Wood’s Despatch - Modern Indian History Notes

In Modern Indian History, Charles Wood’s Despatch had an impact on education in British India as it promoted the use of vernacular languages in the primary schools. For IAS Exam, modern Indian history holds valuable significance as the topic, ‘Wood’s Despatch’ is important from the exam perspective. This article will hence talk in detail about the Wood’s Despatch and aspirants can also get the key takeaway points for UPSC exam that can help them to score well in prelims and mains both.

To complement your preparation for UPSC 2022, check the following links:

Who was Charles Wood and what was Wood’s Despatch?

Charles Wood was the President of the Board of Control (Introduced through Pitt’s India Act, 1784) of English East India Company. He had also been the Secretary of the state of India.  He had a great impact on disseminating education in India.

In 1854 he sent a despatch to Lord Dalhousie, the then Governor-General of India. Wood’s despatch suggested that primary schools must Adopt vernacular languages. Through the despatch, he also suggested that high schools use anglo-vernacular medium and that English should be the medium for college-level education. Hence, the Wood’s Despatch is considered as ‘Magna-Carta’ of English Education in India.

Features of Wood’s Despatch

As the Wood’s Despatch promoted education rejecting the ‘downward filtration theory‘, aspirants should know all the spheres where the despatch had an impact on:

  1. Primary Education
    • Vernacular languages were to be promoted
    • Education Department was to set up in every province
    • At least one government school be opened in every district
    • Systematic method of education
  2. Higher Education
    • Universities on the model of the London university be established in big cities like Bombay, Madras and Calcutta
    • Systematic method of education
  3. Women’s Education
    • Promoted female education on all levels
  4. Hierarchy in education was systemised
    • Primary schools in villages (Bottom)
    • Anglo-Vernacular High Schools
    • Affiliated colleges at district level
    • Affiliating universities in the presidency towns
  5. English Education
    • English was made the medium of instruction for higher studies
  6. Vernacular Education
    • Vernacular languages (spoken by the common masses) to be promoted at primary level
  7. Teachers’ training
    • Promotion and stress on teachers’ training at all levels
  8. Secular Education to be promoted
  9. Grants-in-aid to encourage private enterprise.

Impact of Wood’s Despatch

The following developments were reflected post-Charles Wood’s Despatch:

  1. Bombay, Madras and Calcutta universities were set up in 1857
  2. In all provinces, education departments were set up
  3. Bethune School (founded by J.E.D. Bethune) was started for women education
  4. Agriculture Institute at Pusa (Bihar) and an Engineering Institute at Roorkee were started
  5. British India witnessed rapid westernisation of education system with European headmasters and principals in schools and colleges
  6. Private Indian educators appeared

Key Notes on Wood’s Despatch for UPSC Prelims

IAS aspirants should jot down below-given points to remember these for prelims exam where minor details about the topic is a must to know:

Wood’s Despatch
When was the Wood’s despatch introduced? 1854
What was the motive of Wood’s Despatch? To spread education in India
Was Wood’s Despatch against vernacular languages? No, it in fact promoted vernacular languages
Did Wood’s Despatch deny women the right to education? No, it promoted women education at all levels
Which universities were set up following Wood’s Despatch? Calcutta, Bombay and Madras Universities


Wood’s Despatch is an important topic in modern Indian history for the Civil Services Exam and other government exams. It took modern education in India to a whole new level. This despatch, which was sent to the then Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, contained steps that were suggested to the British authorities in order for the governing body to take education in British India seriously and to the benefit of the Indians.

Aspirants can read other similar topics linked in the table below:

Education System in India during British Rule Charter Act of 1793 Savitribai Phule 
Charter Act 1853 Cabinet Mission 1946 Aitchison Commission

UPSC Preparation:

India Year Book – 5 Things to Know UPSC Calendar 2022
Documents Required for UPSC Exam Language Papers in UPSC – Tips to Study
UPSC Admit Card 2022 IAS Eligibility Criteria


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  1. please give me simple notes of charter act