Hunter Commission officially known as the Indian Education Commission, 1882, was the first education commission in the history of modern India. Appointed by the Government of India, it was to review in depth, the state of education in India since wood’s education despatch of 1854, and to recommend necessary measures for further progress. The other consideration, which prompted the Government to launch this enquiry, was the agitation of the missionaries, particularly in England, accusing lapses of the Government in implementing the provisions of the Despatch of 1854. Because of the great importance, which the Government attached to primary education, higher education was excluded from the Commission's purview and instead was directed to concentrate chiefly on primary education.
Presided over by Sir william wilson hunter, a Bengal Civilian, the Commission included ananda mohan bose, AW Croft (Director of Public Instruction, Bengal), bhudev mukhopadhyay, Maharaja Jatindra Mohan Tagore, Kashinath Trimbak Teelang and Sayed Ahmad Khan who later withdrew in favour of his son Sayed Mahmad.
The Commission submitted its report in October 1883 and its thirty-six recommendations regarding primary education added a certain momentum in its slow advance. The Commission stated that 'while every branch of education can justly claim the fostering care of the State, it is desirable in the present circumstances of the country to declare the elementary education of the masses, its provision, extension and improvement, to be the part of the educational system to which the strenuous efforts of the State should now be directed in a still larger measure than herebefore'. It recommended that (1) 'primary education be regarded as the instruction of the masses through the vernacular in such subjects as will best fit them for their position in life, and be not necessarily regarded as a portion of instruction leading up to the University'; (2) 'an attempt should be made to secure the fullest possible provision for an extension of primary education by legislation 85'; (3) 'where indigenous schools exist, the principle of aiding and improving them be recognised as an important means of extending elementary education'; (4) 'primary education be declared to be that part of the whole system of public instruction which possesses an almost exclusive claim on local funds set apart for education, and a large claim on provincial revenues' and (5) 'both Municipal and Local Self-Government Boards keep a separate school-fund'. There were also recommendations for inspection and supervision, encouragement of night schools wherever possible, elasticity as regards attending hours to suit the needs of rural families, religious teaching etc.
With its conviction that higher education is equally necessary for the balanced progress of a community the Hunter Commission made twenty-three recommendations regarding secondary education also. The Commission, however, recommended that while primary education should be provided without regard to the availability of local support, English Secondary Schools should ordinarily be supported on the availability of local co-operation.
The Government of India approved of nearly all the recommendations of the Commission. [Zaheda Ahmad]