In 1835 the General Committee of Public Interaction submitted a proposal to Lord William Bentinck, asking to establish an institution which would teach English literature and science in major cities such as Dhaka, Patna and many more. After the proposal, a lot of works was put into the planning. Intellectuals of that time went through several meetings with the committee; to see if a government funded school could be possible under the British Raj. In June that year, the government passed this proposal and on July 15 the first government school in Bengal was established. The institution went by the named – Dhaka Collegiate School. Even after 181 years, the school still remains, being the oldest educational institution in Dhaka.
Now located in Loyal Street, Sadarghat; this school was first established a couple of blocks away from the current location. During that time, the school was given the building of a British bungalow, and later moved to its current building which was also used to be an office catered to indigo farming. The school started off with just three teachers; Mr Ridge acting as the headmaster, Paricharan Sarkar and Mr Goon. Rumour has it that Mr Goon, after leaving the school, went through severe depression and lived in isolation for the remaining of his life. The school started with 136 students. The next year, the number increased to 149, including 8 Muslims and 7 Christians. It is said that Brajasundar Mitra, founder of the Brahmo Samaj, Abdul Ali, founder of Maulabhi Bazaar and Armenian Jamindar Harney were among the first few batches of students.
Around 1841, the school developed its college (classes 11 and 12) section. Around the same time Dhaka College was established. This is when the school moved to its new building – the ground floor was allotted for the school section and the upper floor for college. The institution also built a hostel named 'Raj Chandra Hindu Hostel'. The monthly fee was 7.50 taka, including food.
The most fascinating aspects of this school are the stories that surround it. In 1888, Ratamoni Gupta was appointed the principal of the school. “It is said that in the interview he was asked why he would be selected for this job. He replied that he would make the school stand first in the entrance exam or else he would resign,” said Muhammad Abdul Kader, current English teacher of Dhaka Collegiate School. For 8 years under Gupta's headmastership Dhaka Collegiate School stood first. “Ironically on the 9th year, Gupta's son, also a student of the school was taking the exam and after 8 years, the school came in second. Gupta resigned after this incident.”
Many Bengali famous figures studied at the Dhaka Collegiate, including Jagadish Chandra Bose, Bhabatash Dutta, freedom fighter Matiur Rahman, minister Rashed Khan Menon and others. Famous novelist Buddhadev Bose was also a student of this institution. In his book Amar Chelebela, his words act as a painted picture, describing the beauty of Dhaka Collegiate School.
The school now stands with its two buildings, giving a proper contrast of the then and now Dhaka. Even today, there are desks and chairs from the eighteen hundreds, some of which are still used by the students. Gramophones, radios and other vintage equipment are still stacked in the headmaster's shelves. “Unlike others we try to grab on to our glorious past,” says Muhammad Abdul Kader. “We are one of the few schools who had such a magnificent history, and we try our very best to keep up to that reputation.” The school ensures 95 percent pass rate in the board exams.
In the midst of somewhat chaotic Dhaka, the school still has its head held up high. And that makes all the difference.