Education in India – A Comprehensive Analysis

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The Indian education system, for a long time, is faced with the problem of inaccessibility and low-quality education that make Indians unemployable. Due to this, India is not able to use the potential of its human capital. Education is one of the vital tools that help a nation to develop. The government needs to address this issue through proactive involvement for the betterment of all Indian citizens.

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How did it all begin?

  • In ancient times, India followed the Gurukula system of education.
  • This system involved the teacher teaching student many subjects like Sanskrit, Holy Scriptures, mathematics metaphysics, etc., in his home.
  • The student stays in the teacher’s house as long as he wished or until the guru felt he had taught everything he could teach.
  • All learning in Gurukula was closely linked to nature and life and not confined to memorizing information like it is today.
  • The modern school system was brought to India, including the English language, originally by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay in the 1830s.
  • The curriculum was confined to the “modern” subjects such as science and mathematics, and subjects like metaphysics and philosophy were considered unnecessary.
  • Teaching was limited to classrooms and the link with nature was broken, as also the close relationship between the teacher and students.
  • Uttar Pradesh Board of High School and Intermediate Education was the first Board to be established in India in the year 1921.
  • Later, other boards were established in several states.
  • This kind of education system underwent reforms following independence from the British Empire.

What is the structure of India’s schooling system since independence?

The Indian education system consists of the following levels of education:

  • Pre-primary level: 5-6 years of age
  • Primary (elementary) level: 6-14 years of age. It is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution under Article 21A. The elementary education is universalised by Sarva Shikha Abhiyan.
  • Secondary level: 14-18 years of age. The government had extended SSA to secondary education through Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan.
  • Higher Education in India generally has 3 levels: UG, PG and MPhil/Ph.D. The Centrally Sponsored Scheme, Rashtriya Uchhattar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) provides for the strategic funding to higher education institutions throughout the country.

What are the provisions of the Indian Constitution on education?

  • Article 45 in Directive Principles of State Policy stated that the government should provide free and compulsory education to all until the age of 14 within 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution. Since it was not realized, Article 21A was introduced by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002. It made elementary education a fundamental right rather than a directive principle.
  • Article 45 was amended to provide for early childhood care and education to children below the age of 6 years.

Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009:

  • In order to implement Article 21A, the parliament had passed the Right to Education Act.
  • This Act provided necessary legal backing for the implementation of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).
  • SSA is the government programme that provides for the Universalization of Elementary Education in a time-bound manner. It has been operational since 2000-01.

Provisions:

  • Free and compulsory education to all Indian children between 6 to 14 age groups. “Compulsory” here means the government must provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to all Indian children.
  • The non-admitted child must be admitted to an age-appropriate class.
  • As per the Act, the government schools must provide free education to all children and they are managed by School Management Committees (SMCs).
  • The private schools are to admit at least 25% of the children in their schools without a fee.
  • This Act mandates a 25% reservation for the disadvantaged sections of the society that includes the SC and STs, Socially Backward Class and differently-abled.
  • The standards like Pupil-Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, schools’ working days, teacher’s working hours, qualifications and training of the teachers are defined under this Act.
  • The deployment of teachers is rationalised so that there is no urban-rural imbalance.
  • It prohibits the deployment of teachers for non-educational works, other than services like decennial census, elections, and disaster reliefs.
  • It prohibits physical punishment and mental harassment, screen procedures for students’ admission, capitation fee, private tuition by teachers and running of non-recognized schools.
  • This Act also states that the financial and other responsibilities should be shared between the Centre and state governments.
  • It aims to make child free of fear, trauma and anxiety through a system of child-friendly and child-centred learning.
  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2019 removed the clause for “No Detention Policy”.

Criticism:

  • Though the RTE and SSA have increased accessibility to school that had resulted in a high enrolment rate, drop-out rates have increased. Little has been done to address this issue.
  • Adequate importance is not given to PTR.
  • There is a provision in this Act that allows the local authorities to decide on aspects related to the academic calendar. However, this has not been implemented.
  • Since all state holidays are not relevant to all localities, decisions on the academic calendar should be in the hands of the local authorities so that there is an increase in attendance and the local governments can take ownership of the school.
  • There is a difference between urban-rural and rich-poor in education. The RTE students in private schools are forced to pay extra fees because they claim that the government fund is inadequate.
  • Most of the private schools treat RTE as a charity. They feel that the responsibility of universalization of education should be on the government’s hands and not them.
  • The 2019 Amended Act scraps non-detention policy to allow detention for students of class V and VIII if they fail to pass in examinations.
  • The provision of “non-detention policy” under the previous Act stated that the students till class 8 must not be failed in the exams. This was done to reduce the drop-out rate.
  • The amendment was in response to the reducing quality of elementary education.
  • This RTE Act gives more importance to the education of children from the age of 6. The Kothari Commission had recommended the establishment of centres for the development of pre-primary education in all districts.
  • The RTE Act recommends a PTR of 30:1 for primary classes and 35:1 for upper primary classes. The District Information System for Education (DISE) report found that 30% of primary and 15% of the upper primary schools have higher PTRs.
  • Despite the improvement in the Student-Classroom ratio (SCR), India still faces inequality in this context.

How did the modern education system evolve to the present state?

  • As previously mentioned, the British colonial government introduced India’s modern education system.
  • From Macaulay minute to Wood’s dispatch to several commissions like Sadler commission, 1904 Indian education policy etc., has built the foundation for the Indian education system during the colonial period.

Radhakrishnan Committee:

  • In 1948-49, the University Education Commission was set up under Radhakrishnan.
  • It shaped the education system of independent India based on the needs and aspirations of the newly-formed independent nation.
  • It projected out the value system of the Indian Education System.
  • Previously, the education system was only favouring the aspirations of the British government.
  • For example, Macaulayism focused on eliminating indigenous culture through the planned substitution of British culture through education.
  • Independent India’s education system is based on the following values as recommended by the commission:
  • Wisdom and knowledge
  • Aims of the social order
  • Love for higher values of life
  • Training for leadership

Kothari Commission:

  • It gave the basic framework of the Indian education system.
  • It recommended the following:
  • Standardisation of the education system on a 10+2+3 pattern.
  • Pointed out the need to make work experience and social and national service an integral part of education.
  • Linking of colleges with several schools in the neighbourhood.
  • Equal opportunities need to be provided for all to achieve national and social integration.
  • Increase in the expenditure on education from 2.9% of the GDP to 6% by 1985.
  • The banning Neighbourhood school system from separating students based on social or religious differences.
  • A school complex system integrating primary and secondary levels of education.
  • The Establishment of the Indian Education Service.
  • The report by this committee paved the way for National Education Policy, 1968 which became the basis for further development of the Indian education system.

National Education Policy, 1968:

  • It provided for the “radical restructuring” and equalization of educational opportunities to achieve national integration and greater cultural and economic development.
  • It also increased the government’s expenditure on education to 6% of the GDP.
  • It provided for the better qualification and training of the teachers.
  • The three-language formula: The first language should be the mother tongue/regional language. The second language for the Hindi-speaking states should be modern Indian language. If it is non-Hindi speaking states it should be either Hindi or English. As for the third language, it can be either English or modern Indian language for the Hindi-speaking states and non-Hindi Speaking states. Hindi was encouraged in all states to promote a common language for all Indians.

National Educational Policy, 1985:

  • Its objective is to remove differences and to provide equal educational opportunities especially to the marginalised sections of the society.
  • It launched “Operation Blackboard” to improve primary schools across the nation.
  • IGNOU was set up.
  • The “Rural university” model was adopted based on the Gandhian philosophy. This was done to promote economic and social development at the grassroots level in rural India.

T.S.R.Subramanian Committee report:

  • It was entrusted with the task of preparing a new education policy for India.
  • It submitted a report to the government in May 2016.
  • It had suggested numerous measures the government must take to improve education in India.
  • Some of the key recommendations are:
  • Education for children between 4 to 5 age groups must be declared a fundamental right. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is uneven across the states. So all the government schools should have facilities for pre-primary education so that too much reliance is not in private schools.
  • This committee recommended that the “no-detention policy” should be upheld only till class V and not till class VIII.
  • As there is an increase in the teacher shortage, absenteeism and grievances, there is a need for the establishment of an Autonomous Teacher Recruitment Board and 4 years integrated B.Ed. course.
  • There is insufficient integration of Information and Communication Technology and the education sector.
  • This committee recommended the enhancement of the National Skills Qualification Framework.
  • The vocational training courses must be on par with the local opportunities and resources and the formal certification must be equivalent to the conventional education certificates.
  • All India Education Service must be established.
  • National Accreditation Board (NAB) must subsume the existing accreditation bodies.

What is the current state of India’s school education?

The following are the key findings of the latest Annual Status of Education Report, 2018:

Enrolment and Attendance:

  • The overall enrolment of children (age 6-14) has been above 95% since 2017 and the children not enrolled in school have fallen to 3%.
  • The girls’ drop-out: In 2018, the overall proportion of girls in the 11-14 age group out of school has decreased to 4.1% from 10.3% in 2006. Also, in 2008, more than 20% of girls in the 15 to 16 age group were not enrolled in school. In 2018, this figure has dropped to 13.5%.
  • Private school enrolment: In 2016, 30.6% of children age 6-14 enrolled in private school. This is almost the same in 2018 as it stood at 30.9%.
  • Learning Levels:
  • Reading: The percentage of children in Class III who can read Class II levels has increased from 21.6% in 2016 to 27.2% in 2018. In 2018, 50.3% of children from Class V can read at least Class II level text. This figure has increased from 47.9% in 2016. About 73% of all children from Class VIII can read at least Class II level text. This figure remains the same since 2016.
  • Arithmetic: At the national level, in 2018, 28.1% of children from Class III can do at least subtraction. This has not changed much from 27.6% in 2016. For the Class III government school children, this figure stood at 20.3% in 2016 and 20.9% in 2018. The proportion of children from Class V who can do division has increased from 26% in 2016 to 27.8% in 2018. The performance of children from Class VIII who can do basic arithmetic remains unchanged. Currently, about 44% of all children in Class VIII can solve a 3-digit by 1-digit numerical divisions.
  • Teacher and student attendance: At the national level, there is no significant change in the students’ and teachers’ attendance. The average teacher attendance has stood at around 85% and the average students’ attendance hovered around 72% for the past few years in both the primary and upper-primary schools.
  • Facilities: At the all-India level, a substantial improvement is seen in 2018 in the availability of school facilities that are mandated under the RTE Act. The percentage of schools with usable girls’ toilets doubled from 2010, reaching 66.4%. The percentage of schools with books other than textbooks has increased from 62.6% to 74.2% over the same period (from 2010 to 2018).

What are the problems faced by India’s education system?

Very few have higher education:

  • Even after more than 100 years of the implementation of Gokhale Bill, 1911, universal primary education is still not achieved.
  • According to the 2011 Census, about 26% of the Indian population is still illiterate.
  • Currently, half of the population is either illiterate or with only primary education.
  • According to Educational Statistics at a Glance (ESAG) 2018, the measures to provide primary education has produced results across social and gender categories in Gross Enrolment Rate (GER).
  • There is an improvement in the female participation up to the secondary level and the GER for girls is more than the boys.
  • However, the girl’s gross enrolment rate is less than boys at the higher education level.
  • According to the National Sample Survey Office 71st round, 2014, the drop-out rates are high for boys at the secondary level because of the economic activities, lack of interests and financial constraints.
  • Also, the transition rate from secondary school to higher education is very low.

Limited outcomes from education policies:

The reasons for this are as follows:

  • Higher priority is given to tertiary education when it comes to government spending. Though the government expenditure on elementary education is more than tertiary education, the expenditure per student is more in tertiary. Thus, the quality of elementary education is brought under question.
  • The quality of education is poor. 2018 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) pointed out the deficiency in the foundational reading and arithmetic skills. The students are not improving in their higher studies since they are not thorough in the basics.
  • These policies are focused more on implementation rather than outcomes.

Problems with teachers:

  • Limited availability of teachers
  • Corruption in teacher appointment
  • Limitations of teacher training
  • Socio-cultural factors like a cynical attitude towards the teaching profession.
  • There is no accountability for the government teachers as they are guaranteed lifetime job security despite the performance.

The Economic Divide:

  • There is a stark difference between the rich and the poor at all levels of education.
  • The poor children are mostly concentrated in the government schools where the education quality and facility is poor.
  • In contrast, private schools, where the rich children are concentrated, provide a quality education leading to better results.
  • This difference is because there is an unreasonable hike in the private school fee, making them unaffordable for the poor.
  • The SC had once addressed this issue by stating that private schools have the power to increase the school fee. It had stated that a reasonable surplus can be generated by schools for the expansion of the institution. It had also pointed out the need for a balance of autonomy of institutions and measures to prevent commercialisation of education are necessary.
  • The vagueness of this judgement has dampened its outcome.
  • Though there are state laws that cap private school fees, the implementation and litigation problems have made them ineffective.
  • The CAG report had also mentioned the cases of misreporting and mismanagement of the private schools. There is a need for stricter laws, inspections and penalties to address this issue.

Unemployable workforce:

  • The educated youth in India are not employable since they lack the necessary industry-level skills.
  • The Indian education system does not give priority to the basic foundation.
  • Skill development programs cannot succeed without a basic foundation.
  • The government measures to address the unemployment crisis like PMKVY has shown poor results because of this reason.

Issues with Research and Development:

  • Though there is a steady increase in the Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD), as a fraction of the total GDP, it has remained stagnant between 0.6-0.7percent of the GDP for the past 2 decades.
  • The universities play a relatively small role in research in India as there is a disconnection between research institutions and universities.
  • The separation of research from teaching has resulted in a situation wherein the universities have students but lack additional faculty support, while the research institutes have qualified faculty but no young students to undertake research work.
  • India currently spends very little on R&D purposes.
  • Incentives must be provided for private companies and universities to increase their R&D activities.

Low-quality infrastructures and education in government schools:

  • The RTE and SSA have increased the accessibility to government schools.
  • However, the quality of education and infrastructure in these schools is dismal.
  • There is a need for the rationalisation in the number of government schools in a particular area so that quality is given more focus instead of the quantity.
  • Integrated school complexes like Rajasthan’s Adarsh, wherein one school provides classes from I to XII under one principal, is a need of the hour.

What are the recommendations made under the Draft National Education Policy, 2019?

The recommendations made under the Draft NEP, 2019 are as follows:

Early Childhood Care and Education:

  • The Draft Policy recommends the development of a two-par curriculum for all childhood care and education. This will consist of:
  • Guidelines for up to 3-year olds for the parents and teachers and
  • Educational framework for 3 to 8-year-olds.
  • This would be implemented by enhancing and expanding the Anganwadi system and integrating them with the primary schools.

RTE Act:

  • The Draft Policy recommends the extending of the realm of the RTE Act to include early childhood education and secondary school education.

Reforming curriculum:

  • The current curriculum structure of school education must be restructured based on the developmental needs of the students.
  • The Draft Act advocates for the reduction of the curriculum load so that there is only the essential core content.
  • This would give space for holistic discussion and analysis-based learning.

Teachers:

  • The Draft policy suggests the replacement of the existing B.Ed. programme and the setting up of a 4-year integrated B.Ed. program that merges high-quality content, pedagogy, and practical training.
  • Integrated and continuous professional development should be ensured for all subjects.
  • The teachers must complete a minimum of 50 hours of continuous professional development training every year.
  • The draft policy calls for the establishment of the National Research Foundation. This is an autonomous body that aims to fund, monitor and improve the quality of research in India.

National Education Commission:

  • The Draft policy recommends the setting up of a National Education Commission or Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog, as an apex body for education.
  • This is to be headed by the Prime Minister and must be in charge of the development, execution, assessment, and revision of the education on the country in a sustained and continuous manner.

Vocational Training:

  • It suggested the integration of vocational education programmes in all educational institutions (schools, colleges, and universities) in a phased manner for 10 years.

Indian languages:

  • It suggested that the medium of instruction should either be in the vernacular language until Class V and preferably till Class VIII.
  • It called for the flexible implementation of the 3-language formula.

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What can be the way forward?

  • 70% of the students in India study obtain education from government schools. Facilities must be provided in these schools so that the quality of education is on par with the private schools.
  • The government expenditure on education as a whole and not just school education should be increased to at least 6% of the GDP by 2022 from the present 3%. According to the World Bank, the world average is 4.7%.
  • The state governments must take steps to develop a comprehensive mechanism to regulate teacher qualification, absenteeism and learning outcomes.
  • Courses with fixed credits must be introduced and choice must be given to choosing among them. This will allow the students to pick subjects based on their interests.
  • Priority must be given to ensure continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) in order to achieve a defined learning outcome.
  • Remedial classes must be put in place when needed.
  • Guidelines must be provided for the states so the vocational education is given to the students at the school level.
  • Also, vocational education’s syllabus must be rationalized frequently after discussions with all the stakeholders.
  • Life skills and moral values must be inculcated within the school education system so that the students can deal with problems, failures, and stress.

Conclusion

Revamping India’s education system can enable us to solve all of the current problems faced by India. This includes poverty, unemployment, intolerance, etc. The government must take steps to mend the existing lacunae in India’s education system so as to improve the lives of all Indians.

Test Yourself

Critically analyse how India’s education system can be revamped to address the current demands. (250 words).

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