Calcutta Free School Society, Lal Dighi, Calcutta, 1789

Old Court House, Calcutta
কলকাতা ফ্রি স্কুল সোসাইটি ভবন, লালদীঘি, ১৭৮৯
“On the 21st day of December, 1789, a society was formed in Calcutta, for the purpose of providing the means of education for all children, orphans, and others, not object of the care of the (Military) Orphan Society. The management of this new society was confided, under the patronage of the Governor-general, to twelve governors, viz., the chaplains, churchwardens. Sidemen, and six other gentlemen resident in Calcutta chosen by the subscribers. The governors visit the school in rotation, and meet monthly. The funds were to be raised by a ratable contribution from the civil servants of the Company, and such other contributions as might be procurable: the superintending masters and teachers, male and female, to be elected by the governors: the plan of education to be that usually followed in free schools : the children to be recommended by the subscribers.
As the benefits of the school were designed to be extensively enjoyed, the Governor-generalin Council, at the request of the governors, undertook to communicate the plan and objects of the plan throught the Bengal provinces, and to the governors of Chinsurah and Chandernagore, It was also ordered that the Company’s surgeons should attend the school, whenever it would be necessary, gratuitously; and that such medicines as might be required should be furnished, gratis from the Company’s dispensary. In further promotion of the objects of the institution, the Government consented to allow the sum of Rs. 60 per mensem, for the purpose of employing moonshees, capable of teaching the native languages to the children.” See More

With the change of socio-political scenario and due the growing influences of the orientalist movement, the policy guidelines of the Calcutta School Society raised a serious question as to the extent of benefits it provides to the indigenous people. The Society’s policy was a reflection of the mood of the then Government of India. The Court of Directors also did not encourage the Government of India to do anything for the diffusion of education among the inhabitants. The Marques of Hastings was Governor-General of India when the Charter of the East India Company was renewed in 1813. In their letter to the Governor-General in Council of Bengal, dated 3rd June 1814, the Court of Directors wrote :— “The Clause presents two distinct propositions for consideration ; first, the encouragement of the learned natives of India, and the revival and improvement of literature ; secondly, the promotion of a knowledge of the sciences amongst the inhabitants of that country. “Neither of these objects is, we apprehend, to be obtained through the medium of public colleges, if established under the rules, and upon a plan similar to those that have been founded at our Universities, because the natives of caste and of reputation will not submit to the subordination and discipline of a college. So the Indian Government did not take the initiative in the matter of the education of the people of this country. It was the people themselves who had to take the initiative and to do the needful. See More
The featured picture above represents the view of the Old Court House inside Fort William, Calcutta – the first fortress built by the British after their establishment in Bengal. Though this building is commonly known as the Old Court House, it actually did belong to the Charity School, where the old Court, and also the Town Hall were mere impermanent occupants.
The painting is one of the ’24 Views in Indostan(sic)’ composed by WilliamOrme based on a work by Francis Swine Ward (1736-94).

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