Early Education system during Colonial Assam
Most important impact of British rule in India was the establishment of educational institutions which led to the complete transformation of India.
The education system in Assam prior to the advent of the British was medieval in character. There were a few number of tols and education was limited only to upper class of the society. Running of the administration did not require much of paperwork and so it was not necessary for the aristocracy to be literate.
When David Scott set up the administration in Assam, he realised that the indegenous institutions must be preserved. But they were not effective. So people were brought from Bengal to work in government offices. Later when Jenkins took over the administration he was alarmed to see the non Assamese people working in the offices. He strongly believed that people of the soil should be trusted and it was the duty of the government to educate and train them. Eventually english medium schools were set up in the districts of Gauhati, Darrang, Nagaon and Bishwanati. Later on James Matthie,the Collector of Gauhati established Anglo-vernacular school. These were primary,secondary and collegiate school.
The Christian missionaries rendered invaluable services in spreading education. The American Baptist Mission was the most famous in the Brahmaputra valley. They set up large number of schools and orphanages. They learnt the local dialect and wrote textbooks and imparted education generally in vernacular language. They also tried to educate the women through the system of ‘zenana’ education.
The scope of education was limited in Assam. If any individual had to pursue further education he had to go to Calcutta. It was only in 1901 that Cotton College was established. Girls were admitted to the college in the year 1929-30. The Earle Law College was established in Guwahati. The John Berry White Medical School was established in 1900. Prince of Wales Technical School was established in Jorhat under the initiative of Jagannath Barua. This was an effort to impart mechanical education. The Gauhati University was established only in 1948.
Had there not been the Christian missionaries education system in Assam would have been lacking far behind. The progress although was slow but one cannot look down into it. All said and done, the emergence of education system did led to the creation of educated middle class elites who with their radical progressive ideas did look beyond the provincial boundaries.