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Education in India

In India, education is the joint responsibility of the centre and the states, but these concerted efforts down the years have not payed the desired dividends, largely due to the lack of political will. Since ages, education in India has been lopsided to say the least.

Education System

On the one hand a section of its educated and highly skilled manpower is highly coveted by west, on the other hand the country has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of illiterates in the world. On the one hand, powered by its IT revolution, India is emerging in the global map as one of the foremost knowledge economies, on the other hand, many of its children are not fortunate enough to get even a basic education; instead they sell their childhood for a pittance as their child labour contributes to the marginal income of their impoverished families.

On the one hand Indian Education system boasts of its IITs, IIMs, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, and XLRI, Jamshedpur, Jawaharlal Nehru University, etc. which have earned their reputation as premier academic centers of the world, on the other hand, according to 2005 Global Education Monitoring Report, every third illiterate person in the world happens to be an Indian.

Right to Education

According to the 2001 census, India's literacy rate is 64.8 percent, with literacy rate for males being 75.3 percent, and the literacy rate for females at 53.7 percent. The adult literacy rate is only 61.3 percent, which is way behind the global average of 81.7 percent. Though the 86th Amendment of the Indian Constitution has made education a fundamental right for all children aged 6-14 years, but still that fundamental right is not accessed by many Indian children, and a major chunk of those getting inducted into elementary education are translated into alarming drop outs. The figures are dismal to say the least. Though India has come a long way from 12.2 percent literacy rate in 1947, or for that matter from 52.2 percent literacy rate in 1991, but still lots of grounds need to be covered before we reach a truly educated India. Some states in India have attained a high degree of literacy, while most have failed in that effort.

Kerala has the unique distinction of achieving 100 percent literacy rate, while on the other end of spectrum there is Bihar, with a dismal 47 percent literacy rate. Overall, the education situation is bleak in most states, despite pockets of quality learning centers, which paradoxically can match the best in the west.

Nearly 60 percent children in India drop out from school by the eighth standard, and 11 percent from the age group of 17-23 have access to higher education. Though the Union Government has decided to spend 5.1 percent of its budget expenditure on education in 2007-08, as compared to 4.1 percent in the previous fiscal, but still it is far from enough. More critical is in which areas the outlay on education is being made. Presently, approximately 97 percent of the Union Government's expenditure on elementary education in India goes in paying teachers' salaries, which leaves very little scope for infrastructure developments in the elementary education sector.

Indian Education Today

Though still by and large, the higher education in India is controlled by the government and is highly subsidized, in the recent years, private sector is making successful forays in the realm of higher Indian education, particularly in professional courses. This development can make, and is already making higher Indian education in engineering, medical, management, etc. unaffordable for many Indian students. However, this leaves government with the option of diverting its focus to the universalization of elementary education in India. It is about time government gives precedence to primary education over higher education in India, which are adding to the educated unemployment in the country on the one hand, and sponsoring brain drain on the other hand. Though a small percentage of India's population can have access to higher education, but in terms of numbers (considering India's population), it is huge, and their supply far exceeds their demand in the job market, despite the recent boom in the services sector.


Though the Union Government has enhanced the allocation on education in India in the current 2007-08 fiscal, over that of the 2006-07 fiscal, by 34.2 percent to reach an impressive figure of Rs.32,352 crore, but unless adequate attention is given to address the issue of primary education, India's education scenario would continue to be lopsided one. And it would be a knowledge economy financed by the multitude of poor illiterates.


Last Updated On: 2011/07/04