In the beginning of the twentieth century Indian people started realizing that the country needs a nationalistic system of education based on the cultural heritage and tradition of the nation.
At the Calcutta conference of the Congress in 1906, Annie Besant declared that throughout the country a national education should be organised.
The demand for compulsory primary education was strengthened by the fact that the Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaikwad of Boroda had made primary education free and compulsory within the territories of his state.
This attempt inspired Gokhale. So he made proposal for compulsory primary education in 1910.
The Government assured him that the subject would receive careful consideration. Consequently Gokhale withdraw his resolution. Later on, the Government accepted only the last few resolutions of Gokhale. A department of Education was established under the Central Government. The record of the progress of primary education also started to be published by the Government. But the main issue of making primary education free and compulsory remained neglected and unattended by the Government.
Gokhale was aware of the intention of the Government. He made further attempt to draw the attention of the people of India as well as in England towards the condition of education. On 16th March of 1911, Gokhale presented a Bill in the Legislative Council to make a stronger fight against the Government.
Gokhale had raised powerful arguments in support of the Bill. But the Government was not ready to accept the Bill. It was put to vote and was defeated by 38 votes to 13. This did not come as a surprise to Gokhale. He had anticipated the result correctly and earlier in the debate had already expressed the result of the voting in the following words.
“My Lord, I know that my Bill will be thrown out before the day closes. I make no complaint. I shall not even feel depressed. We the present generation of India can only hope to serve our country by our failures. The men and women who will be privileged to serve her by their successes will come later”
Thus the Bill, though defeated, but it was a heroic defeat.
The education department had declared the new policy in the form of Government of India Resolution on February 21, 1913 covering primary, secondary, higher and women education.
Also in united provinces, the Punjab, Assam and central provinces too, the elementary education was introduced widely at a nominal rate of fees.