National Council of Education

National Council of Education formed in 1906 was the result of contemporary controversies about education. In 1904, the universities act was passed. It reconstituted the Calcutta University's Senate and Syndicate by nominating more white members into them to enable the government to control its policies. The government decided to disaffiliate many private Indian Colleges, which had sprung up lately since they were regarded as hot beds of nationalist agitation. Both measures were studied attempts to denationalise education. The measures stirred the nationalist bhadraloks to move for alternative systems of education.

Then came the great political upheaval unleashed by the partition of bengal in 1905. The anti-partition agitation had as its manifesto, Swadeshi, or boycott of foreign modes and also national education. On 16 November the Landholders Association organised a meeting at Park Street, attended by 1500 delegates, among whom were eminent men of the time. The idea of the National Council of Education was mooted here. The spearheads of Swadeshi and boycott in education were Rabindra Narayan Ghosh, Nipendra Chandra Banerjee, Radhakumud Mukherjee and Binoy Kumar Sarkar. The boycott was intensified by the Rangpur incident of 3 November 1905. This occurred in the wake of the notorious Carlyle Circular of 10 October 1905, which asked all Magistrates and Collectors to suppress students' participation in the swadeshi movement.

The circular was challenged at a public meeting chaired by Rabindranath. While Calcutta was simmering with discontent, the circular hit the Rangpur Zilla School. The students of the school, moved by the manifesto of Swadeshi and boycott adopted at the Calcutta meeting of 24 October, sang Bande Mataram in defiance of the circular. The Magistrate of Rangpur fined the ringleaders and expelled them till the fines were paid and threatened to close the school. But the parents did not pay the fine and the students abstained from attending school. The news of their action reached Calcutta on 4 November. A public meeting was convened at College Square, with Naresh Sengupta in the Chair, and with Satish Mukherjee, Monoranjan Guha Thakurata, Hemendra Prasad Ghosh, Moulavi Liaqat Hossain, and others in attendance. The anti-circular society was formed and Ramakanta Roy and Sachindra Prasad Basu rushed to Rangpur.

The citizens of Rangpur held a conference on 7 November. On 8 November the first national school was started in Rangpur, with the object of imparting indigenous education, both general and technical, to Indians. The birth of the national school sparked off the movement culminating in the formation of the National Council of Education (NCE). The order directing the flogging of the students of Madaripur High School and its defiance by the Headmaster acted as a major catalyst. In a meeting held on 9 November 1905 at the Field and Academic Club, Subodh Chandra Basu Mullick pledged Rupees one lakh for the foundation of a National University in Bengal. At the call of Asutosh Chowdhury to boycott Calcutta University, eminent men of the country were asked to rally on 16 November at the Bengal Landholders Association for a conference to found a National Council of Education dealing with literary, scientific and technical fields at the all-India level and under national control.

The meeting was attended by leading personalities of Bengal such as Gurudas Banerjee, Satish Mukherjee, Hirendranath Datta, Asutosh Chowdhury, rashbehari ghosh, rabindranath tagore, Taraknath Palit, chitta ranjan das, abdur rasul, M Ispahani, and nilratan sarkar. Apart from Raja Subodh Mullick's one lakh, Brajendra Kishore Roy Chaudhury of Gouripur donated Rs five lakhs to the cost. A 15000 strong gathering endorsed the decision to form the NCE. The NCE founded the Bengal National College and Bengal National School (14 August 1906). Its sister body, the Society for the Promotion of Technical Education (SPTE), founded the Bengal Technical Institute on 25 July 1906.

The NCE spawned most of the national schools in Bengal, particularly in East Bengal, imparting scientific professional and technical education to its students. In Calcutta the Bengal National College failed to draw students whereas the BTI continued to thrive. By 1910 the differences between the two bodies were resolved. By then Taraknath Palit had withdrawn all his donations from the SPTE in favour of the University College of Science of Calcutta University of which asutosh mookerjee had become the Vice Chancellor. BTI merged into the College of Engineering and Technology (CET) of the NCE in 1928. The Bengal National College continued to teach arts and science subjects. From that date onwards the two colleges flourished again, attracting eminent teachers and large number of students.

Both of them were made part of Jadavpur University in 1956. The CET became the leading national engineering college and sent out engineers all over India and abroad. These graduates were responsible for the establishment of many swadeshi enterprises in Bengal, some of which still continue today. The Arts and Science College has also earned a considerable reputation and Jadavpur University is a premier university in India. Thus the NCE that had started its quest for an alternative system of education in the stormy years of 1905-1911 ultimately reached its fulfilment. [Chittabrata Palit]