Thomas Babington Macaulay's remark that Western learning was superior was received by the natives with reservation because India holds the distinction of having two highly advanced well structured languages Sanskrit and Tamil and many Indian languages evolved from them.
Across India in the past two decades greater emphasis has been placed on the English medium schools and parents want to see to it that their children study at such schools so that it will help them if they go for higher education either in India or abroad. Yet another advantage is, as English is widely spoken globally, there is an ample scope for employment opportunities at the MN companies in India and abroad.
A surprising fact is before the introduction of "The English Education Act" in 1835, the English medium schools were introduced in South India, in particular, parts of Tamil Nadu. In 1619, though the English had a factory in Masulipatnam, now in Andhra, no English school was opened there. Can you make a guess as to who first introduced an English medium school in India?
It was none other than a French Capuchin priest Fr. Ephrem de Nevers. He was a man of affable disposition and loved by everybody around him. The French missionary was a dedicated worker and loved children very much and that ultimately led him to open a public school for them. However, de Nevers took the honor of having started the first English school in India and it functioned right here in Madras (Chennai). The school came up at his priestly quarters in St. Andrews, a Roman Catholic church which he established in 1642 within the prescient of fort St. George, Madras. The French priest got the necessary permission from the English Company to establish the free English school. Besides, he also ran another school and taught Tamil, Portuguese and Latin to the students. Europeans and Indian students were benefited by this school.
After the closure of St. Andrews Church (1658) for political reason by the English company in the wake of the liberation of St. George fort from the French occupation, Fr. de Nevers was given permission in 1658 to build a second church and a school on a land in the place now called George Town. The Capuchin Preacher Pringle in 1673 started the Portuguese and English language free school to cater to the needs of the English, Portuguese, other Europeans and Indian children resident in the Fort. The Council of Fort St. George in 1678 gave a formal recognition and one Ralph Orde became the ‘Schoolmaster’. Later this school was taken over by St. Mary’s and its name changed to St. Mary’s Charity School and functioned under the Rev. William Stevenson, the Chaplain of Ft. St. George from 1715. Thus. this school earlier functioned in North Black Town, Broadway, Chindaripet and finally shifted to the present location in Shenoy Nagar. In 1787, the school was called the Male Orphans’ Asylum and was meant for orphaned children of British soldiers who had died in India. Under the Rev Joseph Carew in 1839, it became St. Mary’s Seminary.
In 1882, it became a second grade college of the University of Madras carrying the name of St. Mary's college. It became St. Mary’s European High School in 1906. After independence, again the name changed to St. George’s Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School.
1954 the name again changed to St. George’s School and Orphanage. By virtue of its continuous existence since 1715 without any break in between, it is considered the oldest English medium school in Asia. It is on a plot of 21 acres of prime land in the heart of Chennai city (Shenoy Nagar) and has a red-colored building made of brick and lime mortar with pillared rooms, stone stairways, wooden windows and partly rusted bell. All these odd architectural features that remain unchanged take us back to a different era. In 2015, this school stepped in colonial history celebrated its the tri-centenary in 2015.