In the early days the indigenous primary schools of Bengal used to teach only Bengali, simple Arithmetic and Sanskrit. The ‘tolls’ or the local small schools run by individuals, imparted lessons in advanced Sanskrit, grammar and literature, theology, logic and metaphysics. But the enlightened Indians of the period, like Raja Rammohun Roy, felt that this process of teaching and learning does not have any practical use and English should be taught to the young generation for interaction with the British businessmen.
In fact, many Hindu parents, while fully comprehending the usefulness of English education, were skeptical in sending their boys to English missionary schools, where they were subjected to considerable religious influence. They felt insecure having seen how the Christian missionaries were tactfully shaking the faith of Hindu boys in the name of imparting higher English education.
During the early nineteenth century there was a distinct intellectual and cultural awakening in the enlightened section of the Bengal Society, known as Bengal Renaissance. The plan of imparting English education by David Hare – one of the most prominent educationists in Bengal – received the general approval of that enlightened society. Immediately, a committee was formed, fund was raised and finally, on a wintry morning of January 20, 1817, a batch of 20 male students hailing from affluent and enlightened Bengali Hindu families of Kolkata, came together at the rented house of Gorachand Basak at 304 Chitpur Road, marking the first working day of Hindu School. Between the year 1817 and 1823, the school had to shift from Basak’s house at Garanhata to the house of Roopchand Roy in Chitpur Road, and thereafter to the house of Firinghi Kamal Bose, at 51 Upper Chitpur Road. Finally, In 1825, with the help of the British Government, a school building was built at the north of Goldighi (now known as College Square) on a plot of land donated by David Hare.
Established in 1817, Hindu school is the oldest western-type school in India and one of the oldest existing schools in Asia. Since the days of the British era, this institution has been nicknamed as the Eton of the East for its academic excellence.
The Hindu College was originally divided into two wings – a school or Pathshala, which used to teach basic English, Bangla, Grammar and Arithmetic to the students under the age of 14, and a college or Mahapathshala for imparting modern subjects to the young adults. At the initial stage the Hindu school was established in 1817, as Hindu College. However, In 1855, the Pathsala part of Hindu College became Hindu School and the Mahapathsala part came to be known as Presidency College (now Presidency University). Therefore, date of establishment of Hindu College is considered as the establishment date of both Hindu school and Presidency College.