Tag Archives: Indigenous

Imperialism and Indigenous Education, The News, 20 April, 2016

Published in the News: http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/113718-Imperialism-and-indigenous-education

by Shahid Siddiqui

In The Prison Notebooks, Gramsci builds his argument that hegemony can be attained through political or civil society. The political society uses a coercive approach through army, police and/or bureaucracy. The civil society, on the other hand, makes use of social institutions. The hegemony in this approach is attained with the help of education, language, literature and culture, etc.

In other words, the political society uses a coercive approach whereas the civil society employs a discursive approach. The discursive approach, linked with discourse, is more effective. Through this approach, powerful groups can control others’ minds and thought processes. Education is a significant tool of the discursive approach.

The history of imperialism tells us that imperialist powers used education indiscriminately as a tool to take control of colonised nations. This is done in a two-pronged way. First, by stigmatising the local way of life, education, language and culture, and then imposing their own (imperialist) educational system and language.

In my write up, ‘Development: The imperialist way’, published in these pages on March 7, 2016, the major argument put forward was that how the British converted the local development into ‘undevelopment’ and then glossed over it their own version of development. This argument can also be applied to the education realm in British India. Pre-British India had a comprehensive educational network which was affordable and accessible to the masses. (Please see my columns in these pages, ‘Indigenous Indian Education’ March 21, 2016 and ‘Education in Pre-British India’

Indian Indigenous Education

India was portrayed by the colonisers as a dark and mysterious land where people were illiterate and uncultured. The positional superiority enjoyed by the British enabled them to construct a glorified identify for themselves and a stigmatised identity for the ‘others’.

Macaulay, in his ‘Minute on Education’ (1835), claimed that “a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”. Was India a country of illiterate people with no educational network? Is it true that it was the British who initiated the tradition of schools in India? The reality is just the opposite. There was a comprehensive network of schools in pre-British India, going back to the ancient times.