The First English School of Guwahati | Guwahati News

Thursday, 04 March 2021


Guwahati Gyan | The First English School of Guwahati

Barasha Das | February 23, 2021 15:44 hrs

Capt. Francis Jenkins, the Commissioner of British Assam (1834-1861), sent a dispatch to the “Government of India” in 1834 for “taking some active measures to provide instruction for the Assamese youth” and recommended the establishment of schools “to impart English education in four sadar stations — Gauhati, Darrang, Nowgong and Bishnath.” He also collected a sum of Rs 1,740 from the inhabitants of Gauhati with the purpose of setting up an English school in the town.

In 1835, the government, run by the East India Company, approved the proposal and a school was established with 58 students; it was called the Gauhati School. Thus secondary education set its foot in Assam in 1835.

Mr. Singer was the first headmaster of Gauhati School. By 1840, the number of students increased to 340 and donations poured in from different quarters.

Emphasis was given on the study of English. Use of globes, arithmetic with translation and composition were also taught. In 1838, Mr. Robinson was appointed as the new headmaster of Gauhati School, now named as ‘Gauhati Seminary.

Though many schools opened in different parts of Assam thereafter, the standard of education could not reach the desired height. The school in Guwahati also failed to produce the expected results.

The initial euphoria soon vanished and from 1844 onwards there was a steady decline in enrolment in the English classes.

Still, the success stories of some students of the school in the 1860s elated everyone. This included names like Anundoram Barua - the first Assamese to be a member of the Indian Civil Service, Bolinarayan Bora who became a Gilchrist scholar and went to England, Zalinur Ali Ahmed and Sibram Bora - the first two Assamese to enter the Indian Medical Service, Manik Chandra Barua and Abdul Majid.

By mid-1860s, the government decided to raise the status of the school to a collegiate school “for political grounds of endeavouring to train up natives of the province for offices and responsibility and trust.” Officially, the Gauhati School was declared a collegiate school in 1865. Thus classes started in the collegiate section — the first-ever school in the entire northeastern India to achieve this status. 

The new academic session started in 1866. A sum of Rs 12,000 was sanctioned towards the additional expenses of the upgraded section. Some teachers were also brought from outside the province, particularly from other government colleges of different places of British India.

Though the Collegiate School in Guwahati witnessed many ups and downs during the period that followed, the school has the distinction of being the first seat of higher education in the entire region. 

Much later, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the institution was renamed Cotton Collegiate School, when the school began to thrive again.

Its alumni list is quite impressive, comprising many who contributed towards Assam’s socio-cultural and political life. They include Tarun Ram Phookan, Kamal Narayan Chowdhury, Rajen Bora, Bhavani Bhuyan, Hiren Gohain, Anil Goswami, Anupam Ananda Bharali, Amarjyoti Chowdhury, Dipankar Bairagi, Sonmoni Bora and many others. 

(Source: Cotton Collegiate Govt. Higher Secondary School)

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