Education – Primary education in India

Education in India is provided by the public sector as well as theprivate sector, with control and funding coming from three levels: centralstate, and local. Under various articles of theIndian Constitution, free and compulsory education is provided as a fundamental right to children between the ages of 6 and 14.

Quick facts: Indian Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development …

India has made progress in terms of increasing the primary educationattendance rate and expanding literacyto approximately three-quarters of the population in the 7-10 age group, by 2011.[4] India’s improved education system is often cited as one of the main contributors to its economic development.[5] Much of the progress, especially in higher education and scientific research, has been credited to various public institutions.

At the primary and secondary level, India has a large private school systemcomplementing the government run schools, with 29% of students receiving private education in the 6 to 14 age group.[6] Certain post-secondarytechnical schools are also private. The private education market in India had a revenue of US$450 million in 2008, but is projected to be a US$40 billion market.[7]

As per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012, 96.5% of all rural children between the ages of 6-14 were enrolled in school. This is the fourth annual survey to report enrollment above 96%. Another report from 2013 stated that there were 229 million students enrolled in different accredited urban and rural schools of India, from Class I to XII, representing an increase of 2.3 million students over 2002 total enrollment, and a 19% increase in girl’s enrollment.[8] While quantitatively India is inching closer to universal education, the quality of its education has been questioned particularly in its government run school system. Some of the reasons for the poor quality include absence of around 25 percent of teachers everyday.[9] States of India have introduced tests and education assessment system to identify and improve such schools.[10]

It is important to clarify that while there are private schools in India, they are highly regulated in terms of what they can teach, in what form they can operate (must be a non-profit to run any accredited educational institution) and all other aspects of operation. Hence, the differentiation of government schools and private schools can be misguiding.[11]

In India’s education system, a significant number of seats are reserved underaffirmative action policies for the historically disadvantaged Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes. In universities, colleges, and similar institutions affiliated to the federal government, there is a minimum 50% of reservations applicable to these disadvantaged groups, at the state level it can vary.Maharashtra had 73% reservation in 2014, which is the highest percentage of reservations in India.

The University of Mumbai, established 1857, is one of the three oldest modernstate universities in India.

Education system


Children lining up for school inKochi.

A school bus in Indore

The central and most state boards uniformly follow the “10+2+3” pattern of education.[12]:3 In this pattern, study of 12 years is done in schools or in colleges,[12]:44 and then 3 years of graduation for a bachelor’s degree.[13]The first 10 years is further subdivided into 5 years of primary education, 3 years of upper primary, followed by 2 years of high school.[12]:5 This pattern originated from the recommendation of the Education Commission of 1964–66.[14]

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is the apex body for curriculum related matters for school education in India.[15] The NCERT provides support and technical assistance to a number of schools in India and oversees many aspects of enforcement of education policies.[16]Other curriculum bodies governing school education system are:

  • The state government boards (CISCE). CISCE conducts three examinations, namely, the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE – Class/ Grade 10); The Indian School Certificate (ISC – Class/ Grade 12) and the Certificate in Vocational Education (CVE – Class/Grade 12).
  • The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) conducts two examinations, namely, Secondary Examination and Senior Secondary Examination (All India) and also some courses in Vocational Education.
  • International schools affiliated to theInternational Baccalaureate Programme and/or the Cambridge International Examinations.
  • Islamic Madrasah schools, whose boards are controlled by local state governments, or autonomous, or affiliated with Darul Uloom Deoband.
  • Autonomous schools like Woodstock School, The Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education Puducherry,AurovillePatha Bhavan and Ananda Marga Gurukula.

In addition, NUEPA (National University of Educational Planning and Administration)[17] and NCTE (National Council for Teacher Education) are responsible for the management of the education system and teacher accreditation.[18]

Primary education

Indian School children

The Indian government lays emphasis on primary education, also referred to as elementary education, to children aged 6 to 14 years old.[19] The Indian government has also banned child labor in order to ensure that the children do not enter unsafe working conditions.[19]However, both free education and the ban on child labour are difficult to enforce due to economic disparity and social conditions.[19] 80% of all recognized schools at the elementary stage are government run or supported, making it the largest provider of education in the country.[20]

School children, Mumbai

However, due to a shortage of resources and lack of political will, this system suffers from massive gaps including high pupil to teacher ratios, shortage of infrastructure and poor levels of teacher training. Figures released by the Indian government in 2011 show that there were 5,816,673 elementary school teachers in India.[21] As of March 2012 there were 2,127,000 secondary school teachers in India.[22] Education has also been made free[19] for children for 6 to 14 years of age or up to class VIII under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009.[23]

There have been several efforts to enhance quality made by the government. The District Education Revitalization Programme (DERP) was launched in 1994 with an aim to universalize primary education in India by reforming and vitalizing the existing primary education system.[24] 85% of the DERP was funded by the central government and the remaining 15 percent was funded by the states.[24]The DERP, which had opened 160000 new schools including 84000 alternative education schools delivering alternative education to approximately 3.5 million children, was also supported by UNICEF and other international programmes.[24]

This primary education scheme has also shown a high Gross Enrollment Ratio of 93–95% for the last three years in some states.[24] Significant improvement in staffing and enrollment of girls has also been made as a part of this scheme.[24]The current scheme for universalization of Education for All is the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan which is one of the largest education initiatives in the world. Enrollment has been enhanced, but the levels of quality remain low.


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