Downward Filtration Theory

Downward Filtration Theory is a theory introduced by Lord Macaulay in his famous Macaulay’s Minutes of 1835 which was submitted to then Governor General of  British India for solving some problems related to the educational system in India during those days. Actually Macaulay was assigned the duty of studying the real background of the Oriental- Occidental Controversy which was haunting the whole educational scenario of the period between 1817 and 1833. Britishers had started giving education only since 1813 in which they published a charter act to provide a financial aid of one hundred thousand rupees for indigenous educational institutions. In 1817 another charter act was declared by modifying the amount to two hundred thousand rupees as grant-in-aid system. But the quarrel between two groups i.e. the orientalists and the occidentals created some hurdles before the smooth running of the educational system in the country. The quarrel was in the selection of medium of instruction and the content of the syllabus. This oriental-occidental controversy had to be solved for the effective implementation of modern education in India. The duty was given to Macaulay, a law member of the Governor’s council. He put forth a few recommendations to solve the problem in his historic report called Macaulay’s Minutes of 1835.

One of the recommendation was that there was no need for offering modern education for each and every one in the country. The British government in India could rather accept a sort of theory called Downward Filtration Theory. What is Downward Filtration Theory? The phrase itself gives some hints. According to this theory, by providing education to the elite groups of the society, it will be filtered down to the lower class people in the country.


Downward filtration theory is a theory introduced by Lord Macaulay in his so called  report called Macaulay’s Minutes, which states that giving education to the members  of the higher classes of the society would facilitate an opportunity for the grass root people of the society, too, because the lower class people always tend to imitate and  follow the model of the people of higher status in the society.


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Actually his concept of Downward filtration was something innovative and creative. Downward Filtration Theory shows that Macaulay had some keen observation of human psychology. People always would select anything by looking at those who live in a better circumstance. But he either failed to realise that formal education was not such a thing which could be gained only by imitating others or had a hidden agenda of creating two groups of people in India so that they could rule the country forever by making use of the tricky policy called divide and rule. The later seems to be more realistic. Britishers could extend their colonial rule in India till the end of the first half of 20th century with the support of some elite group of people who had got English education. You may wrinkle your foreheads.Though some great leaders who got modern education inspired the people of India during the time of freedom fighting, it is a fact that Britishers got huge support from most of the well educated Indians, as the newly born English speaking brown coloured folk were so eager to please the real English men. It was the thousands of common folk who really fought against the colonial power by following the instructions and directions of the few leaders who also gained modern education.

Downward Filtration Theory was an utter failure in India. The elite people never wanted their lower class counterparts enjoy what they had already started enjoying. Day by day, the gap between the educated ones and the uneducated was widened. The educated ones started humiliating the common uneducated folk. So Downward filtration Theory caused for the emergence of a modern stratification in the society.By the time of the independence of India, a huge majority of the country were uneducated. This status, actually, made the creators of the Indian Constitution think about including some positive discrimination policies in the constitution.

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About Hathib KK

I am an Assistant Professor of Education in a reputed BEd. College under the title Keyi Sahib Training College in India.

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