the kingdoms and when some rulers did not permit them to trade, they took advantage of these weaknesses and slowly these activities developed manifold and the Company took various steps to eventually develop India but only for self-interest.
Every advancement begins with education. So, Britishers set up several educational institutions in India. The major problem that Britishers were facing was the language barrier. Therefore, English medium system of education was incorporated. This gave an enormous aid to educational development and help in laying the foundation of the Indian Freedom Struggle. After Indians started understanding, reading and writing in English, it became easier to know and understand the British rules, their impacts and also make Britishers aware of their demands. The syllabus prescribed by the British Council consisted of material with topics like Democracy, Secularism, Communism, and so forth. These ideas motivated the society through the students who were pursuing higher education across the country.
Education- shaping the leaders
Education has played a major role in shaping the leaders, which in turn directed the society for the common goal of Independence. Prominent Indian leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar, Dadabai Nauroji, Surendra Nath Banerjee, M.G Ranade, K C Telang, and others studied in prestigious institutions in London and South Africa and were influenced by the democratic ideas and movements which they studied and observed during their studies abroad. These leaders gathered to form various associations and discussed the conditions of various levels of society. They even started questioning the British government on various laws and rules which were passed, impacts of those rules and also demanded reforms to improve the condition of fellow Indians.
Education gave Indians the confidence to question the British and also helped them to pave the path for Independence. These leaders emphasized ‘Economic Impact of British Rule’ and concluded that the British were draining India of her wealth through taxes and other means. Without education, it might not have been possible for Indian leaders to raise their voice against Britain.
The scholars formed unions in several states and began to educate people on the policies of British and pointed out various negative impacts of the land revenue system, the intrusion of British in Indian culture, the drain of wealth, exploitation of farmers and other prevailing issues of that time. These leaders got more attention as they were qualified and they in return drew the attention of Indian masses. They also worked for providing the basic or primary education to the Indians.
Many leaders of that time went abroad for studies, they saw the fight for Independence there and read about various struggles. They read ideologies of freedom fighters and strategies to pave the path to Independence.
Major interest of the students at that time was law, many great barristers were foreign returned and had a deep knowledge of law. That was also the time when the Civil Services exam was opened for Indians to take part, although this was just a way to distract Indians but this again made them excited to take part in law making. Education policy included teachings in English, about western culture, their ideologies and practices, this helped the Indian students to understand British and find a way to deal with them.
The learned men and the people with a higher social status formed some famous associations like the Indian National Congress, consisting of specially those intellectuals who had a clear vision on British Policies. They began conducting meetings in every state to enlighten people to fight against the British. These intellectuals knew well, the way to gather the support and use it in the best way to stop exploitations. The Education system enabled them to understand the British tricks well and translate them in vernacular languages.
One of the major steps towards non-cooperation was the ‘Swadeshi’ movement which started in the year 1903. In this Indians stopped promoting or supporting British markets. At this time Indian institutes were opened called the "Swadeshi" schools or colleges. They described various countries and their struggle for independence for motivating the Indians. They helped people to gain a clear idea of democracy and imparted the feeling of Nationalism, they even taught people various skills to help them stop working for Britishers. These were few instances that clearly depicts how education has helped leaders in creating an understanding of the issues and the ways out.
Almost around the same time, Mahatma Gandhi spread the idea of non-violence and peace, as he was inspired by Bhagavad-Gita. Which was again part of the initial curriculum at that time. Gandhiji even used his experience of South Africa and study of law in the fight for Independence. Many newspapers were also published informing the people about the atrocities that Indians were facing in different parts of the country which sparked the feeling of oneness among the people.
The IAS officer and father of our Constitution Dr. BR Ambedkar, played a significant role in Indian history, he was a very learned person, a jurist, economist, politician, social reformer who influenced people in large numbers.Education has proved to be the most powerful weapon in the fight for Independence. Most of the leaders, influencers were educated which gave them confidence, ability to perceive and act and also a clear idea as to how to map this struggle to help it reach the goal.
Although Britishers introduced the Education System in India so that they could involve more Indians with them by eradicating barriers of language and understanding of culture. But it has helped us gain the knowledge about other country's struggle, their story, and ideas of nationalism, independence and help us draw motivation and pave the path for the set goal of freedom. Thus, in my view, education policy has played a major role in India’s Independence.