EDUCATION IN THE BOMBAY PRESIDENCY

EDUCATION IN THE BOMBAY PRESIDENCY Article : The Servent of India - 28th March 1918


The report of the Director of Public Instruction for the quinquennium ended March 1917, which was recently published, furnishes abundant material for thought and reflection. It shows that the tendency towards educational progress is of so pronounced a character that adverse circumstances can check it but to a limited extent. During the first half of this period things were pursuing their normal course. But then came war, followed by stringent circulars ordering retrenchment all round, and it appeared for a time as if education was going to mark time during the continuance of the war. Fortunately Government themselves realised the unwisdom of restricting expenditure on education even in a time of war, and towards the close of this period the stringency of the economy circular was relaxed. The net result is that during this period expenditure on education has increased by Rs. 38,27,000 which has rendered progress possible in a varying degree in all directions.


At present the nation has set its heart on the development of primary education. Everyone will naturally turn to this branch to note what progress has been made. The report is not very satisfactory on this point, for while the increase in the attendance of boys in the secondary stage has been 21 percent, that of boys in primary schools has been only 10.2. What has happened since then, however, the passing of the Elementary Education Bill of the Hon. Mr. Patel, the promise of a more vigorous policy for the spread of primary education held out in the resolution of Government on the report and the realisation of the promise in the budget recently explained by the education member, all give cause for hope and lead one to believe that after all Government have recognised their responsibility and have made up their mind to tackle the problem of universal education in a systematic manner.


These indications of a comprehensive plan methodically worked out are somehow not so conspicuous in university and secondary education. In fact it appears that the stage of trial and experiment has not yet been passed, although some progress can be recorded here also. The College of Commerce, which was founded during this period, falls more naturally under the head of professional than university education proper. But the Gujarat College was taken under their own management by Government, the opening of the Karnatak College was definitely promised-- which promise has since been fulfilled, and the New Poona College was established in Poona by the Shikshana Prasarak Mandali. Thus during the quinquennium there has been an addition of only one second grade college, while the number of students reading in them has increased by 1583 or by 48 percent. This cannot be considered a very satisfactory state of things. The Director himself says : "All the Colleges are full to overflowing and complaints are constantly made regarding the insufficiency of existing accomodation in the college classes and the need of extending it." Since then the Karnatak College has begun work and the Surat College is arranging to do so from June next. But there is no systematic attempt to cope with the larger numbers that are sure to crowd in colleges, which, the Director remarks, "is an indication of the ever-increasing demand in this Presidency for higher education." More Government Colleges, we are inclined to think, are more or less out of the question. They are a very costly affair. The average cost in three Government Colleges works out at Rs. 206-1-5 per student, while the highest cost per student, viz, Rs. 383-10-9 is, to be found the Elphinstone College which again is a Government institution. The D. J. Sind College stands in a category by itself and need not be taken into account for purposes of comparison. Contrast with this the corresponding figure for the Fergusson College, which is an aided institution, and the difference will at once be found to be of a glaring character. The average cost in the Fergusson College is only Rs. 83-3-11. If the lowness of this figure is sought to be explained away on the plea of a large number of students the average of Rs. 105-2-6 in the New Poona College cannot be so accounted for. The number of its students has been limited by the University and stood during 1916-17, at 213. The irresistible inference is that private agency, being far more economical than Government agency and not less efficient, will have to be largely used for meeting "the ever increasing demand" for higher education if the available resources are to be fully utilised and made to yield the highest results.


This conviotion is brought home with greater force in the sphere of secondary education. Government do not propose to open more than one high school for a district, and during the period there was only one addition to the list of Government
high schools. We are not sorry for this decision of Government. Here again the question of cost is an important factor. The cost of educating each pupil in a Government high school Rs. 60-6-3, while that in aided high schools is only Rs. 50-9-1. The latter figure again is too high and does not give a correct idea of the actual
cost in an average high school. In subsidiary Form No.2 all Aided High schools are lumped together. It is necessary to take out from these European and Anglo-Indian high schools in which the average cost per head is Rs. 162-9-1, as also English teaching schools where it is Rs. 51-7-10. When these deductions are made, the average cost per pupil for the 57 aided high schools works out at Rs. 40-3-5 only. For a more accurate calculation a further deduction will have to be made. Some of the Mission high schools are costly, their average cost being more than Rs. 100 per head. Some special schools are even more expensive. For instance, in Bahadur Ji's Parsi Girls' High School at Kirkee the average cost per pupil is Rs. 328-4. Such schools must be classed separately and their average also shown. But even taking
the figures as they have been given above, it will be seen that Government high schools are 50% more expensive than aided high schools, and so for a given amount 50% more students can be educated by private agency than what can be done by Government agency.


From what' has been stated above, it will be clear that it is in the public ,interest to employ private agency for the purpose 01 meeting the ever increasing demands of higher and secondary education. The Hunter Commission of 1882 has definitely
pronounced in favour of such a policy. It was so completely accepted by the authorities of those days that the Government of Lord Reay actually opened negotiations with the Deccan Education Society for the transfer of the Deccan College to that body. What is wanted at this time is not any such wholesale transfer of Government institutions to private bodies, but a definite and deliberate policy of encouraging such bodies and so increase their usefulness. Private, bodies have
also an element of elasticity in their organization, which enables them to extend the scope of their operations when a necessity for it arises. The main difficulty of these bodies is want of funds. The grants-in-aid obtained from Government do not make things easy for them. The scale of grants allowable to such bodies was fixed long ago. Much water has flowed under the bridges since then. New ideas about equipment, methods, training and qualifications of teachers have come to
prevail and have rendered secondary and university education very expensive. The necessity of making larger grants has been felt by Government themselves. The special grants which are latterly paid to high schools and the imperial grants paid to colleges which they are allowed at their option to utilise for current or recurring expenditure clearly prove this. We contend that this is an unsatisfactory procedure. Every educational institution must know beforehand what help it may expect from Government and must be in a position to count upon this as a certainty before it
can undertake any scheme of permanent improvement entailing increased annual expenditure. For this purpose the scale of grants-in-aid to colleges and schools must be revised and made more liberal as soon as possible, so that existing institutions
will be able to increase their efficiency and extend their sphere of work. A liberal scale of grants, both recurring and non-recurring, is. even more necessary for the purpose of facilitating the starting of new institutions conducted by private bodies,
without which it will be impossible to meet the varied educational requirements of the Presidency.


H. G. Limaye

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