The Bengal National College & School was founded as the outcome of the mass protest against the autocratic rule imposed by the British to ensure sufficient control of the government over the prevailing education system of the country. The British had the intention to create a new class of Indians, who would be Indian in blood and complexion, but western in their outlook and ideas and rule the country with their help.
As a means of spreading western philosophical thought and outlook among the elite in India, the British in Calcutta set up the University of Calcutta in 1861. Practically, they intended to create a so called enlightened class of people from the locals and rule the country with their assistance. To reach the goal, they passed the Universities Act of 1904, which enabled them to reshuffle the Senate and the Syndicate of the Calcutta University by nominating more white members into them. In addition to that, the government also decided to drastically disaffiliate certain new private colleges, which in their estimation were the breeding grounds of the nationalist movement.
These inordinate and insulting measures of the Government added extra fuel to the already ignited national feelings of the educated middle class and sparked a move for alternative systems of education in the country. As the outcome of the huge hue and cry a protest meeting was arranged on 5 November 1905, under the auspices of the Dawn Society of Culture, which was organized by Satish Chandra Mukherjee, to protest against the Report of the Indian Universities Commission, representing the inadequate university education imposed by the Government to fabricate clerks for their benefit. Apart from Satish Chandra, a pioneer in establishing a system of national education in India, the meeting was also addressed by Rabindranath Tagore. Even, Attorney Hirendranath Datta openly urged the students to sever all connections with the Government controlled university.
In continuation of the process, a mass meeting was held at the Field and Academy Club on 9th November. In the meeting it was proposed to establish a National University and a donation of Rupees one lakh was pledged by Subodh Chandra Mullick, for the foundation of the proposed University. Subodh Chandra was an Industrialist and was known for his nationalist attitude. His attitude was highly appreciated and praised by the contemporary great leaders like Bipin Pal, Ramendrasundar Trivedi and Chitta Ranjan Das. However, Subodh Chandra Mullick’s contribution to the nationalist education movement was far greater than the sum he donated. He was committed to establish a nationalist university even before the idea was mooted and he played an important role in designing the institution anonymously. Subsequently, his contribution and generous support of the movement earned him the colloquial title of Raja from his grateful countrymen and he came to be known as Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick.
Immediately after the meeting on 9th November, another huge meeting was organized at Park Street on 16 November 1905 by the Landholders’ Society, which was attended by around 1500 delegates, including Rabindranath Tagore, Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick, Brajendra Kishore Roychowdhury, a patron of Indian classical music and national education of the Indian national movement and Aurobindo Ghosh. Consequently, the National Council of Education, Bengal, alias Jatiyo Siksha Parishad was founded on the 11 March 1905, with Dr. Rashbehari Ghosh, a reputed lawyer, politician, social worker and philanthropist, as the president.
Finally, in a public meeting at the Town Hall on the 14th day of August, the Bengal National College was inaugurated and from the next day, on 15 August 1906, the national institution of education started in a rented house, at 191/1, Bowbazar Street with Sri Aurobindo Ghosh as the first Principal of the college and Sri Satish Chandra Mukherjee as the Honorary Superintendent. The rent of the Building, taken on a lease for one year, was Rupees two hundred per month. Apart from the reputed scholars like Khirode Prasad Vidyabinode, Binay Sarkar, Radhakumud Mukhopadhyay and Sakhram Ganesh Deuskar, who readily agreed to serve the new university, iconic figures like Rabindranath Tagore, Sir Gurudas Bandyopadhyay, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Hirendranath Dutta also agreed to deliver lectures on Literature, Mathematics, Oriental Art and Upanishads respectively Art and Upanishads respectively.
Before the completion of the first year of its inception, the Bengal National College was shifted to 164 & 166 Bowbazar Street in the month of June 1907, due to shortage of space resulted from the regular increasing number of students. The new Building was taken on a lease of five years at a monthly rent of Rupees four hundred and fifty.
In the meantime, another organization, the Society for Promotion of Technical Education in Bengal, was set up by Taraknath Palit, with the objective of spreading technical education among the students of undivided Bengal. Taraknath Palit, a philanthropist and a successful lawyer by profession, was a staunch supporter of nationalism and national development. He was one of the founders of the National Council of India, but left the Council over some disagreements and founded the new organization, with the support and patronage of Manindra Chandra Nandy, Bhupendra Nath Bose, and Dr. Nilratan Sircar. Under the umbrella of the said Society for Promotion of Technical Education in Bengal, the Bengal Technical Institute came into being on 25 July 1906, on a strictly vocational basis.
For the first few years, the two national organizations maintained their separate entity, but soon it became evident that, the mere inclusion of the national feeling of thought and culture in the field of knowledge does not make an ideal and practical system of education and for practical purpose, it is also very much necessary to train the students with technical education. Accordingly, they merged in 1910. The Bengal National College and the Bengal Technical Institution virtually became the two wings of the National Council of Education - one for the humanities and science and the other for the technical education.
Though several national schools were established during this period at different places in undivided Bengal, the spirit did not live long. Gradually, it was felt that, the instruction given to the students in the Bengal National College was only an improved European system, which was not fully Indian or National. Apart from that, the reduction of the spontaneous patriotic emotions among the affluent class, due to the rising inhuman torture by the ruling British and the temptation for a secured future and tension free life among the middle class society, the enrollment in the National Schools declined gradually. Naturally, they failed to survive and by the end of the second decade of the last century the newly founded educational institutions, along with the Bengal National College, were lost forever. However, only the Technical Institution survived, which thrived and flourished with time and finally became the Jadavpur University.