EDUCATION IN INDIA

Allahabad is the center of learning, the Athens in India, the seat of a native university, the residence of many prominent men, the headquarters of Protestant missionary work, the residence of the governor of the United Provinces, Sir James La Touche, one of the ablest and most progressive of the British officials in India. Allahabad was once a city of great importance. In the time of the Moguls it was the most strongly fortified place in India, but the ancient citadel has been torn down by the British and the palaces and temples it contained have been converted into barracks, arsenals and storehouses. Nowhere in India have so many beautiful structures been destroyed by official authority, and great regret is frequently expressed. Allahabad was also a religious center in ancient times and the headquarters of the Buddhist faith. The most interesting monument in the city is the Lat of Osoka, one of a series of stone columns erected by King Asoka throughout his domains about the year B. C. 260, which were inscribed with texts expressing the doctrines of Buddhism as taught by him. He did for that faith what the Emperor Constantine the Great did for Christianity; made it the religion of the state, appointed a council of priests to formulate a creed and prepare a ritual, and by his orders that creed was carved on rocks, in caves and on pillars of stone and gateways of cities for the education of the people. The texts or maxims embodied in the creed represent the purest form of Buddhism, and if they could be faithfully practiced by the human family this world would be a much better and happier place than it is.

Several handsome modern buildings are occupied by the government, the courts and the municipal officials, and the university is the chief educational institution of northern India. There are five universities in the empire - at Bombay, Calcutta, Lahore, Allahabad and Madras - and they are managed and conducted on a plan very different from ours, having no fixed terms or lectures, but having regular examinations open to all comers who seek degrees. The standard is not quite so high as that of our colleges and the curriculum is not so advanced. The students may come at 15 or 16 years of age and be examined in English, Latin, Greek history, geography, mathematics and the elements of science, the course being just a grade higher than that of our high schools, and get a degree or certificate showing their proficiency. They are very largely attended by natives who seek diplomas required for the professions and government employment. After two years' study in any regular course a student may present himself for an examination for a degree and is then eligible for a diploma in law, medicine, engineering and other sciences.

The slipshod systems pursued at these institutions have been severely criticised by scientific educators, but they seem to answer the purpose for which they are intended. It is often asserted that the colleges and universities in India do not cultivate a genuine desire for learning; that the education they furnish is entirely superficial, and that it is obtained not for its own sake, but because it is a necessary qualification for a government appointment or a professional career. It is asserted that no graduate of any of these institutions has ever distinguished himself for scholarship or in science, that no native of India educated in them has ever produced any original work of merit, and that no problem of political or material importance has ever been solved by a citizen of this empire. In 1902 Lord Curzon, who has taken a deep interest in this subject and is an enthusiastic advocate of public schools, appointed a commission to investigate the conduct and efficiency of the universities of India. The report was not enthusiastic or encouraging. It was entirely noncommittal. At the same time it must be said that the universities and colleges of India are a great deal better than nothing at all, and as there is no other provision for higher education they serve a very important purpose.

The deplorable illiteracy of the people of India is disclosed by the recent census. Ninety-five per cent of the men and more than 99 per cent of the women have never learned the first letter of the alphabet, and would not recognize their own name it written or printed. I have been told by ladies engaged in missionary and educational work that grown people of the lower classes cannot even distinguish one picture from another; that their mental perceptions are entirely blank, and that signs and other objects which usually excite the attention of children have no meaning whatever for them. The total number of illiterates recorded is 246,546,176, leaving 47,814,180 of both sexes unaccounted for, but of these only 12,097,530 are returned as able to read and write. The latest statistics show that 3,195,220 of both sexes are under instruction.

And even the percentages I have mentioned do not adequately represent the ignorance of the masses of the people, because more than half of those returned by the census enumerators as literates cannot read understandingly a connected sentence in a book or newspaper and can only write their own names. The other half are largely composed of foreigners or belong to the Brahmin castes. The latter are largely responsible for present conditions, because their long-continued enjoyment of a hereditary supremacy over the rest of the population has been due to their learning and to the ignorance of the masses belonging to other castes. They realize that they could never control any but an illiterate population. Hence the priests, who should be leaders in education, are, generally speaking, the most formidable opponents of every form of school.

The census shows that only 386,000 natives in the whole of India possess a knowledge of English, and this number includes all the girls, boys and young men under instruction.

The Parsees and Jains are more eager for learning than the Hindus, and are taking an active part in educational affairs. The Mohammedans are also realizing the importance of modern schools, and there is now quite an energetic movement among that sect. There is a school connected with almost every Jain temple. We visited one at Delhi. There were no benches or desks. The children, who were of all ages, from 4 years old upward, were squatting upon the floor around their masters, and were learning the ordinary branches taught in common schools, with the exception of one class over in a far corner of the room, which was engaged in the study of Sanskrit. It was explained to us that they were being trained for priests. Everybody was bare-footed and bare-legged, teachers and all, and every boy was studying out loud, repeating his lesson over and over as he committed it to memory. Some of the youngsters made their presence known by reading in very loud voices. A few of them had ordinary slates. Others used blocks of wood for the same purpose, but the most of them wrote their exercises upon pieces of tin taken from cans sent over by the Standard Oil Company. We went into a school one day where, for lack of slates and stationery, the children were copying their writing lessons in the sand on the floor. It was a new idea, but it answered the purpose. With little brushes they smoothed off a surface and formed letters as clearly as they could have been made upon a blackboard.

Bright colors are characteristic of the Hindus. Their garments are of the gayest tints; both the outer and inner walls of their houses are covered with rude drawings in colors; their carts are painted in fantastic designs; and their trunks are ornamented in a similar way. They are not always done in the highest form of art, but you may be sure that the colors are bright and permanent. Some people paint the hides of their horses and bullocks, especially on holidays, and their taste for art, both in design and execution, is much more highly developed than their knowledge of letters.

The present Indian educational system is about fifty years old, but popular education, as we use that term, was not introduced in a practical way until during the 80's. Up to that time nearly all the schools were conducted by missionaries and as private institutions. In 1858, when the government was transferred from the East India Company to the crown, there were only 2,000 public schools in all India, with less than 200,000 pupils, and even now with a population of 300,000,000 there are only 148,541 institutions of learning of all kinds, including kindergartens and universities, with a grand total of 4,530,412 pupils. Of these 43,100 are private institutions, with 638,999 pupils.

Education is not compulsory in India. The natives are not compelled to send their children to school and the officials tell me that if it were attempted there would be great trouble, chiefly because of the Brahmin priests, who, as I have already intimated, are decidedly opposed to the education of the masses. Normal schools have been established in every province for the training of teachers, with 31,114 young men and 2,833 young women as students. There has been a slight increase in the attendance at school during the last few years. In 1892 only 11.1 per cent of the children of school age were enrolled and the average attendance was a little over 7 per cent. In 1902 the enrollment had increased to 12.5 per cent of the school population, and the attendance to a little more than 8 per cent. Of the pupils in the public schools 509,525 were Brahmins and 2,269,930 non-Brahmins. In the private institutions 43,032 were Brahmins and the balance non-Brahmins.

There are several important art schools in India which have been established and are encouraged by the government for the purpose of encouraging the natives to pursue the industrial arts. Lord Curzon has taken a decided interest in this subject, and is doing everything in his power to revive the ancient art industries, such as brocade weaving, embroidery, carving, brass working, mosaic, lacquering, and others of a decorative character. The tendency of late years has been to increase the volume of the product at the sacrifice of the quality, and the foreign demand for Indian goods and the indifference of the buying public as to their excellence is said to have been very demoralizing upon the artisans.

From an artistic point of view, the manufactures of metal are the most important products of India; the wood carvers of ancient times surpassed all rivals and still have a well-deserved reputation. In every village may be found artists of great merit both in brass, copper, wood, silk and other industrial arts, but the quality of their work is continually deteriorating, and Lord Curzon and other sincere friends of India are endeavoring to restore it to the former high standard. For that purpose art schools have been established in Calcutta, Lahore, Bombay, Madras and other places, first to train the eyes and the hands of the young artisans, and, second, to elevate their taste and stimulate their ambition to excel in whatever line of work they undertake. There are several thousand young men in these schools who have shown remarkable talent and are beginning to make their influence felt throughout the country.

As you may imagine, it is very difficult to induce people to produce objects of high art when those which cost less labor and money can be sold for the same prices. As long as the foreign demand for Indian goods continues this tendency to cheapen the product will be noticed.

By the late census it appears that there were 2,590 publications in the native Indian languages during the year 1900, as against 2,178 during the previous year; 1,895 were books and 695 pamphlets; 1,616 of the books were original works and the remainder were translations; 832 were in the Bengali language and the remainder were divided among eighty-eight other languages, ninety-nine being in Sanskrit and 103 in Persian. Included in this list were poetry, fiction, works of travel, religious books, history, biography, philosophy and several on political economy. Among the Persian publications I noticed "A History of Russian Rule in Asia"; among the translations are Lord Lytton's "Last Days of Pompeii," several popular novels, and several of Shapespeare's plays. There was a history of England and a series of biographies entitled "Lives of Great Women," including those of Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, Maria Theresa, Marie Antoinette, and the mother of Napoleon I.

Since 1902 there have been several movements among the Hindus and Mohammedan citizens of India looking to the advancement of their races and coreligionists. At Bombay, in December, 1903, was held a Mohammedan educational conference, and a committee was appointed to draw up a plan of permanent organization for the purpose of awakening among the members of that sect an interest in the advancement of women and the education of the masses. Representatives were present from nearly all of the provinces in which there is a Mohammedan population, and resolutions were passed declaring that, in the opinion of the conference, schools should be established throughout India to educate young women and children of both sexes in strict conformity with the customs and doctrines of Islam. It was asserted that such educational facilities are absolutely necessary to keep the children out of the public and Christian schools. The most notable feature of the conference, which marks an entirely new departure in the history of Islam, was the presence, unveiled and in modern dress, of Miss Sorabjee, a highly educated and accomplished member of that sect, who appeared daily upon the platform, participated in the debates and made a lengthy address upon the emancipation of women. She declared that in a population of 60,000,000 Mohammedans only 4,000 girls are now attending school, which, she said, is a menace to civilization, a detriment to Islam and a disgrace to the members of that church. I was informed that this is the first time a Mohammedan woman ever made an address before a public assembly of Mohammedans, because the Koran does not permit women to appear in public and custom requires them to conceal their faces. Miss Sorabjee was, nevertheless, received with respect, and made a decidedly favorable impression upon the assembly, which was composed of men of culture and influence and true believers in the teachings of the Prophet.

Another notable feature of the conference was the unanimous recognition of the growing influence of Christianity in the Indian Empire, and the opinion that in order to preserve their faith the followers of Islam must imitate its example. Progressive Mohammedans have become convinced that not only their men but their women will insist upon having an education, and will seek it in the Christian schools if facilities are not furnished by members of their own religion. Aga Khan, a Mohammedan prince who presided over the gathering, explained that the conference was called in obedience to the spirit of progress, and as an indication that the Mohammedan section of the community was alive to the disadvantages under which the members of the faith were laboring, and to the need of educated men as leaders in society and commerce.

Mr. Tyabji, one of the judges of the Supreme Court of the Bombay presidency, took even more advanced ground and declared that the schools proposed by the conference must be far in advance of those heretofore provided by Mohammedans, and teach English, French, German and the modern sciences as well as the maxims of the Koran. By that remark he uncovered the great defect of Mohammedan education, which is purely religious, with the exception of a single institution in northern India to which I refer in a previous chapter. The conservative element of the Moslem population holds that a knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic is sufficient for members of that sect; hence in most of their schools they teach nothing except the Koran, which is the book of books, the law of laws, and contains knowledge sufficient for all mankind under all circumstances. Some progressive Mohammedans go a little too far in the other direction and would ignore all Arabic literature and leave all ecclesiastical affairs to the priests. The Arabic and Persian languages are rich in learning, poetry and general literature. But they are not cultivated, and are almost unknown to the Moslem priests, who are the school teachers of that faith to-day. They have left the revival of Arabic belles-lettres entirely to foreigners, and confine themselves to the Koran and the commentaries that have been prepared upon it. It is asserted that one can learn more of Arabian and Persian literature to-day in London, Oxford, Paris, Berlin or Zurich than is known in Constantinople or Cairo or any other Mohammedan city, and that Professor Max Muller of Oxford has done more to encourage its study than all the Mohammedan priests and professors in existence.

At almost the same time, although in another place, several of the leading thinkers and scholars of the Brahmin caste were discussing the same subject with the same purpose and from the same point of view. They have been endeavoring to inaugurate what they are pleased to call "the Renaissance of the Hindus." And there is also an active movement for a revival of Buddhism, although thus far it is confined to Japan and Ceylon. Buddhism is practically extinct in India. At the Hindu conference several thoughtful people expressed the view that something must be done to revive the vitality of that religion, because it is the faith of nearly 200,000,000 souls in India alone, over whom it is gradually losing its influence, because of the vigorous propaganda of the Christians. It was not admitted that the Hindus are adopting the Christian religion, but merely that they are losing confidence in their own and drifting toward materialism.

It is universally recognized among educated Brahmins that India is approaching a great religious crisis which demands the attention of all who are interested in the welfare of the people. The movement is slow, but quite obvious to all who are watching the development of reforms that have been proposed for the last fifteen or twenty years. It is based upon the fact that Brahminism, as taught at the temples of India to-day, does not satisfy or even appeal to educated men. At the same time it is insisted that true Hinduism has the same ideals and the same spiritual advantages that are offered by Christianity.

Experienced missionaries tell me there is a distinct tendency among educated Hindus to give up the old line of defense against the Christian religion, and, admitting the ethical purity and truth of the teachings of Christ, to attack some particular doctrine, some dogma over which Christians themselves have been in controversy, to elaborate the criticisms of Ingersoll and Bradlaugh, and to call attention to the failure of the Christians to realize their own ideals. This is very significant, but at the same time there is little encouragement or satisfaction in studying and tracing the various reforms that have been started from time to time among the Hindus. They have been many and frequent. New teachers are constantly arising, new organizations are being formed, and revivals of ancient precepts are occurring every year, but they do not endure. They are confined to limited circles, and none has yet penetrated to any extent into the dense mass of superstition, idolatry and ignorance which lays its offerings at the altars of cruel and obscene gods.

At one of Lady Curzon's receptions, among other notable men and women, I met Sir Nepundra Narayan Bhuf Bahadur, Maharaja of Cutch-Behar, and his wife, one of the few native women who dress in modern attire and appear in public like their European sisters. She is the daughter of one of the most famous of Indian reformers.

Early in the last century a scholar and patriot named Ramohun Roy, becoming dissatisfied with the teachings and habits of the Brahmins, renounced his ancestral religion and organized what was called "The Truth Seeking Society" for the purpose of reviving pure Hinduism. He proclaimed a theistic creed, taught the existence of one God, and the sin of idolatry. He declared for the emancipation of women, for charity to the poor and helpless, for the purity of life, and, altogether, his sermons and lectures are very similar to the teachings of the Unitarians in the United States. He was called the Theodore Parker of India, and attracted many followers. But before he had accomplished much he died, and his mantle fell upon Keshab Chunder Sen, a man of great learning, talent and worth, the son of one of the most conservative families of the Brahmin caste, born and brought up in a fetid atmosphere of superstition and idolatry. While attending school at Calcutta he was thrown in with European teachers and associates and, being of an inquisitive mind, undertook the study of religions other than his own. It naturally came about that he heard of the "Truth Seeking Society" and ultimately joined it, and by his force of character and ability became one of its leaders. Early in his career he concluded that the greatest weakness among the people of India is their treatment of their women, and he organized what was known as "The Indian Reform Association" for the purpose of promoting the education of women, preventing child marriage, relieving widows from their forlorn ostracism and securing for the daughters of Indian families the same legal and property rights that are enjoyed by the sons. The movement became quite popular and he gained considerable reputation. He went to England and Germany and delivered lectures and published several books. His agitation accomplished some practical results, and he secured the passage of several laws of importance establishing the civil rights of wives, widows and daughters.

In 1884 his daughter, a very brilliant and beautiful woman, married the Maharaja of Cutch-Behar, who was converted, joined the movement and became an active member of the society. Like many others of the princely families of India, he lays claim to divine origin, the founder of his dynasty having been a god. In 1772, the ruling rajah, having been attacked by more powerful neighbors, applied for protection to Warren Hastings, then governor of Bengal, and acknowledged subjection to the East Indian Company. The province of Cutch-Behar was thus one of the first to be absorbed by the British Empire, but it has ever since been governed by the native prince, who nominally owns all of the land in his territory and receives taxes in lieu of rent from his tenants, who are his subjects. His territory has a population of 650,000, of whom 427,000 are Hindus and 174,539 are Mohammedans. He is assisted in his government by a resident English adviser, appointed by the viceroy, and really has very little to do. He has a personal allowance of $150,000 for the support of himself and family, and inherited from his ancestors one of the most rare and valuable collections of jewels in India.

The present maharaja was born in 1863, educated in England, attained his majority in 1883, and has two sons, one of whom is a member of the Viceroy's Corps of Imperial Cadets, and the other acts as his father's secretary. The maharaja is considered one of the handsomest men in India, as he is one of the most accomplished and progressive, and his wife is as famous for her intellectual as for her physical attractions.

The late Jamsetjee Nusserwanji Tata of Bombay, a typical Parsee, amassed an enormous fortune as a merchant and manufacturer, won an enviable reputation for integrity, enterprise and public spirit, and for several years before his lamented death in 1904, was permitted to enjoy the gratification that men of his kind deserve after a long career of activity and usefulness. Having provided in a most ample manner for his own future wants, and intrusting his enormous business responsibilities to his sons, he devoted the rest of his life to travel and other pleasures, and a large portion of his fortune to benevolence. I have been frequently told that Mr. Tata in his time was the most enterprising man in India. He spent enormous sums in experiments for the development of the resources and industries of his country; some of which failed, but others have been eminently successful. He developed the cotton industry, perhaps more than any other man, and improved the staple by importing plants and seeds from Egypt. He was largely engaged in growing, preserving and exporting the fruits of India in order to furnish another occupation for the country people, and in a thorough exploration of its iron deposits, building furnaces, smelters, and mills with the hope of being able to supply the local markets with home made steel and iron. There is plenty of ore, plenty of coal and labor, and Mr. Tata was willing to pay the expense and do the work of a pioneer in order that his fellow countrymen may enjoy the wealth that lies dormant in their mountains.

He had cotton mills and other manufactories in various parts of India, but the greater part of his fortune was invested in the industries and real estate of his own province of Bombay. His residence was one of the largest and most beautiful palaces in that city, filled with works of art and trophies of travel. He was the owner of several of the finest business blocks, introduced modern apartment houses into Bombay, and built the modern hotel to which I have several times alluded. He supported several young Parsees in the technical schools and colleges of England, Germany and the United States. For years no less than six such students were selected annually to be educated at his expense, not only because he took a personal interest in the welfare of his co-religionists, but because he believed that young engineers, chemists, electricians and other practical scientists were needed to develop the resources of India.

Mr. Tata's latest act of benevolence, shortly before his death, was to place in the hands of a board of trustees, of whom the chancellor of the University of Bombay is chairman, real estate and securities valued at more than 3,500,000 of rupees, which is equivalent to about $1,250,000, the income from which, amounting to 120,000 rupees, or about $40,000 in our money, a year, is to be used for the establishment and perpetual maintenance of the Indian Research University, a name selected by a conference called together by the viceroy. This conference was composed of four directors of public instruction for the different provinces of India, the home secretary of the imperial government, the surgeon general of the army and several other gentlemen eminent in educational and public affairs. After a careful examination of all conditions they decided to locate the institution at the city of Bangalore, in the province of Mysore, in southern India, where the local government, as an inducement, donated 300 acres of land upon an eminence in a very favorable situation, and offered a contribution of 18,000 rupees a year toward the payment of the expenses, provided the money is used in such a way as to benefit the people of that province. It has also offered to defray a considerable part of the cost of erecting the necessary buildings.