Walker of Bowland (1764-1831)http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Walker,_A ... 28DNB00%29
Excerpt from Walker of Bowland papers in Dharampal's works:
(Annexure C of this PDF : http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgu ... ultree.pdf
My emphasis added.
The learning of the Malabar is probably more limited than that of the more central people of India; but they are not inattentive to the cultivation of letters. They are particularly anxious and attentive to instruct their children to read and to write. Education with them is an early and an important business in every family. Many of their women are taught to read and write. The Bramans are generally the school masters, but any of the respectable castes may, and often do, practice teaching. The children are instructed without violence, and by a process peculiarly simple. It is the same system which has caused so much heat and controversy, as to the inventors of it, in this country, and the merit of which was due to neither of the claimants.
The system was borrowed from the Bramans and brought from India to Europe. It has been made the foundation of National schools in every enlightened country. Some gratitude is due to a people from whom we have learnt to diffuse among the lower ranks of society instruction by one of the most unerring and economical methods which has ever been invented. The pupils are the monitors of each other, and the characters are traced with a rod, or the finger on the sand. Reading and writing are acquired at the same time, and by the same process. This mode of teaching however is only initial. If the pupil is meant to study the higher branches of learning, he is removed from these primary schools, where the arts of reading, writing and accounts are acquired, and placed under more scientific masters. It is to these elementary schools that the labouring classes in India owe their education. It gives them an access, from the introduction of the system into this part of the world; advantage which the same classes in Europe, only now partially conferred on them a superior share of intelligence and placed them in a situation to perform better all the duties of life.
About 200 years ago, Peter Della Valle published an account of this mode of instruction in Malabar. He wrote from Tkkeri 22nd November 1623.
‘In the meantime,’ he says, ‘while the burthens were getting in order, I entertained myself in the porch of the temple, beholding little boys learning arithmetic after a strange manner, which I will here relate. They were four, and having all taken the same lesson before the master, to get that same by heart, and repeat likewise their former lessons, and not forget them, one of them singing musically with a certain continued tone, (which hath the force of making a deep impression in the memory) recited part of the lesson; as for example, “one by itself makes one”; and whilst he was thus speaking, he writ down the same number, not with any kind of pen, nor in paper, but (not to spend paper in vain) with his finger on the ground, the pavement being for that purpose strewed all over with fine sand; after the first had wrote what he sung, all the rest sung and writ down the same thing together. Then the first boy sung, and writ down another part of the lesson; as, for example, two by itself makes
two, which all the rest repeated in the same manner; and so forward in order. When the pavement was full of figures, they put them out with the hand, and if need were, strewed it with new sand from a little heap which they had before them wherewith to write further. And thus they did as long as exercise continued; in which manner likewise they told one, they learnt to read and write without spoiling paper, pens or ink, which certainly is a pretty way. I asked them, if they happen to forget or be mistaken in any part of the lesson, who corrected and taught them, they being all scholars without the assistance of any master; they answered me, and said true, that it was not possible for all four to forget or mistake in the same part, and that they thus exercised together, to the end, that if one happened to be out, the other might correct him. Indeed a pretty, easy and secure way of learning.’
We are continually reproaching the natives of India with the slow advances they have made in knowledge and their neglect of opportunities to acquire it. There we have an instance of the same neglect in Europeans, who have allowed two centuries to pass after they were acquainted with this invention, before they applied it to any practical use. It was at length introduced into this country without any acknowledgement and it was even claimed as an invention by two individuals who disputed upon the priority of discovery. The Missionaries have now honestly owned that the system upon which these schools are taught was borrowed from India. It has been probably improved by us, but this is the fate of all original conceptions, which commonly make the most rapid advances at second hand.
There are other, more commonly quoted passages from Dharampal. Let there be no doubt that the Indian traditions, prior to destruction by the British, were just as literate, if not more, than Christian Europe.