Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ledge and truth of all kinds are bound to have a beneficial influence upon character. And the mere discipline of school and college has a distinct moral value. But what India needs is a powerful moral force to elevate and purify the character of three hundred million people. The key to every problem in India, social, political, and intellectual, lies in the character of the people themselves. No great advance or improvement is possible in any direction till that is changed. I remember some years ago, when I was in Calcutta, a leading member of the educational department saying to me as we walked away from a meeting of the University Senate, ‘After all what we want in India is, not so much more M.A.s and B.A.s, as more men who can be trusted with small sums of money.' The remark was cynical no doubt, and, like most cynical remarks, an exaggeration ; but it contained a substratum of truth which no Indian reformer or administrator can afford to neglect. After all, the main problem in India for the statesman and educationist as well as for the religious teacher resolves itself into the question how to change and elevate the character of the mass of the people. If that cannot be done, nothing else will be of any permanent value. But when it parted from religion Indian education lost the one power that is adequate to this gigantic task. It may well be doubted whether among any people secular knowledge alone is ever a very powerful moral force. The case of Japan may possibly be cited as an instance where it has proved to be so; but in Japan the moral stimulus has been supplied by the spirit of patriotism, not by Western education. Western knowledge has simply been the instrument which has made the spirit of patriotism effective and powerful. In India, however, there is no such thing as the spirit of patriotism among the masses. It is hopeless to look to any outburst of patriotism for the regeneration of Indian character. On the other hand, from the earliest dawn of history, India has been extraordinarily susceptible to the influence of religion. For more than three thousand years not merely education, but the whole life of the people in India, has been based upon religion. The history of India has been mainly the history of religious thought and religious movements. And though prophecy may be the most gratuitous form of folly, it is not rash to prophesy that the one hope of a great moral change in the peoples of India lies in the sphere of religion. The future of India depends not so much upon the statesman or educationist as upon

the missionary

(2) Another serious defect in the university education of India is the fact that, owing to the necessities of the case, all instruction has to be given through the medium of English. A very large number of the most experienced witnesses who gave evidence before the Universities Commission of 1902 spoke of the imperfect knowledge of English possessed by the students who came up to the universities, and the difficulty they experienced at first in understanding the

lectures. It is true that this difficulty is soon overcome, but the main disadvantage involved in making English the medium of instruction consists not so much in the difficulty experienced in understanding lectures or text-books, as in the difficulty the students have in thinking and expressing themselves in a foreign language. The natural defect of the Indian student always has been his excessive reliance on his powers of memory. A special term-'to by-heart'-is current among the students in Calcutta to express the normal process of studying a subject. The usual method of getting up a text-book, whether on philosophy, logic, or English literature, is to 'by-heart' either the text-book itself or the lecturer's notes upon it.

And this defect of Indian thought is greatly aggravated by the necessity of learning in English. The power of independent thought and judgment, weak to begin with, is crushed under the oppressive weight of a foreign language. No doubt the best men in the university rise above the disability, and think, speak, and write in English extraordinarily well; but to the majority the double effect of acquiring new knowledge and expressing ideas in a new language is quite overwhelming. The result is that the general body of the students tend to acquire a mass of undigested information, which they never really assimilate or make their own. A few years ago I visited a mission college in South India. In honour of my visit, and to display their powers of original thought, the senior students got up a debate, at which I was asked to preside. The subject chosen was 'The advantages and disadvantages of celibacy.' The senior student of the B.A. class, who happened to be reading philosophy, opened the attack on celibacy by the startling statement, 'Celibacy is contrary to the categorical imperative of Kant.' That is typical of a defect which is found in every department of practical life and work. The university student, as a rule, excels in the acquisition of knowledge, but fails in its application. His main need is originality, but it is hopeless to expect him to acquire it until he is allowed to think in his own vernacular. English undergraduates would exhibit a similar lack of originality if they were obliged to do all their thinking in Latin or German. And as it is impossible for practical reasons to give university education through the vernaculars of the country, we must acquiesce in the conclusion that the Indian universities are not likely to remedy, among the mass of the students, the characteristic defect of the Indian mind. It is instructive in this connection to notice the very different effect produced by Western education in Japan from that produced in India. The standard of education, judged by the prescribed course of study, does not seem to be nearly as high in Japan as it is in India ; but what the Japanese have learned they have really assimilated and made their own. The knowledge brought from the West has not been allowed to float vaguely on the surface of their minds ; it has entered into the soul of the nation, and is rapidly bringing forth fruit in the national life and character. We see nothing of this kind in India. There are no doubt many reasons to account for the difference. But certainly one reason is that the Japanese, almost from the first introduction of Western education, determined that the medium of instruction should be their own vernacular. And the result is that they have been able to grasp and understand the new ideas of Western literature and science far more readily than the people of India.

(3) A third difficulty arises from the rapid growth of the Indian universities during the last fifty years. Compared, indeed, with the size of the population, the actual number of the students is not large. There are five universities in India, at Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, Allahabad and Lahore. In 1901, according to the report of the commission of 1902, only 7,953 students passed the Matriculation examinations in all these five universities, and of these a considerable proportion would not appear at any subsequent university examination. One of the Calcutta witnesses before the Commission stated that he had calculated roughly from the University Calendar that, out of 3,000 students who passed the entrance examination, about 1,000 did not proceed further, and that 'the B.A. figures are even more startling. So that it is safe to say that not more than 4,000 of those who matriculate every year at the five universities are bona-fide university students, intending to study for a degree. This is not a large number out of a population of 300,000,000. But it is too large for real efficiency. It is no exaggeration, I think, to say that at least half, if not two-thirds, of the students at the various colleges ought not to be studying at a university at all. My own experience would be that, out of every 100 students who are reading either English Literature or Philosophy at the universities, about sixty are quite unfitted to study these subjects as they ought to be studied at a university. Neither their abilities nor their previous teaching in any way fit them for a university education. Nor do their subsequent careers demand it. Large numbers become clerks in Government or mercantile offices; comparatively few enter what would be called ‘learned professions. The result of flooding the universities with this mass of ill-prepared students may easily be imagined. The teaching and lecturing are naturally adapted to the majority, who are not really fit to study the subjects at all. And then, as is the lecturing and teaching, so must be the examining. It is useless to have an examination which stands out of all relation to the teaching which is to be given in the colleges. The first step, therefore, towards any real improvement in university education is either to reduce the number of students or to separate the best students from the ruck. The simplest way of effecting this reform would be the establishment

å separate Honours course in each group of subjects. Why the Universities Commission of 1902 rejected this proposal it is difficult

of

to understand. The reason given in their Report was that the plan had been tried in Calcutta and had resulted in lowering the standard of the ordinary Pass degree. The obvious answer is that, in the first place, the lowering of the standard of the Pass course is not necessarily an evil, since the existing courses of study are modelled on a standard that is far too ambitious for the majority of the students who go to the university; and, in the second place, that the standard of a degree rests with the examiners. However, now that the Commission has given its opinion against any attempt to separate the cream from the milk, it is not likely that any change will be made in this direction, and the universities must continue the attempt to combine two wholly distinct functions, the provision of a commercial education for men who are destined to become office clerks, and the due cultiva. tion of the really fine intellect which India possesses, and which, with proper training, might bring a valuable contribution to the philosophic thought and speculation of the world.

HENBY MADRAS.

AT THE "ROSE IN JUNE'

At every journey's end stands a hostelry.

To-day this comforting reflection may be somewhat disturbed by a doubt respecting the quality of the hospitality awaiting the wanderer into remote places at the end of a day's tramp. Yet some place to lay his head there must be some nook where at least he may dream of the delightful old-world idler and his 'honest alehouse, where he shall find a cleanly room, lavender in the windows, and twenty ballads stuck about the wall.' What a picture of simple luxury did the quaint old angler leave us in these few lines! And when he goes on, "There my hostess, which I may tell you is both cleanly, and handsome, and civil'—one sighs for the days before steam.

It is not possible to suspect him of idealising. All his mind is on the angling, and the country inn only fills out the time not spent by the river-side. Since the linen looks white and smells of lavender, one may be indulgent to the naïve admission upon another page:

My brother Peter, a good angler and a cheerful companion, had sent word he would lodge there to-night and bring a friend with him. My hostess has two beds, and I know you and I may have the best; we'll rejoice with my brother Peter and his friend, tell tales, or sing ballads, or make a catch, or find some harmless sport to content us, and pass away a little time without offence

to God or man.

[ocr errors]

So said Izaak Walton to the stranger he had overtaken upon the road, and Goldsmith has left us a picture quite as sweet.

But times are changed. Where may such simple entertainment be found to-day? The village inn neither expects wayfarers nor provides for them. The motor rushes by and is hidden at once in its cloud of dust. The cyclist stops to quench his thirst and is gone. In the universal haste an aimless pedestrian like myself awakens a mild curiosity in each hamlet as he passes. The good folk “pop out to door’ to gaze at the dusty stranger, and ask each other in a loud whisper

, “Who's that ?' They wonder what he can have to sell from the wallet at his back. What is he looking for, bo-peeping about in Hazelgrove-Plucknut, where there is nothing to see?

Vol. LVII–No. 335

129

K

« ZurückWeiter »