Education of Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India. He was also a major persona in the Indian Independence movement. The early education of Jawaharlal Nehru played a major role in his political views and economic policies.

Jawaharlal Nehru was the son of Motilal Nehru. Motilal Nehru was a wealthy barrister by profession. He practiced English law in the colonial Indian courts. The family belonged to the educated genteel class. It was also to a large extent anglicized. Jawaharlal Nehru received primary education under the guidance of an English governess. Young Jawaharlal was taught to converse in English from an early age. He also learnt the appropriate customs of the British Raj.

Motilal Nehru wanted his son to get a proper English education. He wished his son to qualify for and serve the Indian Civil Services or I.C.S. He sent his son Jawaharlal to Harrow, the elite Public school in England. Jawaharlal Nehru was to spend the next six years of his life by studying at the hallowed portals of Harrow and Cambridge.

The young Jawaharlal did not enjoy his schooling at Harrow. He found the school syllabus stifling and the standard of residency conditions unbearable. All students of the school were forced to condition themselves to the daily specter of bathing and washing themselves in cold water. After completing school, Nehru took the University of Cambridge entrance examinations in 1907. The same year, he got admission into the University.

Jawaharlal Nehru studied natural sciences at Cambridge University. His chosen subjects were physics, chemistry and geology. Jawaharlal Nehru was weak in mathematics. For this reason, Physics was later substituted by botany.

The tripos subjects taken up at Cambridge University were not voluntarily chosen by Nehru. He studied the three natural science subjects with only one aim, to pass the Indian Civil Services examination. Nevertheless, Jawaharlal Nehru enjoyed his stay at Cambridge. The liberal atmosphere of the University encouraged him to do a host of non-academic activities. Jawaharlal Nehru passed the final Cambridge degree examinations successfully, where he stood second.

Jawaharlal Nehru joined the Inner Temple for his legal studies in October 1910. This decision, again, was not taken due to Nehru's fascination with the law. The event merely marked a career move as charted by his barrister father Motilal Nehru. Jawaharlal Nehru passed the Bar final examination in 1912. After clearing the examination, he was called to the bar later that year.

Nehru's education years at England fostered in him the Indian nationalist movement. He believed that the colonial English administration willfully discriminated against Indians. This thinking was further fueled by the abrasive attitude of the British Imperial order against Indians. Jawaharlal was attracted by the socialism of the British Fabians. The forte of equality in socialism acted as a magnet for the impressionable Jawaharlal Nehru.

Jawaharlal Nehru was very much influenced by the socialist and liberal political atmosphere prevalent in Europe in those days. The 1900s heralded the culmination of the Western Age of Enlightenment. The atmosphere of liberalism prevalent in that era emphasized the importance of the rights of the individual. It also emphasized on the rights of the equality of opportunity. This liberal viewpoint came to prominence during Nehru's later years. His British sojourn also instilled in him a secular ethos that was far ahead of his time. This moral uprightness would help him to dream of a new India that would accommodate citizens of all religions.

London was a hotbed of political movements in the early part of the 20th century. The student Jawaharlal Nehru liked to visit the cultural attractions of the capital city of the British Empire. He frequented the museums, opera houses and the theaters of London. Nehru was influenced by the deep social cauldron of pre-World War I London. Socialism was one of the prominent influences affecting the English political class at that time.

The early education of Jawaharlal Nehru influenced him in his later life. The influence was clearly visible on the economic policies adopted by the Indian state after its independence in 1947. Nehru clearly favored a more socialist approach when compared to other South Asian economies. The first Prime Minister was clearly thinking about his heady educational period in London when he promulgated the socialist ideology that influenced Indian government of the 1950's. The economy was treated with a mixed control. The Indian government was in control of the primary industries like electricity, mining and heavy engineering workshops.

The socialist leaning of Jawaharlal Nehru was apparent in the land redistribution program announced by the Indian government in the middle of the 20th century. The rural sector was given importance. Nehru correctly thought that since the majority of the Indian population lived in its villages, the rural sector should also get a lion's share of the country's economic resources. Dams were built. Canals were dug. The British education of Nehru is starkly visible in the promotion of fertilizers to increase the crop yield of the land.

The British education of Jawaharlal Nehru is also displayed in the Prime Minister's quest for independent energy sufficiency. Nehru actively promoted the acquiring and development of Nuclear Energy. Hydro-electric power projects were also enthusiastically taken. The License Raj was also his creation.

The License Raj was a unique byproduct of Nehru's combined Social-Liberal philosophy. The License Raj was started with the view to help the Indian industrial sector. The intention led to limited success. Indian industries soon became unprofitable and became globally uncompetitive. The failure of the License Raj led to its gradual scrapping by successive Indian governments from the 1980's.

Jawaharlal Nehru was the epitome of a resurgent India in the middle of the 20th century. He had the best of worlds, a privileged British education and an Indian upbringing. His study at the Harrow School helped him to get a firm grounding of the British cultural ethos. This was further cemented by his attendance at the Trinity College in the University of Cambridge. His stint as a Barrister at the Inner Temple in London helped to hone his already sharp negotiation skills at the bar. This legal training would help him to negotiate the treacherous minefield of pre-independence British politics from 1910 to 1947.

Last Updated on : 10/08/2012