UPSC MAINS 2019: India’s Educational system

India’s Educational system

Topic: India’s Educational system

Topic in Syllabus: GS Paper 1 : Indian Society


India’s Educational system


Education is the real important factor in human life as it is a fundamental to human progress. According to Martin Luther King Jr. “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character that is the goal of true education. “.Education plays a vital role in overall development of an individual and building up a society. Good education today will bring us better tomorrow. As it is said that our future lies in the hands of the present. If we nurture our present education system it will bring us better tomorrow.

India has no dearth of knowledge, but this talent needs to be harnessed and given proper education for our future. The Indian education system consists of both public and private sector finance. The funding and control is done at three levels, local financing, central financing and state financing. In India it is a fundamental rule that people aged between 6 and 14 should have compulsory education.


History of Indian Education System:

The history of Indian education has its roots to the ancient ages where they followed the Gurukul system – a system where the students resided in the house of their teacher until the teacher felt that he has imparted all that he could. The subjects taught varied from Sanskrit to Scriptures to Mathematics to Metaphysics and the knowledge attained would be passed on to the future generations. However, this system was changed during the Colonial era when the British set up schools that followed a curriculum confined to subjects such as Mathematics, Science etc. While the ancient system included more interaction with the nature, the modern system was more classroom oriented.



  • Pre- primary education: This is the level when children are about 3-4 years of age. It is the initial learning stage of individuals.
  • Primary education: This is the stage linking the primary and the elementary level of learning.
  • Elementary education: Elementary level of education is compulsory in India. As it is a fundamental rule that people between age group 6 and 14 should have compulsory education.
  • Secondary education: It is the link between the elementary education and the higher education. This is the education level till class 12th.
  • Higher education: After the completion of secondary level comes the higher education level. This is the under graduate and post graduate.


Facts on Education in India:

  • Less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.
  • A little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade one reach grade eight.
  • At least 35 million children aged 6 – 14 years do not attend school.
  • 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
  • In India, only 53% of habitation has a primary school.
  • In India, only 20% of habitation has a secondary school.
  • On an average an upper primary school is 3 km away in 22% of areas under habitations.
  • In nearly 60% of schools, there are less than two teachers to teach Classes I to V.

Facts on Education

  • On an average, there are less than three teachers per primary school. They have to manage classes from I to V every day.
  • High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.
  • Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
  • 1 in 40, primary school in India is conducted in open spaces or tents.
  • In Andhra Pradesh (South India), 52 upper primary schools were operating without a building in 2002, while in 1993, there were none?
  • In Maharashtra (West India), there were 10 schools operating without a building in 1993, this has climbed to 33 in 2002.
  • More than 50 per cent of girls fail to enroll in school; those that do are likely to drop out by the age of 12.
  • 50% of Indian children aged 6-18 do not go to school.
  • India is the 2nd most populated country in the world with a literacy rate raised to 75% (2016), it has risen from 12% at the time of independence in 1947. But it still is lagging behind the world literacy rate of 84%. To compare with other Nations, India has the largest illiterate population.


Problems with Educational System in India:

Education is very important. No one would argue about the validity of this statement. But good education in various countries is very limited. Most of the time, the scarce resource of a good school education is only available to the few elites of the society. This seems to be especially true in India.

India’s GER is around 6% below the current world average and over 50% below first world countries like the USA and Australia. The government aims to increase this percentage by at least 30 percent before the end of 2020.

Before the government can do so, a great deal of critical analysis needs to be done about the importance of education accompanied by the implementation of new rules and regulations that could make the quality of education in India better.

To start this great revolution, here is an in-depth analysis of what are the fundamental problems with India’s educational system and how they should be changed.

Lack of Hands-on Experience:

  • Every year, a list of the world’s top 200 universities is published. For year 2014-2015, no Indian university made it to this list. This does not mean, however, that the country doesn’t have a good standing. At least 4 universities actually made it to the top 400. The Indian Institute of Science and Punjab University even made it to the top 300. This fact alone is sufficient to ring the alarm bells that India’s higher education system needs desperate changes, to provide students with the competitive edge, that other countries’ education system is providing.
  • The number one thing to note about this is the fact that most universities that offer higher education focus on textbooks and they completely lack in giving students a hands-on experience. It’s common knowledge that a child who does not have much exposure with other children often have difficulties in reaching basic milestones like talking, walking, and many more. But a child that is exposed with adults and other children often have a faster time developing their skills

Lack of Relevant Industry:

  • India, today is known for the service industry. Gone are the days when students wanted to be doctors, engineers, architects and the like. Most of the students of today often end up in the service industry after completing higher education. With the rise of IT industries and BPO companies, Indian graduates usually end up as call center agents because of the high salary. If not in the IT industry, most Indian graduates of higher education often end up in an industry that has nothing to do about what they studied for more than 4 years in the university.
  • In order to encourage students to further their studies and enter higher education, the government should create more industries. If a student knows that there is an opportunity to have a better standard of living by finishing a certain course or degree, the country’s GER will definitely increase as planned.

Short Supply of Educators:

  • To date, there are over 100 million teenagers in India between the ages of 17 to 19. Given the GER of the country, this means that around 19 million students enroll to institutes for a higher education every year. This amount is just 19% GER. This means that there are more than 80 million students who just don’t have access to the opportunity of a higher education even if they wanted to.
  • With the 19 million enrollees, there should be at least 1.9 million the number of teachers. This is if the ideal student-teacher ratio of 10:1 should be followed in the system of education in India. However; the number is very very less.  On an average the higher education classes has student-teacher ratio of 100:1.  In some cases, it’s even more than that.  Acute lack of teachers, doesn’t provide the attention the students’ should be getting and it hampers the education perspective on the whole.  Moreover, out of these enrollees, very very few opt for education based degrees.

Low Quality Institutions:

  • Because of the very short supply of institutions that offer higher education, there seems to be a great increase of low quality institutions popping up like mushrooms over the country. Businessmen and politicians often start colleges that offer higher education because there is a huge demand for education.

No Focus in Building a Personality:

  • Again, the country’s higher education system does not focus on the student but the grade. Most institutions think that academic qualification and certification from a higher education institution is far more important than a building a personality.
  • Most companies, however, would rather have an employee that is flexible and can work through adversities than have an employee that has good grades but no personality to show for. You can ask any HR department personnel and they will all agree to this. Even though their higher education grades are a good indication of a person’s ability, these do not paint the whole picture

Educators not Salaried Enough:

  • The government should also focus on providing great benefits to educators. In fact, most educators are not efficiently trained because the government doesn’t have enough resources to pay trained educators. Moreover; their pay grades are way too less than those of developed countries.  This reason makes most of the students, move away from taking education related jobs or academe.  Till the time the perks associated with teaching are not high, the people associated with the teaching profession will be of mediocre class.

Wrong Medium of Language:

  • Most higher education institutions use English as a medium of teaching. But not all Indians use this language. In fact, most students don’t even understand this language. The system of education in India should first focus on teaching using the mother tongue and move on to English upon higher education.
  • There are countries like the Philippines that are now putting emphasis on teaching in the mother tongue. They only introduce the English language upon entering higher grade levels because they want to first focus on the child’s core skills. This should also be implemented in India in order to empower our youth.

Lack of Skill Sets:

  • Students are not taught any specific skills that will benefit them in finding jobs. There are a lot of industries after graduation, but the companies don’t hire employees without necessary experience. If only universities provide training and skill sets that could help them land jobs, more students will be willing to enroll for higher education.
  • The educational institutions in the country should focus more on providing technical skills development. Instead of concentrating on higher education textbooks, schools should concentrate on providing trainings. Some skill sets that employers look for include computer know-how, decision-making, systems analysis, sales and marketing.

Lack of Proper Infrastructure:

  • Even though there are thousands of small colleges in the country, none of them seem to have the proper infrastructure needed to actually provide positive results. Most of these colleges look like apartment buildings.
  • The government should invest in implementing a good infrastructure for education. This does not mean that the government should build hundreds of schools before 2020. There are various ways to get this job done. For example, the country could actually focus on using today’s technology to provide a higher education. They could make use of the internet to broaden the reach of educational facilities rather than spending more on physical infrastructure.


Improving the quality of school education:

The 21st Century global economy can thrive in an environment that has focus on skills around creativity and imagination, critical thinking and problem solving. Empirical analysis reveals a strong positive relationship between education and economic growth. India has a large population of 30.5 crore (Census 2011), in the school going age of 6-18, which is more than 25% of the total population. India has the full potential to use this demographic dividend to its advantage if the children can be imparted education that prepares them to face the real world with confidence.


  • While children are at the centre of school education, it is the teacher who plays the most critical role in ensuring learning among children. Since inception of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan 19.48 lakh additional teacher posts have been created for elementary classes; appointment of teachers against these posts has resulted in improving the pupil teacher ratio from 42:1 to 24:1
  • Presently 85% of regular teachers in government schools are professionally qualified. In 20 States and UTs, all teachers have the requisite qualifications. Government is taking steps to ensure that over the next 2-3 years all teachers in the remaining 16 States/UTs would be fully qualified.
  • As per the findings of a study done in 2013 by the Ministry, the average teacher attendance was found to be around 83%. This needs to be improved to close to 100%.
  • Need based professional development of teachers working in schools is being taken up under both Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan schemes. Online programmes are also on the anvil to supplement the efforts.

Classroom Processes:

  • These have the strongest association with learning achievement of children, and include classroom management, effective student teacher interactions, and quality of instruction; structured teaching and nature of activities focusing on learning. Ensuring regular attendance of students as well as teachers in the classroom is a pre-condition for the same.
  • The model for improving learning outcomes needs to focus on clearly benchmarking expected learning outcomes for every class and every subject, easily understandable by teachers, school heads and widely disseminated among parents and community; ICT enabled teaching and learning.
  • Recognizing the need for a strong foundation for learning the Government launched Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat in 2014, with a framework emphasising the importance of learning to read with understanding. In order to build an interest and popularizing learning of Mathematics, Science and Technology this government launched the Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan in 2015.
  • Through this initiative schools have an opportunity to be mentored by institutions like the IITs and NITs amongst others.  The recent launch of Atal Innovation Mission and Atal Tinkering Lab would give a fillip to critical analysis, creativity and problem solving among students.

Evaluation and Assessment’:

  • Assessing the learning progress of a student is one of the primary roles of a teacher. Regular and continuous assessments of students in the classroom are meant to provide, feedback to the child and parents, feedback to the teacher, remediation for addressing the learning deficit among children.
  • A robust classroom based learning assessment mechanism can ensure that both the teacher and the student are focussed on learning.

School Effectiveness:

  • For schools to perform effectively, empowerment of the school head is crucial. Government of India has suggested State Governments to take steps to develop a separate cadre of school headmasters. With a full time head teacher in place capacity building can be done in a targeted manner. In order to nurture the leaders for the schools of tomorrow, the National Centre for School Leadership at NUEPA has developed a training package, which is currently being implemented across the country. Plans are afoot to set up Leadership Academies in States that would be able to meet their State needs.
  • Schools need to be continuously assessed in various dimensions so that the need for improvement is internalized. Initiatives like Gunotsav in Gujarat, Pratibha Parv in Madhya Pradesh, Sambalan in Rajasthan and Samiksha in Odisha are good examples.
  • Comprehensive school assessment framework called Shala Siddhi has been developed at the national level by NUEPA and launched in November 2016. This has a component of self-assessment and a third party assessment. The self -assessment will be used by schools to develop and implement their improvement plan.

School Infrastructure

  • Through the interventions under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhymik Shiksha Abhiyan major strides have been taken in provisioning of school infrastructure. Since inception of SSA, school buildings have been added for 2.23 lakh primary and nearly 4 lakh upper primary schools. States, UTs, Central PSUs and private corporate sector responded to the call of the Prime Minister to have a separate functional toilet for girls and boys in every school.
  • Under the Swachh Vidyalaya initiative 4.17 lakh toilets have been constructed. Steps are being taken towards ensuring that the toilets are kept clean, functional and well maintained.

Community Involvement:

  • In such a large and diverse country the key to success is decentralization of decision making and accountability. In case of school education, communities play a vital role in school management through the School Management Committees. So far these committees have been involved in provisioning of inputs like construction of school building etc.
  • Parents and SMC members will need to be aware of the class wise learning goals; efforts like SMC meetings, social audits or gram sabha meetings on school education would need to assess student learning. In order to ensure that moving forward parents and community members can hold schools accountable for their child’s learning, efforts are on to prepare class wise learning goals in easy to understand language and the plan is to display these in the school and also do a wide dissemination.


Schemes for Elementary, Secondary & Higher Education:

Schemes for Elementary Education:

With the formulation of National Policy on Education, India initiated a wide range of programmes for achieving the goal of UEE through several schematic and Programme interventions, such as

  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
  • Mid Day Meal
  • Mahila Samakhya
  • Strengthening for providing quality Education in Madrassas ( SPQEM)

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is implemented as India’s main Programme for universalizing elementary education. Its overall goals include universal access and retention, bridging of gender and social category gaps in education and enhancement of learning levels of children.

Schemes for Secondary Education:

Secondary Education is the most significant stage in the educational hierarchy as it prepares the students for higher education and the world of work. The policy at present is to make secondary education of good quality available, accessible and affordable to all young persons in the age group of 14-18. At present, the following schemes targeted at secondary stage (i.e. class IX to XII) are being implemented in the form of Centrally Sponsored Schemes:

  • Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan
  • Girls Hostel Scheme
  • National Scheme of Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education
  • Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage
  • Scheme of Vocational Education
  • National Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Scheme
  • Scheme for construction and running of Girls’ Hostel for students of secondary and higher secondary schools
  • Scholarship schemes for Minority students
  • National Scholarships

The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) promotes educational development both in quantitative and qualitative terms and makes special efforts to remove disparities and equalize educational opportunities for all students. NCERT acknowledges and appreciates educational brilliance in students through the National Talent Search Scheme. It also seeks to applaud artistic distinction through the Chacha Nehru Scholarships – for artistic and innovative excellence. The National Bal Bhawan has instituted a system of honouring talented children in different age groups in the year 1995 through the Bal Shree scheme.

Schemes for Higher Education:

Higher Education is the shared responsibility of both the Centre and the States. The coordination and determination of standards in institutions is the constitutional obligation of the Central Government. The Central Government provides grants to UGC and establishes Central Universities in the country. Meritorious students, from families with or without necessary means, need an incentive or encouragement to keep on working hard in their studies and go to the next level of education in their academic career. This is where the scholarships and education loans play a crucial role.

Following are some significant fellowship schemes/scholarships awarded by the various institutions:

  • Scheme of Apprenticeship Training
  • National Scholarships
  • Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (Scheme)
  • Junior Research Fellowships for biomedical sciences
  • All India Council for Technical Education Scholarships
  • Department of Science and Technology grants and fellowships
  • DST’s Scholarship Scheme for Women Scientists and Technologists
  • Biotechnology fellowships for doctoral and postdoctoral studies by DBT
  • Scholarships /Awards at Undergraduate & Postgraduate level in various science courses at the University of Delhi
  • Fellowships/Scholarships/Awards by the Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Sports Authority of India promotional schemes
  • Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities – Schemes/Programmes
  • Scholarship Schemes for ST Students by Ministry of Tribal Affairs
  • Post-matric Scholarships for SC /ST students
  • Scholarships for Minority Students


Right to Education:

The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which represents the consequential legislation envisaged under Article 21-A, means that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.

The RTE Act provides for the:

  • Right of children to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school.
  • It clarifies that ‘compulsory education’ means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education to every child in the six to fourteen age group. ‘Free’ means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
  • It makes provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class.
  • It specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authority and parents in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.
  • It lays down the norms and standards relating inter alia to Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school-working days, teacher-working hours.
  • It provides for rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school, rather than just as an average for the State or District or Block, thus ensuring that there is no urban-rural imbalance in teacher postings. It also provides for prohibition of deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.
  • It provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.
  • It prohibits (a) physical punishment and mental harassment; (b) screening procedures for admission of children; (c) capitation fee; (d) private tuition by teachers and (e) running of schools without recognition.



The quantity of India education is okay at the moment, but there are many schools that are simply not good. At any one time there is 25% of the staff missing either through illness or general absence. The Indian government has started testing to see which schools are doing well and which are failing. There is a hope that the state of schools will improve so that students may get a good education no matter which schools they go to. More regulation is needed if all Indian students are going to get a fair chance at a good education.


Sample Question:

Our Education System Is Only Focused On Exams. Knowledge Is Not A Priority, critically evaluate the statement. What is wrong with the education system we follow today in the country? What needs to change in education system?