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College History



Education in Madras Presidency prior to the formation of Educational Department in 1854 by Sir Thomas Munro was informal, mainly in vedic patasalas. Efforts made by the then British Government were irregular and required thorough revamping and therefore the Governor Sir.T. Munro draw the attention to the local Government to the subject of education in a Minute recorded by him on the 25th June 1822 in which he says: — “Much has been written, both in England and in this country, about the ignorance of the people of India, and the means of disseminating knowledge among them, but the opinions upon this subject are the mere conjectures of individuals, unsupported by any authentic documents, and differing so widely from each other, as to be entitled to very little attention”. Therefore, a Committee of Public Instruction was structured to bring out Sir T. Munro's scheme into reality. The principal phase taken by the Committee was to organize a school at Madras for the training of teachers. This institution provided subsequently became the foundation of the Madras High School and ultimately developed into the Presidency College.

Presidency College was born during the times of East India Company. They laid solid foundations for educating the natives of India in English education. Originally the East India Company did not evince any interest in enlightening Indians in English education. However, it supported oriental learning, where the media of instruction were Persian, Sanskrit, Urdu and Arabic. In the meantime, there was a pressure from Christian Missionaries and some English administrators to introduce English education of whom were called as Anglicists and those who opposed English education were called Orientalists.

Educational policies of the colonial period throughout India were based on some common history. Warren Hastings, (1732-1818), the first Governor General of Bengal from 1772 and the first Governor General of India (1773-1785) founded the Calcutta Madrasa. In 1784 and in 1791, Sir William Jones (1746-1794), a great Orientalist and then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Calcutta founded the Asiatic Society and Sanskrit College. Moreover, it was after the publication of his masterly treatise “Institutes of Hindu Law and Codes” in 1788 that the term Hindu became officially recognized to denote all the Indians who were not Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Sikhs and Buddhists.

Again, in 1823, General Committee of Public Instruction was formed. Till then, the Company’s policy was in favour of Oriental Learning. But under the influence of James Mill, Court of Directors sent a despatch, which favoured English education. In 1829, policy declared that English should be the public business language eventually. Lord William Bentinck, Governor General of Calcutta (1828 and 1835) had convinced that English was the key to all improvement. He was supported by James Mill and Raja Ram Mohan Roy. In 1834 Macaulay arrives as Law Member in Governor General’s Council and his blue print for English education, with English as the medium of instruction. Both the Calcutta and Madras Presidency colleges started after these developments. Calcutta Presidency College was the conversion of the Hindu College into Presidency College while Presidency College Madras was the primary attempt by the British Government in South India.