Transition NCEB

Shaping the Dream : Bengal National College to Jadavpur University

“From 14 November 1905 to 14 August 1906 (when Bengal National College was inaugurated) the history of the national education movement is virtually the biography of Satis Mukherjee”, wrote Benoy Kumar Sarkar who played no small role himself in the
historical movement. Satis Mukherjee who had inspired the concept of national education as the spearhead of the Dawn Society, now devoted all his energies to help the National Council organise and execute a three-phase plan of education : literary, scientific and technical.

The Council’s broad-based scheme of studies was to be imparted in three stages: primary, secondary and collegiate. At the primary stage, literary and cientific education was to be given in combination with rudimentary technical education. At the secondary stage also, literary and scientific education was to go hand in hand with “such branches of Technical Education as may be necessary to prepare the student for his intended career in life”. Specialisation was the rule at the collegiate or the proficiency stage and students could take up any course, literary, scientific or technical. The introduction of the “three-dimensional” system and the use of mother tongue as the medium of instructions established the relative superiority of the Council’s scheme of studies over the existing educational systems in India.

The Indian National Congress welcomed the National Education Movement initiated by the National Council. The Bengal Provincial Conference held at Pabna in February 1908 under the chairmanship of Rabindra Nath gave a further impetus to the Council by adopting a resolution moved by Aurobindo Ghose. National Schools were being established or affiliated by the National Council. The Bengal National College had commenced classes on August 15, 1906. The faculty included Aurobindo Ghose, Satis Chandra Mukherjee, Benoy Kumar Sarkar, Radha Kumud Mukherjee, S. G. Deoskar and B. B.

Ranade. Extension lectures were delivered by outstanding personalities such as Rabindra Nath Tagore (Literature), Surendra Nath Banerjee (History), Hirendra Nath Dutta (Philosophy), Peary Mohan Mukherjee (Economics), A. K. Coomaraswami (Art), Gooroo Dass Banerjee (Mathematics) and Ramendra Sundar Trivedi (Science).

In 1910 the National Council gained in strength when it merged with the Society for promotion of Technical Education, which had established the Bengal Technical Institute under the initiative of Tarak Nath Palit. The merger marked a watershed and provided a stimulus to technical education, which had suffered long neglect under the British Government. Engineering studies started emerging as the focal point of the Council’s academic activities. In 1922, the Council, with the active support of Chitta Ranjan Das, acquired from the Calcutta Corporation a hundred bighas of land at Jadavpur. Although the British Government in India refused to recognise the Institute, there was no dearth of recognition abroad. In 1925 the University of Edinburgh granted recognition on its own accord. There were regular interactions with German and American Universities.

In 1924 the National Council had for its President Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray. In 1928 the Bengal Technical Institute, already moved to Jadavpur, was renamed College of Engineering and Technology. It is this College, which came to be popularly known as the Jadavpur Engineering College. In 1944 Dr Bidhan Chandra Ray became the President of the National Council and remained in office till his death in 1962. With independence, the academic excellence of the Council’s College finally gained official recognition. It was agreed that in appreciation of the unique nationalistic and academic aspirations of the National Council, the College of Engineering and Technology should not be brought under the purview of any existing University. In September 1955 the Jadavpur University Bill, elevating the Council’s College to the status of a University, was tabled in the West Bengal State Legislature. Moving the Bill, B. C. Ray, the President of the National Council as well as the Chief Minister of the state, said : “The purpose for which the National Council of Education was started in 1906 was to impart education — literary and scientific as well as technical and professional — on national lines and exclusively under national control, attaching special importance to knowledge of the country, its literature, its history and philosophy and designed to incorporate the best oriental ideals of life and thought with the best assimilable ideals of the West in order to inspire students with a genuine love for and an earnest desire to serve the country.”

Jadavpur University became a reality on 24 December 1955. Dr Triguna Sen, a student, teacher and an active member of the Council all his life, became Rector, later Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University. Five decades of enthusiastic involvement and dedicated efforts of eminent academics helped the infant University grow into a Centre of Excellence. The University is renowned today not simply for its achievements in the fields of science and technology, but also as a leading centre for the social sciences and humanities.