HISTORY OF EDUCATION AND LITERACY SURVEY OF DARJEELING(1835-2001)
Education has always been considered as an instrument of social change. In the history of mankind, education has formed a continuum and a basis for the development of human society. Education is the Beacon and ‘sine qua non’ for the society. Without education development of society is not possible. Education is also a democratizing force.
So, in the context of District of Darjeeling, my curiosity forced me to explore the educational history and literacy of Darjeeling. It is to be mentioned that the district stands fourth amongst 18 districts of West Bengal in Human Development Index (HDI) and sixth position in West Bengal, in Literacy Rate(71.08 %) according to Census 2001. Inspite of this, unemployment in the district has become a matter of concern.
Nowadays, the scope of further education is limited in Darjeeling and ‘Diaspora’ is prevalent among the youths of Darjeeling. Further, it is better if technical facilities and job opportunities increased in Darjeeling. Likewise, students has least choices of career- orientation as it is hard to find more educational infrastructures and courses for further studies. In a lucid sense, although we are achieving success in academic field but yet the lack of opportunities is creating problem for the youths. So, with prior to these queries, I would like to reveal the historical background of education accompanied by literacy survey in Darjeeling till the latest Census of 2001. Since 1835, Darjeeling became the educational hub for the British, while the native people also got the opportunity to enlighten through western education.
Since the beginning of nineteenth century, systems and institutions of indigenous education in India were gradually being replaced by British Indian education systems. Christians Missionaries along with other voluntary organizations played a major role in some regions such as in Darjeeling hills in India in spreading education among the masses.
From time immemorial, migration of different linguistic, ethnic and religious groups in the hill regions, due to socio-economic causes, paved the way for acceptance of a common foreign language and religion rather than any of their own.
Although, people of Darjeeling hills showed satisfactory progress in education imparted by the missionaries down from primary level. In this regard, Dr. Dick B. Dewan conducted a historical survey of the educational development in the Darjeeling hills since the introduction of the missionary enterprises in the area. Meticulously, he has analyzed the population components and culture-components to explore the socio-dynamics of the people which serve as the catalyst of educational activities in a society.
Darjeeling came into existence in 1835 after a historical deed was granted to the East India Company by the Rajas of Sikkim. Darjeeling has a rich history of educational establishments. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries Parochial education in Lamaist Buddhist scriptures and rituals was provided by the monasteries. This was the state of education in the district when the East India Company stepped in. For the subsequent introduction of modern secular education, the district owes much to the efforts of various European Christian Missions.
A large number of Europeans (mainly British) settled in Darjeeling town since its genesis and arrangements had to be made for the education of their children. While the European Anglo-Indian children could get advanced school level education, the native boys and girls could go up to the Middle English Standard till about the third decade of 20th century. The earliest of the European schools in the district was the Loreto Convent for girls founded in 1846, managed by the Loreto nuns (Irish Roman Catholic Loreto Order).
Nontheless, it was not till the advent of the Revd. William MacFarlane, in 1869, that any scheme of vernacular education was devised for the district. He created the nucleus of the Training School at Kalimpong. He soon found that the local language was so akin to Hindi that he could use many Hindi text-books as a means of instruction. He also found that the Lepchas and Bhotias, from their contact with Hindi that Nepali-speaking people were soon able to converse in hindi language. So, he fixed upon it as the ‘lingua franca’, and in it produced text-books. In a few years Mr. MacFarlane’s system had so taken hold of the district that in 1873 there were 25 primary schools with 615 boys and girls receiving instruction. The success that MacFarlane achieved within a very short period in spreading the light of education through a number of his elementary schools in the villages and in tea gardens made him the real crusader of this hill region. The Normal School opened by him in 1870 had been a pace-setter in the field of education of the hill people.
As prescribed by the Wood’s Dispatch of 1854, Darjeeling district received one school of official enterprise. This was the school that was established on the lines W.B. Jackson had recommended in 1854. The establishment of Darjeeling School was sanctioned by the Government of Bengal, with the concurrence of the Supreme Government which was opened on the 20th Sept.1856.
Further, The Church of Scotland Mission’s subsequent work became the most important factor in the spread of education among the local people. Lepcha and Bhutias Boarding and Artisan School was opened. This school was to be under the special supervision of the Deputy Commissioner and the School Committee of Darjeeling. The Darjeeling Government High School, previously known as the Darjeeling Anglo-Hindi School and then, The Darjeeling Zilla School was established as a Government managed Middle English School in pursuance of this policy.
The Government opened a Primary School for the Nepali, Bhutia and Lepcha girls, called the Girls’ Boarding School in 1890 in Darjeeling town. However, Due to the greater interest of the Nepali girls, the school was raised to the status of a High School and remained as the Nepali Girls’ High School in 1942. St. Alphonsus’ School was established as a primary school in 1888 by the missionaries of the Roman Catholic Mission just outside the Municipal limits of Kurseong, remained a primary school for a long time. In 1936 it was upgraded as a High School. The Scottish Universities’ Mission Institute at Kalimpong was opened in 1887. It was raised to the status of High School in 1922.
In March 1905, the Church of Scotland Mission Girls’ School was opened at Kalimpong by the Church of Scotland Mission to provide both vocational training and elementary education for the instruction of women and girls. It was converted into the Kalimpong Girls’ High School in 1924. IT was perhaps one of the earliest institutions in the district to introduce Nepali as the medium of instruction up to the Middle examination. Dr. J.A. Graham, the head of the Guild Mission at Kalimpong, who in 1905 remarked that the hill women and girls move about quite freely.
The earliest Primary School to be opened in the rural areas of the district was that at Sukhia- Pokhri in 1900 by the Missionaries of the Church of Scotland Mission and in 1953 the school was Affiliated to the Board of the Secondary Education and was renamed the Sukhia Pokhri High School. The Turnbull School at Darjeeling and the Ghum Boy’s School were opened in 1906 and 1910 and became High Schools in 1952 and 1956 respectively.
The Maharani Girls’ School, Darjeeling is the first Indian managed and privately run school for Indian girls in the district entering to modern education through the Bengali medium. Actually, it was started by Hemlata Sarkar and the first students attended class in Oak Lodge on Maharani of Coochbehari’s Property. Hemlata Sarkar was the first Woman Commissioner of Darjeeling when India had not been partitioned. [It is in 1988, under the auspices of Col. Mohini Mohan Bose, Hemlata’s grandson, with Mrs. N. Laden La as President and Ms. Bina Nandi, Senior teacher (Maharani Girls’ High School) as Secretary that Hemlata Memorial was established].
On the eve of independence in 1946-47, there were only 322 Primary Schools, 23 Middle English Schools, 10 European or Anglo-Indian High Schools, 11 Indian High Schools, 3 Intermediate Colleges and 1 Degree College, 3 Craft Schools and 3 Teachers’ Training Schools in existence in the District. However, the exact figure differs from the Report of Census, 1951 published in West Bengal District Handbooks: Darjeeling, Calcutta, 1954.
Name of High Schools in the District functioning before Independence
Source: West Bengal District Gazetteer: Darjiling, Govt. of West Bengal, Calcutta, 1980, p. 03-504. * Ibid, p. 475.
School mostly for primary education began to be established in the district around 1870. In 1873, when there were only 2 High schools exclusively for European and Anglo-Indian students and only one Middle school, there were as many as 25 primary schools with 650 boys and girls on their rolls.
Regarding the trends of educational growth, it would be better to take stock of the advancement of literacy among a few selected ethnic groups since the beginning of the last century. The following table would indicate the direction and rate of growth of literacy among a number of ethnic groups in the district.
Selected Ethnic group wise Distribution of Rate of Growth of Literacy
Source: West Bengal District Gazetteers: Darjiling, 1980, p. 490.
Literacy is very poor among two of the Scheduled Tribes of the plains, namely the Oraons and the Santals. Religion also seems to influence the extent of literacy. Twice as many Christians Lepchas are literates than Buddhist Lepchas. Literacy among the Christian Lepchas is again higher than that among many of the Nepali Hindu Higher Caste groups. But the extent of literacy among the Christians Oraons is not so high.
Consequently, in Darjeeling there has been considerable progress of literacy since the Independence. In post independent India, the Government of West Bengal, appointed the Darjeeling Enquiry Committee for Technical education. The existing Industrial Training School at Tung can hardly cater to this need adequately. It also recommended for the facilities of reservation of seats to be extended in State Medical College and other technical Government, Institutions like the Agricultural College, Veterinary College and Engineering Colleges.
By About 1925-26, the Middle English Schools in the hill portion of the district began instructing their pupils through the medium of Nepali. But English, Bengali and Hindi remained the accepted media of instruction and were recognized until recently as the ‘first languages’ for students preparing for the school leaving examination.
Among the hill people of the district and especially among those who were Nepali speaking persons these was a persistent demand to declare Nepali as a language for official use and for its adoption as a medium of instruction at all levels of education. This demand to declare Nepali as a language for official use and for its adoption as a medium of instruction at all levels of education. This demand came to be more widely pressed after independence and the Darjeeling Enquiry Committee dealt with it in the following words. “As the overwhelming majority of the people in the hill areas speak both Nepali and Bengali should be recognized as the district regional languages”.
In this recommendation, the West Bengal Official Language Act. Of 1961 and it’s subsequent amendments of the 1963 and 1964 declared both Bengali and Nepali as the languages recognized for official use in the three hill sub-divisions of the district and the relevant portion of the Act came into operation from 26th Jan. 1965. The Board of Secondary Education, West Bengal had, however, accepted Nepali along with Bengali as a medium of instruction and as one of the ‘first languages’ in the High and Higher Secondary Schools in the district, sometime during the 1961-62 sessions.
Under the provisions of Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council (DGAHC) Act, of the Departments , the executive powers of ‘education’ is one of the transferred subjects to the DGAHC. Under the provision of Section 24 of the DGAHC Act, 1988, as amended up to date , all the executive powers relating to Primary, Secondary and Higher Secondary Education have been transferred to the DGAHC.
Progress of Education in the District till 1950-51
Source: West Bengal District Gazetteer, Govt. of West Bengal, Calcutta, 1980, p. 495.
The above table, prepared from data provided by the Quinquennial Reports on the progress of Education the two previous District Gazetteers and District Census Handbook of 1951 and various reports of the State Directorate of Education, would indicate the progress of Primary education in the District.
Moreover, the Collegiate history of Darjeeling is also very rich. St. Joseph’s College was first established in 1927. In 1938, Salesian College at Sonada was set up. Darjeeling Government College was established in 1948, Sree R.K.B.T. College in 1957, Loreto College in 1961, Kalimpong College in 1962, Kurseong College in 1967, Sonada College in 1987, Bijanbari College in 1995, Cluny College for women in Kalimpong in 1995 and Mirik College in 2001. Out of 18, colleges in the district of Darjeeling, 11 colleges are located in the hilly region enrolling more than 15,000 students. All colleges have Under-Graduate Degree Courses which are affiliated to University of North Bengal.
Moreover, the Catholic and Protestant churches, the Buddhists Monasteries, and their support for Central Schools, the Sai Bhakta Sangh, the Bahais, the Islamic or Ramakrishna Mission Organization running schools have contributed to the education of hills because of which the district is presently in the leading position among the rural districts in the state.
So, the role of Education and Educational Institutions in the society is very important. In all the societies, irrespective of caste, sex, creed and religion, the chief aim of education is to impart knowledge to enlighten the society. Education is the important factor in the development of any community and it may influence productivity and economy. Thus, Indira Gandhi once said, “Education is a liberating force, and in our age it is also a democratizing force, cutting across the barriers of caste and class, smoothing out inequalities imposed by birth and other circumstances”.
Thus, the British have left with us their own educational legacy. Though, there was negative impact on educational institutions in the eighties of the 19th Century (as a result of the agitation), we can notice an awakening and growing interest for education beginning to take new routes, be it in the mushrooming of Primary Schools, or in the growing demand for higher education among the hill students.
Sex-wise Percentage of literates to the Total Population in Darjeeling District in Each Census Decade (1901 to 1951)
YEAR Percentage of literates since 1901
Persons Males Females
1901 6.6 11.1 1.3
1911 9.4 16.1 1.8
1921 10.5 18.0 2.1
1931 10.3 17.5 2.2
1951 18.6 27.9 7.9
[ Source: District Census Handbook, Darjeeling (1961: 52) ]
From the above table, the literacy among males had been increasing except in 1931 and the literacy among females was also increasing but at a slower rate.
The Following table shows the position of the hill region and Darjeeling District in respect of literacy standard against West Bengal and India in 1971 and 1981:
Literacy Ranking among the Hill Region of Darjeeling District, West Bengal and India(1971 and 1981)
India 29.3 36.2
West Bengal 33.0 40.8
Darjeeling District 33.1 42.5
Hill Region 32.3 44.6
The remarkable progress achieved in the field of education of Darjeeling District and its hill region in the post-independence era is due to the fact that the past few decades have witnessed a movement of immense educational expansion and democratization of educational opportunities. Indications are plentiful that policies, plans and programmes at all levels of education have undergone a democratic orientation. Educational facilities are far better than they were before independence. So, the rate of literacy of Darjeeling District and Hill Region was almost equal to the rate of West Bengal and India.
Type of Institution 1999-00 2000-01 2001-02
1. General Recognized Schools 1352 2098 2127
2. Teachers in General Recognized
Schools 6303 11249 11415
3. Teachers in different types of
Special and Non-Formal Educational 6 206 1102
[Source: District Statistical Handbook (2004), Darjeeling].
Number of Institutions, Students and Teachers in the District of Darjeeling (2003-04)
[Source: District Statistical Handbook (2004), Darjeeling]
Percentage of Literacy by Sex in Rural and Urban areas in the district of Darjeeling, 2001.
[Source: Census of India, 2001 and 1991]
So, from the above table, it is revealed that Female and Rural education increased rapidly in the year 2001. However, there is not much increase in the urban literacy. So, with regard to the total literacy rate, the literacy rate of Darjeeling in the year 2001 is 71.8 where in comparison with the literacy rate of Darjeeling in the year 1991, the literacy rate has been increased rapidly.
Libraries, Reading Rooms and Mass Literary centre in the district of Darjeeling.
Year Public Library Free Reading Rooms Mass Literary Centre
1999-2000 128 128 5000
2000-2001 128 128 3795
2001-2002 128 128 --
2002-2003 128 128 7031
2003-2004 128 128 1830
Source: 1) District Library Darjeeling
2) District Social Education Office, Darjeeling and Siliguri.
This table shows that there is not a single increase in number of public libraries and Reading Rooms from 1999-2004 and the more surprising fact is that the number of Mass Literacy Centre decreased from 5000 in 1999 to 1830 in 2004.
News Papers and Periodicals Published in the District of Darjeeling.
[Source: District Information and Cultural Office, Darjeeling].
From the above table, it reveals that the number of newspapers and periodicals has been gradually increasing from 12 in 2000 to 38 in 2004.
Please refer CENSUS 2001
Referring to the above table, the Literacy Rate in Darjeeling has gone up by about 50% since 1951 Census. The comparison between Rural and Urban population since 1951 shows that the Rural population was low in compare to urban population. However, the Rural literacy has gone up in 2001 Census. Further, there was quiet huge disparity in spread of literacy among male and female persons according to 1951 Census. Meanwhile, in 2001 Census, male rural literacy rate is not far behind the urban literacy rate but there seems a huge gap between Rural and Urban female population in 2001 Census. Yet, the literacy rate of Darjeeling is quiet same to the rate of West Bengal.
1) Dr. Dick B. Dewan --- Education in the Darjeeling Hills:
A Historical Survey between 1835-1985.
Indus Publication Company, 1991 New Delhi
2) Discursive Hills: Studies in History, Polity and Economy ---(Ed) Fr. PJ Victor, Prabhat Pradhan, Devika S. Lama and Aniruddha Das.
3) Educational Development of Tribal Women in Darjeeling: An Administrative Study in the context of Social Anthropology. --- Final Report of U.G.C
Research Award submitted by – Dr. Lalan P. Gupta, Dept. of Political Science
St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling.
4) District Statistical Handbook (2004), Darjeeling- Bureau of Applied Economics and Statistics, Government of West Bengal.
5) Census of India, 2001.
6) District Census Handbook, Darjeeling.