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From the Archive - 16.08.1947

Education - a blot on British rule in India

The end of British power in India and the statutory establishment yesterday of the two self-governing dominions of India and Pakistan mark a turning point in the history of education in the sub-continent, which contains one-fifth of the global population.

In educational matters, the Delhi and Karachi governments receive a heritage forged by great British thinkers and missionary educationalists. Indeed, the Indian Educational Service was almost exclusively British in composition up to the time of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, when education became a "transferred" subject.

Though this great scheme of devolution may undergo much variation by reason of the division, there is abundant evidence of enthusiasm for rapid educational advance in both the Indian Union and Pakistan.

Indian and foreign critics have severely blamed the British Raj for not taking more decisive steps over a longer period to overcome mass illiteracy. But when every allowance is made, it must be admitted that, in the words of Sir Alfred Watson at a meeting of the East India Association, "the state of education is the most serious blot on the record of British rule in India".

The Pakistan authorities are now presented with a great opportunity to work and plan for the preservation of Muslim culture. On the language question, they will no doubt encourage the wider use of Urdu in the mainly Persian script, while Hindi in the Nagari script will be fostered in the Indian Union. But there is reason to hope that on both sides arbitrary enforcements on minorities will be avoided.

At a meeting of the Partition Council under the chairmanship of Lord Mountbatten three weeks ago, those who spoke for the new governments reaffirmed the assurances given by the Congress and Muslim League of fair and equitable treatment of the minorities.

If this agreement is honoured in the spirit as well as the letter, steady progress in removing the reproach of mass illiteracy and in raising the standard of education may confidently be anticipated in both dominions.

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