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Hunter Education Commission, 1884 and Indian Education.


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Indian Education: A Monthly Record

The extracts presented here are from very rare copies of the journal Indian Education. These copies are stamped ‘Elphinstone Middle School, Bombay.’ There are no publication details attached to the journal except that the series ran from August 1902 to at least August 1906. more

Hunter Education Commission, 1884.

In late 1881 William Hunter was appointed to conduct an Education Commission into the state of education in India. The Hunter Commission published its detailed report in 1884 and its focus was to explain the failure of Charles Wood’s Education Dispatch of 1854 and to recommend reform. The principal objective of Wood’s Dispatch had been to spread government and mission education to the broader population in India. However, by the early 1880s, Westminster had become concerned that this had not happened quickly enough and there was evidence that education departments in India were restricting earlier efforts of expansion. This was especially so concerning ‘lower’ schooling in rural areas and by the late 1870s most government funding was being directed to middle and upper schooling in the principal cities and towns of the subcontinent. Wood’s clever administrative strategies had not worked well, largely because of the shock of the rebellion of 1857, government budget cuts in 1869-70 and Calcutta’s policy of administrative ‘decentralisation’ in 1871.

By the 1880s it was clear further attempts at administrative fiat alone were not going to work. More information was needed by government from those closely involved in education in the field. This was especially so if primary education was to be rejuvenated and expanded. As a result Hunter and his commissioners embarked on a wide-ranging exercise in gathering evidence from indigenous, European and missionary stakeholders in 1882. The hearings were conducted in the major cities across India and they lasted for two weeks in each province. A lengthy set of questions was asked of each witness and cross-examination by commissioners was permitted. Many petitions and memorials were also presented to the commissioners. This process represented the most thorough and possibly the most genuine attempt by the British in the nineteenth century to understand the failings of European education on the subcontinent.

The hearings in each province were meticulously recorded, bound and published. The separate final Hunter report of 640 pages, which draws together the information of the provincial reports, is reproduced on this site. The hand of the raj archivist is evident in the way the report is organised. The summary ‘history’ of education in each province before 1882 is mostly the European story and British constructs regarding caste and language pervade the report. But the information concerning indigenous schooling in Chapter 3, the complex institutional structure of government schooling in subsequent chapters and the relationship of this schooling system with outside bodies and government instrumentalities is detailed and rich. The powerful fiscal and legal regulation at work at the national and local level is also documented. Education for girls is discussed throughout and the dissenting views of commissioners are recorded on pages 603-622. Finally, Chapter 13 outlines the formal recommendations of the commission. A second layer of recommendations targeted problems peculiar to each province. Each provincial Secretariat was then required to write a formal response about how it intended to implement reform and to report two years later about its implementation.

Dr Tim Allender,
School of Policy and Practice,
University of Sydney, 2006

Bibliographic Details
Author: William Hunter
Date: 1883

Shortcomings in the Digital edition.
It should be noted that the final section of the report, from around page 633 onwards consists of tables which were not turned into text files and are presented here only as page images.

Indian Education: A Monthly Record

The following extracts are from very rare copies of the journal Indian Education. These copies are stamped ‘Elphinstone Middle School, Bombay.’ There are no publication details attached to the journal except that the series ran from August 1902 to at least August 1906. This was one of several education journals that were popular in the 1890s and 1900s. Another example was the Indian Education Journal of Education, formally the longer running Madras Journal of Education published in Madras by the L. A. Press in the 1880s and 1890s.

These journals are now very rare because they were published in India and not London so they are not stored in the British Library in London today. Unlike most principal government correspondence of the colonial period they were not shipped back to England in 1947 either so very few education journals of this genre are part of the Oriental and India Office Collections in the British Library. This has meant most of these journals have been lost to modern-day scholars.

The principal contributors to this journal were senior ICS officers with an interest in education, members of various provincial education departments, missionaries, indigenous collaborators and government appointed educational commissioners. The journal articles range over a broad range of topics. Some are anonymous contributors who commentate on educational developments in Europe and their relevance to India. Some relate to new approaches to pedagogy and others attempt to analyse indigenous schooling and how Western educators might connect with this.

The journal was produced at a time when European-led education was becoming more the preserve of urban-based elites who were attending the senior schools and colleges. This was despite the exhaustive Hunter Education Commission (1882-3) that, twenty years earlier, had strongly recommended a new push towards primary schooling in rural and urban areas. At the time of the founding of this journal the Viceroy was Lord Curzon. He was frustrated by these developments and he privately questioned the overuse of administrative fiat, especially as it related to the ‘decentralisation’ educational governance in the last thirty years of the nineteenth century. Whilst the forces of national resistance were beginning to take shape, the journal promoted the idea that educational issues, at least as Europeans constructed them, could be debated and that it was a forum for new ideas to be canvassed. This represented a less restricted discourse than in previous generations for two reasons. Education issues were becoming a matter of greater debate in Europe as notions of the ‘adolescent’, the utility of systemic elementary schooling, literacy and numeracy were more developed. Also, with more centralised schools in India, there were greater possibilities for the transferral of English middle class educational ethics to the subcontinent.

The journal outlined its purpose at the beginning of the first volume in August, 1902:

Our Programme

‘Indian Education,’ like other educational journals, is designed chiefly for circulation among members of the teaching profession. It is intended to serve them as a vehicle for the expression of views on all educational questions. These are many of them questions of great public importance, and bound up with other questions affecting the whole future of India. We trust to be able to present these to our readers from the various points of view which may be taken.

We hope also to print articles really useful to teachers in their own profession. It is becoming more and more realised that practical professional advice is a valuable and stimulating thing, and we hope always to make our articles of this character as directly useful as possible.

Moreover, we intend to print original articles on those subjects that form the staple of our education in India. Many of these subjects, especially the Literature, History and Philosophy studied in our colleges, offer openings for new criticism form the thoughtful Indian student; and it is, in our opinion, matter for much regret that so little work of the kind has appeared. The pages of Indian Education will, at any rate, be open to such contributions, and may perhaps be the means of bringing some talent to light.

We shall try to do justice to all fields of educational work- Vernacular, University, Artistic and Industrial. It is admitted that some changes and reforms in the country’s educational methods may be desired, and may even be impending. We trust, so far as our journal has a policy of its own, to be reasonably progressive with regard to these. But we do not share the low view that is sometimes put forward now of the methods taken, and the success achieved, in the past. It appears to us that one of the tasks of an educational journal at this moment is to defend the memory and the work of the great men who founded Western Education in India.

We shall occasionally glance, too, at educational affairs in other countries, so far as they contain lessons useful for India. We shall have a news-letter from an English correspondent, and Indian news of educational interest will be regularly recorded.

In conclusion, we make an appeal to possible readers of our journal to become contributors. Without their help in this matter we cannot hope to flourish or even to exist. If they really wish to see a journal of his character, and look forward to any pleasure from its monthly appearance, they must also remember that it rests with them to secure it for themselves, and to add that further pleasure which, as we all know, the creator feels in his own work.

Credits and Acknowledgements


These works were selected by Tim Allender of the University of Sydney where the OCR work on the text was undertaken.


The originals of the documents are in the La Trobe Collection of The State Library of Victoria who have given permission for the images of its pages to be reproduced on this site.


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Last Updated: 25 July, 2006

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