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English Education

English Education

Reader : Do I then understand that you do not consider English education necessary for obtaining Home Rule?

Editor (Gandhiji) : My answer is yes and no. To give millions a knowledge of English is to enslave them. The foundation that Macaulay laid of education has enslaved us. I do not suggest that he had any such intention, but that has been the result. Is not a sad commentary that we should have to speak of Home Rule in a foreign tongue?

And it is worthy of note that the systems which the Europeans have discarded are the systems in vogue among us. Their learned men continually make changes. We ignorantly adhere to their cast-off systems. They are trying each division, to improve its own status. Wales is a small portion of England. Great efforts are being made to revive a knowledge of Welsh among Welshmen. The English Chancellor, Mr Llyod George is taking a leading part in the movement to make Welsh children speak Welsh. And what is our condition ? We write to each other in faulty English, and from this even, our M.A.'s are not free ; our best thoughts are expressed in English ; the proceedings of our Congress are conducted in English ; our best newspapers are printed in English. If this state of things continues for a long time posterity will—it is my firm opinion—condemn and curse us.

It is worth noting that, by receiving English education, we have enslaved the nation. Hypocrisy, tyranny, etc., have increased ; English-knowing Indians have not hesitated to cheat and strike terror into the people. Now, if we are doing anything for the people at all, we are paying only a portion of the debt due to them.

It is not a painful thing that, if I want to go to a court of justice, I must employ the English language as a medium ; that, when I become a Barrister, I may not speak my mother tongue, and that someone else should have to translate to me from my own language ? Is not this absolutely absurd ? Is it not a sign of slavery ? Am I to blame the English for it or myself ? It is we, the English-knowing men, that have enslaved India. The curse of the nation will rest not upon the English but upon us.

I have told you that my answer to your last question is both yes and no. I have explained to you why it is yes. I shall now explain why it is no.
We are so much beset by the disease of civilization, that we cannot altogether do without English education. Those who have already received it may make good use of it wherever necessary. In our dealing with the English people, in our dealings with our own people, when we can only correspond with them through that language, and for the purpose o knowing how much disgusted they (the English) have themselves become with their civilization, we may use or learn English, as the case may be. Those who have studied English will have to teach morality to their progeny through mother tongue, and to teach them another Indian language ; but when they have grown up, they may learn English, the ultimate aim being that we should not need it. The object to making money thereby should be eschewed. Even in learning English to such a limited extent, we will have to consider what we should learn through it and what we should not.

Hind Swaraj (1908), Ch. XVIII

Education for Manufacturing Clerks

You, the students of Madras as well as the students all over India, are you receiving an education which will make you worthy to realize that ideal and which will draw the best out of you, or is it an education which has become a factory for making Government employees or clerks in commercial offices ? Is the goal of the education that you are receiving that of mere employment whether in the Government departments or other departments ? If that be the goal of your education, if that is the goal that you have set before yourselves, I feel and I fear that the vision which the Poet pictured for himself is far from being realized. As you have heard me say perhaps, or as you have read I am and I have been a determined opponent of modern civilization. I want you to turn your eyes today upon what is going on in Europe and if you have come to the conclusion that Europe is today groaning under the heels of modern civilization, then you and your elders will have to think twice before you can emulate that civilization in our Motherland. But I have been told : "How can we help it, seeing that our rulers bring that culture to our Motherland ?" Do not make any mistake about it at all. I do not for one moment believe that it is for any rulers to bring that culture to you unless you are prepared to accept it, and if it be that the rulers bring that culture before us, I think that we have forces within ourselves to enable us to reject that culture.

Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, pp. 312,313 ; 27-4-15

English Education

It is my considered opinion that English education in the manner it has been given emasculated the English-educated Indian, it has put a severe strain upon the Indian students' nervous energy, and has made of us imitators. The process of displacing the vernacular has been one of the saddest chapters in the British connection. Rammohan Rai would have been a greater reformer, and Lokamanya Tilak would have been a greater scholar, if they had not to start with the handicap of having to think in English and transmit their thoughts chiefly in English. Their effect their own people, marvelous as it was, would have been greater if they had been brought up under a less unnatural system. No doubt they both gained from their knowledge of the rich treasures of English literature. But these should have been accessible to them through their own vernaculars. No country can become a nation by producing a race of imitators. Think of what would have happened to the English if they had not an authorized version of the Bible. I do believe that Chaitanya, Kabir, Nanak, Guru Govindsing, Shivaji, and Pratap were greater men than Rammohan Rai and Tilak. I know that comparisons are odious. All are equally great in their own way. But judged by the results, the effect of Rammohan and Tilak on the masses is not so permanent or far reaching as that of the others more fortunately born. Judged by the obstacles they had to surmount, they were giants, and both would have been greater in achieving results, if they had been handicapped by the system under which they received their training. I refuse to believe that the Raja and the Lokamanya could not have thought the thoughts they did without a knowledge of the English language. Of all the superstitions that affect India, none is so great as that a knowledge of the English language is necessary for imbibing ideas of liberty, and developing accuracy of thought. It should be remembered that there has been only one system of education before the country for the past fifty years, and only one medium of expression forced on the country. We have, therefore, no data before us as to what we would have been but for the education in the existing schools and colleges. This, however, we do know that India today is poorer than fifty years ago, less able to defend herself, and her children have less stamina. I need not be told that this is due to the defect in the system of Government. The system of education is its most defective part.
It was conceived and born in error, for the English rulers honesty believed the indigenous system to be worse than useless. It has been nurtured in sin, for the tendency has been to dwarf the Indian body, mind and soul.

Young India, 27-4-''21

Reply to Tagore

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other peoples' houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave. I refuse to put the unnecessary strain of learning English upon my sisters for the sake of false pride or questionable social advantage. I would have our young men and young women with literary tastes to learn as much English and other world languages as they like, and then expect them to give the benefits of their learning to India and to the world, like a Bose, a Roy or the Poet himself. But I would not have a single Indian to forget, neglector be ashamed of his mother tongue, or to feel that he or she cannot think or express the best thoughts in his or her own vernacular. Mine is not a religion of the prison-house. It has room for the least among God's creation. But it is proof against insolence, pride of race, religion or colour.

Young India, 1-6-1921

Translations from English Literature Enough

In asking our men and women to spend less time in the study of English than they are doing now, my object is not to deprive them of the pleasure which they are likely to deprive from it, but I hold that the same pleasure can be obtained at less cost and trouble if we follow a more natural method. The world is full of many a gem of priceless beauty ; but then these gems are not all of English setting. Other languages can well boast of productions of similar excellence ; all these should be made available for our common people and that can only be done if our own learned men will undertake to translate them for us in our own languages.

Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, pp. 426-28 ; 20-2-1918