Important British Commissions and Committees

06th Aug, 2021

Educational Commissions

(1) Charles Wood Despatch – 1854
  • Objective: Wood’s despatch proposed several recommendations in order to improve the system of education.
  • According to the recommendations, it was declared that the aim of the Government’s policy was the promotion of western education. In his despatch, he emphasized on the education of art, science, philosophy and literature of Europe.
  • In short, the propagation of European knowledge was the motto of the Wood’s Despatch.
  • According to the despatch, for higher education, the chief medium of instruction would be English.
  • However, the significance of the vernacular language was no less emphasized as Wood believed that through the mediums of vernacular language, European knowledge could reach to the masses.
  • Wood’s Despatch also proposed the setting up of several vernacular primary schools in the villages at the lowest stage.
  • Moreover, there should be Anglo-Vernacular high schools and an affiliated college in the district level.
  • Wood’s Despatch recommended a system of grants-in-aid to encourage and foster the private enterprise in the field of education.
  • The grants-in-aid were conditional on the institution employing qualified teachers and maintaining proper standards of teaching.

(2) Hunter Commission – 1882

  • Appointed by: Viceroy Lord Ripon
  • Objective: Hunter Education Commission was a landmark commission with objectives to look into the complaints of the non-implementation of the Wood’s Despatch of 1854; the contemporary status of elementary education in the British territories; and suggests means by which this can be extended and improved.
  • Headed by: Sir William Wilson Hunter
  • He submitted its report in 1882.

Commission suggestions:

  1. There should be two types of education arrangements at the high school level, in which emphasis should be given on giving a vocational and business education and other such literary education should be given, which will help in admission to the university.
  2. Arrangement for emphasis on the importance of education at the primary level and education in local language and useful subjects.
  3. Private efforts should be welcomed in the field of education, but primary education should be given without him.
  4. Control of education at the primary level should be handed over to the district and city boards.

(3) Hunter Commission of 1882 on Primary Education:

  • Primary education should be regarded as the education of the masses. Education should be able to train the people for self-dependence.
  • The medium of instruction in primary education should be the mother tongue. Normal Schools should be established for the training of teachers.
  • The curriculum should include useful subjects like agriculture, elements of natural and physical science and the native method of arithmetic and measurement, etc.
  • The spread of primary education for the tribal and backward people should be the responsibility of the Government.
  • Fees should be an example to students on the basis of their financial difficulties.

(4) Raleigh Commission – 1902

  • Appointed under: Raleigh Commission was appointed under the presidency of Sir Thomas Raleigh on 27 January 1902.
  • Objective: To inquire into the condition and prospects of universities in India and to recommend proposals for improving their constitution and working.
  • Evidently, the Commission was precluded from reporting on primary or secondary education.
  • As a result of the report of the recommendations of the Commission the Indian Universities Act was passed in 1904.
  • The main objective of the Act: to improve the condition of education in India and upgrade the system to a better level

Important changes introduced for the upliftment of University Education:

  1. Universities were empowered to appoint their own staff including the teaching staff.
  2. The number of Fellows of a University was limited within 50 to 100.
  3. The number of elected Fellows was fixed at 20 for the Bombay, Madras and Calcutta Universities and 15 for others.
  4. The Governor-General was now empowered to decide a University’s territorial limits and also affiliation between the universities and colleges.
  5. After the implementation of the provisions of the University Act, though the number of colleges declined, yet the number of students increased considerably.

Government Resolution on Education Policy (1913)

  • In 1906, the progressive state of Baroda introduced compulsory primary education throughout its territories. In its 1913
  • Resolution on Education Policy, the government refused to take up the responsibility of compulsory education, but accepted the policy of removal of illiteracy and urged provincial governments to take early steps to provide free elementary education to the poorer and more backward sections.
Timeline: Vernacular education development in India

(5) Sadler Commission – 1917

  • In 1917, the Calcutta University Commission (Sadler Commission) was appointed by the Government of India under the Chairmanship of Mr. Michel Sadler, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds.


  1. All the teaching resources in the city of Calcutta should be organized so that the Calcutta University may become entirely a teaching university.
  2. A separate teaching and residential university should be established at Dacca.
  3. There was a need for a coordinating agency. Hence an inter-University Board should be set up.
  4. Honors courses should be instituted and they should be distinctly different from the Pass courses.
  5. Full time and salaried Vice-Chancellor should be appointed to be the administrative head of the university.
  6. The Senate and the syndicate should be replaced by the Court and the Executive Council respectively.
  7. Universities should be freed from excessive official control.
  8. Government interference in the academic matters of universities should stop.

(6) Hartog Commission – 1929

  • Sir Philip Joseph Hartog committee was appointed by the British Indian government to survey on the growth of education in India.
  • The Hartog committee (1929), had devoted more attention to mass education than the secondary and University education.
  • The Hartog committee highlighted the problem of wastage and stagnation in education at the primary level.
  • It recommended the policy of consolidation instead of multiplication of schools. The duration of the primary course was to be fixed to four years.
  • It recommended for the improvements in quality, pay, and service conditions of teachers and relating the syllabus and teaching methods to the local environment of villages and locality
  • The Hartog committee on education recommended for the promotion of technical and commercial education by universities to control the problem of unemployment.
  • The recommendation of the Hartog committee of 1929 was an attempt for consolidation and stabilization of education. The Hartog committee of 1929 was seen as a torchbearer of the government’s effort to improve the quality of education.
  • However, these recommendations of Hartog committee of 1929 remained only on paper and could not be implemented due to the great economic depression of 1930-31.

(7) Sargent Plan – 1944

  • The Sargent plan of education came after Sir John Sargent was given the task to prepare a comprehensive scheme of education for India in 1944.


  1. Pre-primary education for children between 3 to 6 years of age. Universal, compulsory and free primary or basic education for all children between the ages 6—11 (junior basic) and 11—14 (senior basic).
  2. High school education for six years for selected children between the years 11—17.
  3. Degree course for three years beginning after the higher secondary examination for selected students
  4. Technical, commercial, agricultural and art education for full time and part-time students, girls schools are to teach domestic science.
  5. The liquidation of adult illiteracy and the development of a public library system in about 20 years.
  6. Full provision for the proper training of teachers.
  7. Educational provision is made for the physically and mentally handicapped children.
  8. The organization of compulsory physical education.
  9. Provision to be made for social and recreational activities.
  10. The creation of employment bureaus.
  11. The creation of the Department of Education in the centre and in the states.
  12. The use of mother tongue is to be used as the medium of instruction in all high schools.

Famine Commissions during British Rule in India

(1) Campbell Commission
  • In 1865-66, a famine engulfed Orissa, Bengal, Bihar, and Madras and took a toll of nearly 20 lakhs of lives with Orissa alone loosing 10 lakh lives, since the famine was most severe in Orissa; it is called the Orissa famine.
  • The Government officers though forewarned took no steps to meet the calamity.
  • The Government adhered to the principles of free trade and the law of demand and supply, the Government did provide employment to the table booked men leaving the work of charitable relief to the voluntary agency.
  • But the famine proved a turning point in the history of Indian famines for it was followed by the appointment of a committee under the chairmanship of Sir George Campbell.

(2) Stratchy Commission

  • It was set up in 1878 under the Chairmanship of Sir Richard Strachey.
  • The commission recommended state interference in food trade in the event of famine. India witnessed another major famine in 1896-97.

(3) Lyall Commission

  • It was constituted in 1897 under the Chairmanship of Sir James Lyall. This commission recommended the development of irrigation facilities.

(4) MacDonnell Commission

  • It was set up in 1900 under the Chairmanship of Sir Anthony (Later Lord) McDonnel to re-evaluate and recommend changes in report of the previous commission, based on the findings of the recent famine.
  • This Commission recommended that the official machinery dealing with a famine must work around the year so that the scarcity of food grains could be controlled well in time.

Law Commission

  • Law Commissions in India have a pre-independence origin. The first Law Commission was formed in 1834 as a result of the Charter Act, 1833 under the chairmanship of TB Macaulay.
  • The first commission’s recommendations resulted in the codification of the penal code and the Criminal Procedure Code.
  • Three other law commissions were constituted before independence by the British government.
  • All four pre-independent law commissions have contributed to the statute books immensely.
  • After independence, the first Law Commission was constituted in 1955 in a continuance of the tradition of bringing law reforms in the country through the medium of law commissions.
  • Second Pre-Independence Law Commission,1853 – Sir John Romilly.
  • Third Pre-Independence Law Commission, 1862- Sir John Romilly.
  • Fourth Pre-Independence Law Commission, 1879 – Dr Whitley Stokes.

Currency Commission

(1) Mansfield Commission by Dufferin in 1886
  • The Indian Currency Committee or Fowler Committee was a government committee appointed by the British-run Government of India on 29 April 1898 to examine the current situation in India.
  • Until 1892, silver was the metal on which Indian currency and coinage had largely been based. In 1892, the Government of India announced its intent to “close Indian mints to silver” and, in 1893, it brought this policy into force.

Other Commissions on Currency:

  1. Fowler Commission by Elgin II in 1898
  2. Babington Smith Commission by Chelmsford in 1919
  3. Hilton Young Commission by Linlithgow in 1926

Other Important Commissions

  1. Scott-Moncrieff Commission (Irrigation) by Curzon in 1901
  2. Fraser Commission (Police Reforms) by Curzon in 1902
  3. Hunter Commission (Punjab Disturbances) by Chelmsford 1919
  4. Butler Commission (Indian States relation with British Crown) by Irwin in 1927
  5. Whiteley Commission (Labour) by Irwin in 1929
  6. Sapru Commission (Unemployment) by Linlithgow in 1935
  7. Chalfield Commission (Army) by Linlighgow 1939
  8. Floud Commission (Tenancy in Bengal) by Linlighgow in 1940

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