Modern Education and the Revolt of 1857 in India



22 December, 2023

Modern Education and the Revolt of 1857 in India

“The education which does not help the common mass of people to equip themselves for the struggle for life, which does not bring out strength of character, a spirit of philanthropy, and the courage of a lion- is it worth the name? Real education is that which enables one to stand on one’s own legs.” – Swami Vivekananda

Education has proven to be the greatest weapon for every revolution. It teaches patience, resilience and perseverance to battle against any struggle. India’s struggle for independence has been a long-fought battle in which educated minds have played a vital role. It was the education that empowered Indian blood to stand with vigour and confidence against the Britishers and their unjust means.

Britishers had used the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy against Indian kings to break down our nation. It was education and well-learned minds that helped Indian freedom fighters use their skills and potential to bring about a revolution through the Indian land and stand united against British Rule.

The Revolt of 1857

The Revolt of 1857 was the first and a very powerful attack on the East India Company. The Revolt started from Meerut and soon spread to other areas, weakening the British Raj and their agendas.

Also called the First Indian War of Independence, it was an answer to the Britishers using propagandas and inequitable ways to rule over our land. The war ended the rule of the East India Company and then, the British Government directly handled all the affairs in India. The revolt led to the demise of our great fighters like Rani Laxmi Bai, Mangal Pandey, Bahadur Shah Zafar, etc.

Was it just a mutiny against Britishers that threw off the East India Company? Was it just fighting against Britishers that led to the revolt of 1857? Was there any change post 1857? Yes! There occurred many changes in the society. The biggest of them being the introduction of modern education in the country. Education played a poignant role in shaping the future freedom fighters of India. Modern education gave them the voice to spread their words across the lands to stand united against cruel foreign rule.

Even Ellenborough, former Governor-General of India stated English education to be responsible for giving voice to the freedom fighters to start the revolt.

How the Revolt of 1857 Gave Way to Modern Education?

There were various social, political, cultural and economic reasons like racial discrimination, use of enfield rifles whose cartridges were greased with pig or cow fat which stood against Hindu and Muslim beliefs, unjust policies like the doctrine of lapse, increased taxes, unfair territory expansion, etc. that led to the revolt.

  • In 1857, the three universities of Madras, Bombay and Calcutta, were established that in the future shaped many great Indian minds.
  • Schools were modernised and different provisions like government aids, inspection systems, etc. were offered to them.
  • On the recommendation of the Hunter Commission, more emphasis was laid on the quality of primary education.
  • After the Swadeshi Movement, there was more involvement of private sectors to help modernise and mobilise education.
  • There was an expansion and unprecedented growth of secondary education and colleges and universities.
  • Stricter reorganisation and affiliation of colleges and universities.
  • Increase in quality of education by selective admission system and retention of students especially in rural areas
  • Learning through Activity was promoted as suggested by Mahatma Gandhi.

How Modern Education Gradually Became a Tool of Change?

One of the biggest impacts of modern education after the revolution of 1857 was that English became a link language and was introduced as a primary language for teaching and learning in schools, colleges and universities. It also became one of the official languages used in offices, for administrative work and education institutions. This helped in bringing together the people from different regions.

However, one of the major drawbacks of the introduction of modern education during those times was that it was not equally accessible for everyone and the lower class people mostly were devoid of it.

The British education system benefited our society in many ways as well. It was British education that helped eliminate vices from our society, like abolishing sati, widows being treated as outcasts and not being given rights, Dalits not being able to sit with the upper classes of society, etc.

Reforms in the Education System

There were multiple commissions and committees through the years that brought changes into the education system of India. It finally shaped the education that we presently have access to in India. Gradually, minor changes in the education system paved the way for paramount reforms in the education system.

Hunter Education System (1882-83) – Emphasis on women’s education
– Participation of Private enterprises in education
– Establishing teaching cum examining institutions
Indian University Act (1904) – Reorganisation of universities
– Schools needed to be affiliated by universities
Sadler Commission (1917-19) – Improvement of secondary university education
– Intermediate education rather than matriculation
Montagu-Chelmsford Reform (1919) – Education department transferred under provincial control
Hartog Committee (1929) – Introduced more professional and diversified courses
– Selective admission process
– Focusing on better university results
Wardha Scheme of Education (1937)


– Focus on industrial/professional courses
– Dr Zakir Hussain was to prepare the syllabus
– Education to promote self-learning and promoting and supporting teachers
Sargent Plan of Education (1944) – School education is divided into pre-primary primary and secondary
– Primary education to be provided free universally from the age 6-14
Radha Krishna Committee – First education committee post-independence
– More significant compensation to teachers
– Assessed higher education and university education


The revolt of 1857 was the first big blow that transferred the power from the East India Company to the British Government and later on introduced many reforms that gradually led to India’s independence. Indian freedom fighters used education as one of the means to fight against  British Rule and used it as a way to spread their words to the masses to stand united against foreign rule. It also provided them the same status, knowledge and confidence to present their views in equal force to fight for their rights.

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