On July 13th 1830, the Scottish Church College was established by popular Indian religious and social reformer, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Alexander Duff, a Christian missionary in India. The school had a humble beginning with only five students.
Located in Kolkata (then Calcutta), the Scottish Church College is one of the oldest colleges for liberal arts and sciences in India. The history of this college dates back to Alexander Duff, the first foreign missionary from the Church of Scotland to India. Duff received tremendous support from Raja Ram Mohan Roy and the institution was established on July 13th 1830.
In the early 19th century, under the East India Company, English education was prone to suspicion, even though the East India Company supported native languages like Persian, Sanskrit and also helped set up institutions like the Calcutta Madrasah College and the Sanskrit College. Overall, colonial administrators displayed a lack of interest in spreading knowledge in the English language, or in providing opportunities for education and better opportunities to the natives. This is where missionaries like Duff stepped in.
English education in India was then introduced by Thomas Macaulay, who was a British historian and politician. Macaulay’s idea was to create an English education system in the country which would produce a set of anglicized Indians who would serve as intermediaries between the British and the native Indians. It was Macaulay’s desire to have English educated Indians, who would be brown in appearance, but white in taste and thought.
Alexander Duff was a young missionary inspired by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who came to Kolkata (the then Imperial capital) to set up an English-medium institution. Apart from Roy, Duff was also helped by Lord William Bentink, the Governor-General of India. With their combined support, Alexander Duff opened the Scottish Church College using the premises of Feringhi Kamal Bose in Upper Chitpore Road. In 1836, the college was moved to Gorachand Bysack’s house, situated at Garanhatta. On February 23rd 1837, the foundation stone of Scottish Church College was laid by Mr. McFarlon, the Chief-Magistrate of Kolkata. Mr. John Gray and Captain John Thompson of the East India Company designed the building of the college and the construction of the building was completed in 1839.
Raja Ram Mohun Roy, also known as the “Father of Modern India” is best remembered for his efforts towards abolishing Sati and child marriage particularly supported English education in India as he felt it would lead to social reform, rid Indian society of superstition and meaningless rituals and promote a reasoning attitude in young Indians.
Roy helped Duff by organizing the venue for the college and bringing in the first batch of students. Roy also went ahead to pacify the parents and guardians of the students that them reading the King James Bible was not an attempt to convert them to Christianity. Duff was unlike other missionaries and wanted to introduce his students to the best of European religion, science and literature. He was also very selective in hiring teachers for his new institute and made sure he had the right amalgamation of European and Indian teachers who would do justice to both Christian and secular understanding. Duff wanted his teachers to encourage in their students a questioning attitude and rational thinking. With the right vision, Duff established a strong education system in Bengal which succeeded in spreading progressive values across the state. Though Duff wanted to spread English education as far as he could, he realized that it would not be possible until the students mastered their vernacular language first, due to which a lot of emphasis was placed on learning the Bengali language. The Scottish Church College was also one of the earliest institutes to promote women’s education and was co-ed from the beginning.
Till today, the Scottish Church College remains one of the most popular institutes for higher education in Kolkata and has famous alumni, such as Swami Vivekanand, Subhash Chandra Bose, Gopinath Bordoloi, Derek O’Brien, Mithun Chakraborty and Nirad C. Chaudhuri among others.
Also On This Day:
1905: Gandhi opposes the Bengal Partition and supports boycott of British-made goods.
1907: Politician Hari Vishnu Kamat is born.
1913: Industrialist Tulsi Prasad Khaitan is born in Chandi village, Bihar.
1947: The Indian Independence Bill becomes an Act.
1964: Bengal left-arm bowler Utpal Chatterjee is born in Calcutta.