06 November 2009

from The Competition Wallah (G.O. Trevelyan), Letter XII and last, Education in India since 1835

The natives of India have, with marvellous eagerness and unanimity, abandoned the dead or effete learning of the East for the living and vigorous literature of England. Whoever can spare the time and money greedily avails himself of the instruction which we offer. 'To such an extent, indeed, is this the case' (I quote the Report on Public Instruction for Bengal Proper) 'that many of our best native scholars can write English and even speak it with greater facility than their mother-tongue'. Interest and ambition, the instinct of imitation and the thirst for knowledge, urge on the students; and, by the aid of a delicate taste, and a strong power of assimilation, their progress is surpassing to one accustomed to the very slender proficiency in the classical tongues obtained by the youth of England after a boyhood devoted almost exclusively to Xenophon and Cicero. Of two hundred scholars who leave Eton in the course of a year, it is much if some three or four can construe a chorus of Euripides without the aid of a translation, or polish up with infinite pains a piece of Latin prose which a Roman might possibly have mistaken for a parody of the 'De Officiis', composed by a Visigoth in the time of Diocletian.

No comments: