Monday, July 28, 2008

Education System in India: Related Issues and Policy Concerns

1. Policy Evolution

Education is a vital input for human resource development and is essential for economic growth. This has also been corroborated by new economic growth theories. Article 45 of the Constitution of India stipulates that the State shall endeavour to provide within a period of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years. Educational policy and progress have been reviewed in the light of the goal of national development and priorities set from time to time. In its Resolution on the National Policy on Education in 1968, an emphasis on quality improvement and a planned, more equitable expansion of educational facilities and the need to focus on the education of girls was stressed. The task of providing education for all with concrete plans of action gained greater momentum after the drafting of the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986, which got revised in 1992. The World Declaration on Education for All (EFA) paved the way for basic education getting the international attention.

The National Policy on Empowerment of Women 2001 commits that equal access to education for women and girls will be ensured. Special steps shall be taken to eliminate discrimination, universalize education, eradicate illiteracy, create a more gender-sensitive educational system, increase enrolment and retention rates of girls and improve the quality of education to assist life-long learning as well as development of occupation/vocation/technical skills by women. Reducing the gender gap in secondary and higher education would be a center area. Sectoral time targets in existing policies will be achieved, with a special focus on girls and women, particularly those belonging to weaker sections including the Scheduled Castes (SCs) /Scheduled Tribes (STs) /Other Backward Classes (OBCs) /Minorities. Gender sensitive curricula would be developed at all levels of educational system in order to address sex stereotyping as one of the causes of gender discrimination.

Education for All

At a conference of the World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal in April 2004, representatives of 164 countries, including India, adopted the Dakar Framework for Action on Education for All. The Framework identified six goals, which included, inter alia,

(i) expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children;
(ii) ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality;
(iii) ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes;
(iv) achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults;
(v) eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls' full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality;
(vi) improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.

To achieve these goals, the governments, organizations, agencies, groups and associations represented at the World Education Forum pledged to:

(i) mobilize strong national and international political commitment for education for all, develop national action plans and enhance significantly investment in basic education;
(ii) promote EFA policies within a sustainable and well-integrated sector framework clearly linked to poverty elimination and development strategies;
(iii) ensure the engagement and participation of civil society in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of strategies for educational development;
(iv) develop responsive, participatory and accountable systems of educational governance and management;
(v) meet the needs of education systems affected by conflict, national calamities and instability and conduct educational programmes in ways that promote mutual understanding, peace and tolerance, and help to prevent violence and conflict;
(vi) implement integrated strategies for gender equality in education which recognize the need for changes in attitudes, values and practices;
(vii) implement as a matter of urgency education programmes and actions to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic;(viii) create safe, healthy, inclusive and equitably resourced educational environments conducive to excellence in learning with clearly defined levels of achievement for all;
(ix) enhance the status, morale and professionalism of teachers;
(x) harness new information and communication technologies to help achieve EFA goals;
(xi) systematically monitor progress towards EFA goals and strategies at the national, regional and international levels; and
(xii) build on existing mechanisms to accelerate progress towards education for all.

The policy framework for development of education and eradication of illiteracy is laid down in the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986, which had set a goal of expenditure on education at 6 percent of the GDP. As against this target, the combined total expenditure on education by Central and State Governments was 3.74 percent of GDP in 2003-04 (BE), thus showing lack of commitment on the part of the State to attain its objective as enshrined in the National Policy on Education 1986. The share of educational expenditure on elementary education was 56% during the First Five Year Plan, which came down in the subsequent Five Year However, elementary education was given the highest precedence in sub-sectoral allocations (during the Ninth Plan) within the education sector, indicating a strong reiteration of the country’s resolve to achieve the goal of EFA. It can be questioned here whether such an effort would really lead to a situation where India would be producing less of technicians, doctors etc. This can also be an effort towards privatization of higher education, in order to cut government spending. Under the Ninth Plan, the goal was sought to be achieved through several measures, which included:

· Amendment of the Constitution to make elementary education a fundamental right;
· Decentralisation of planning, supervision and management of education through local bodies at the district, block and village levels;
· Social mobilization of local communities for adult literacy through campaigns and for promotion of primary education;
· Convergence of different schemes for UEE (universal elementary education);
· Stronger partnership with non-government organisations and voluntary organisations;
· Advocacy and media campaign for UEE;
· Provision of opportunities for non-formal and alternative education for out of school children in the most backward areas and for unreached segments of the population in response to local needs and demands; and
· Universal participation and retention rather than universal enrolment. The goal of UEE was enlarged to include provision of education of a satisfactory quality to all children.

2. Present Scenario

Gender disaggregated data on literacy rate shows that women have stayed behind men in terms of literacy. Literacy rates for men have increased from 24.95 percent in 1951 to 75.85 percent in 2001. Literacy rate for female have increased from 7.93 percent in 1951 to 54.16 in 2001. India (61.3%) stands behind China (90.9%) and Sri Lanka (92.1%) in terms of adult literacy. Gross enrolment ratios of girls have stayed below boys in the primary, upper primary and elementary level of education. However, enrolment ratio of girls in elementary education has increased from 17.7 % in 1950-51 to 79.3 percent in 2002-03.

There is grossly under-representation of women in the science and technology frontier of education. Pattatucci (1998) documents research that shows that right from childhood women are discouraged from studying science. Parents are more willing to send their sons to studying science and technology in higher education. Girls are encouraged to take up arts and commerce. It is a perceived notion in the society that women are incapable of understanding the language of mathematics. However, the enrolment of women in undergraduate courses in engineering and technology has risen from a meager 0.09% in 1971 to 10.09% in 1991. The proportion of women in total enrolment in pure science subjects in colleges and universities rose from 7.1% in 1950-51 to 34.17% in 1996-97 (Chanana, 2001). However, there is a clear tendency for women as students as well as teachers, to be concentrated in a few faculties and specializations. The options exercised by the students are based on certain qualities (masculine or feminine) that the subjects are seen to hold.


The Public Report on Basic Education (PROBE) is prepared by a team of researchers based at Centre for Development Economics (Delhi School of Economics) and other institutions, and does a detailed survey of the schooling system in north India. The PROBE survey was conducted in late 1996 in 188 randomly-selected villages of states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These four states account for more than half of India's out-of-school children. Aside from surveying all the schooling facilities in the sample villages, the PROBE team interviewed 1,221 households.


The PROBE survey challenges several myths about the causes of educational deprivation in rural India.

Myth No. 1
Elementary education in India is free.

It may well be free, or nearly free, in the restricted sense that admission fees in government schools are negligible. But education is not free in the wider and more relevant sense that it involves no expenditure for the parents. The PROBE survey indicates that north Indian parents spend more than Rs 300 per year (on fees, books, slates, clothes, etc.) to send a child to a government primary school. This is a major financial burden, especially for poor families with several children of school-going age.

Myth No. 2
Indian parents have little interest in education.

The PROBE survey suggests that an overwhelming majority of parents, even those amidst the deprived sections of the population, attach great importance to the education of their children. For instance, 98 per cent of all parents would like their sons to receive at least 8 years of education, and even for girls the corresponding proportion is as high as 63 per cent.

Myth No. 3
Economic dependence on child labour is the main reason why poor families are unable to send their children to school.

PROBE data on the time utilization of children show that out-of-school children only perform two hours of extra work per day, compared with school-going children. Further, the direction of causation does not necessarily run from child labour to non-attendance. In many cases, it is the other way round: dropout children take up productive work (of their own choice or through parental pressure) as a "default occupation".

What averts so many children from going to school? The main problem seems to be that sending a child to school on a regular basis requires a good deal of parental effort (not only due to the significant costs involved but also in terms of the time and attention required to ensure the child's sustained attendance and progress), and that the poor quality of the schooling system often discourages parents from making that effort. The effort required tends to be all the greater for parents from a deprived background. This basic problem is often compounded by other factors such as seasonal dependence on child labour, gender bias in educational priorities, and occasional parental irresponsibility. These aggravating factors, however, should not divert attention from the central problem of the disproportion between expected parental effort and the quality of schooling. First, the schooling infrastructure is inadequate. Second, schools are short of teachers. Third, classroom activity is minimal. Fourth, the stultifying nature of teaching methods and school curricula tends to undermine the motivation of the child. The PROBE survey has found a number of cases of children who were still unable to read or write after several years at school, showing poor quality of teaching application. While the PROBE survey shows a grim picture of the schooling situation in India, there is a sense in which these findings are good news. If child labour or parental motivation were the main obstacles to universal elementary education, the government might have good reasons to feel somewhat powerless. On the other hand, much can be done to reduce the costs of schooling (e.g. by providing school meals), and to improve its quality (e.g. by raising teacher-pupil ratios).

3. Structure of School Education

A uniform structure of school education, the 10+2 system has been adopted by all the States and Union Territories of India. However, within the States and the UTs, there remains variations in the number of classes constituting the Primary, Upper Primary, High and Higher Secondary school stages, age for admission to class I, medium of instruction, public examinations, teaching of Hindi and English, number of working days in a year, academic session, vacation periods, fee structure, compulsory education etc.

Stages of School Education in India

A. The Primary Stage consists of Classes I-V, i.e., of five years duration, in 20 States/UTs namely Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Delhi and Karaikal and Yanam regions of Pondicherry. The primary stage consists of classes I-IV in Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep and Mahe region of Pondicherry.
B. The Middle Stage of education comprises Classes VI-VIII in as many as 18 States.Uts viz., Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Delhi and Karaikal region of Pondicherry; Classes V-VII in Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep and Mahe region of Pondicherry and Classes VI-VII in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Yanam region of Pondicherry. In Nagaland Classes V – VIII constitute the upper primary stage.
C. The Secondary Stage consists of Classes IX-X in 19 States/UTs. Viz., Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan , Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Delhi and Karaikal region of Pondicherry. The High School stage comprises classes VIII to X in 13 States/UTs viz., Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Orissa, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep and Mahe & Yanam regions of Pondicherry. However, the Higher Secondary / Senior Secondary stage of school comprising classes XI-XII (10+2 pattern) is available in all the States/UTs though in some States/UTs these classes are attached to Universities/Colleges.

4. Tenth Plan Objectives

The key issues as per the Tenth Plan would be a greater focus on improving access and reducing disparities by emphasizing the Common School System which it is mandatory for schools in a particular area to take students from low-income families in the neighbourhood. The Plan will also focus on revision of curricula with emphasis on vocationalisation and employment-oriented courses, expansion and diversification of the open learning system, reorganization of teacher training and greater use of new information and communication technologies, particularly computers.

The Commission for Tenth Plan (2002-07) has set itself the target of identifying and designating 25 universities ‘with the potential for excellence’ across the country. These institutions will be ‘funded at a higher level to enable them to attain excellence in teaching and research’, as per the UGC concept paper.

Along with a few hundred colleges, these universities will be given full academic freedom to experiment with the curriculum, introduce innovations in teaching, conduct their own examinations and award joint degrees with affiliating universities. In addition, quality control issues resulted in the creation of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council of India (NAAC) in 1994 with the objective of assessing and grading institutions of Higher Education on a scale from 1 to 5.

The key issues in technical and management education during the Tenth Plan would be to continue to focus on increasing intake; quality of education, including research in technology. Other issue include: faculty development, optimal utilization of resources through networking; development of IT education; modernization of the curriculum; international benchmarking; developing capacity in new and emerging technology areas; strategic planning and management of the technical education system and developing the informal sector.

Measuring Primary Completion

Both the Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goal 2 states that all children should ‘complete’ primary education. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), together with the World Bank, has been developing indicators of primary completion for the purposes of assessing progress towards the international goals. International surveys were conducted in 2004 and 2005 to collect data on the numbers of graduates and drop outs, and other information, such as national concepts of primary graduation in order to develop robust indicators of primary completion.

The UIS survey illustrated that not all countries have the same formal notion of graduation at the primary level as at the secondary level. At the primary level, children may be judged to have been ‘successful’ in completing the cycle because they passed a final exam, because their teacher gave a favourable assessment, or by using other criteria. Automatic promotion from primary to secondary is common, but in some countries selection may occur at the last grade of primary education because of the limited availability of places in lower secondary education. For these reasons, indicators based on graduation should be used as a measure of progression and represent proxies for education outputs.

--Global Education Digest, 2005

Other issues to be dealt in the Tenth Plan would be using technology for the development of Indian languages like the digitalization of manuscripts; upgrading pedagogical skills; preservation of manuscripts and contemporary writing; promoting educational development / mainstreaming of minorities; education in human values.

India’s engagement with UNESCO, international cooperation in the field of education, operationalisation of Educational Exchange Programmes, encouraging Indian education abroad, and development of the Auroville Foundation would get bigger attention during the Tenth Plan.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
The scheme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) evolved from the recommendations of the State Education Ministers’ Conference held in October 1998 to pursue universal elementary education in a mission mode. The scheme of Sarava Shiksha Abhiyan was launchd by the Government of India in 2001.

Goals of SSA are as follows:
· All 6-14 age children in school/ EGS centre/ bridge course by 2003;
· All 6-14 age children complete five year primary education by 2007;
· All 6-14 age children complete eight years of schooling by 2010;
· Focus on elementary education of satisfactory quality with emphasis on education for life;
· Bridge all gender and social category gaps at primary stage by 2007 and at elementary education level by 2010;
· Universal retention by 2010.

A Framework for Understanding Education Quality

Quality in Humanist Tradition

· Standardized, prescribed, externally defined or controlled curricula are rejected. They are seen as undermining the possibilities for learners to construct their own meanings and for educational programmes to remain responsive to individual learners’ circumstances and needs.
· The role of assessment is to give learners information and feedback about the quality of their individual learning. It is integral to the learning process. Self-assessment and peer assessment are welcomed as ways of developing deeper awareness of learning.
· The teacher’s role is more that of facilitator than instructor.
· Social constructivism, while accepting these tenets, emphasizes learning as a process of social practice rather than the result of individual intervention.

Quality in the Behaviourist Tradition

· Standardized, externally defined and controlled curricula, based on prescribed objectives and defined independently of the learner, are endorsed.
· Assessment is seen as an objective measurement of learned behaviour against preset assessment criteria.
· Tests and examinations are considered central features of learning and the main means of planning and delivering rewards and punishments.
· The teacher directs learning, as the expert who controls stimuli and responses. Incremental learning tasks that reinforce desired associations in the mind of the learner are favoured.

Quality in the Critical Tradition

Critical theorists focus on inequality in access to and outcomes of education and on education’s role in legitimizing and reproducing social structures through its transmission of a certain type of knowledge that serves certain social groups. Accordingly, these sociologists and critical pedagogues tend to equate good quality with:
· education that prompts social change;
· a curriculum and teaching methods that encourage critical analysis of social power relations and of ways in which formal knowledge is produced and transmitted;
· active participation by learners in the design of their own learning experience.

Quality in Adult Education Approaches

In the adult education tradition, experience and critical reflection in learning is an important aspect of quality. Radical theorists see learners as socially situated, with the potential to use their experience and learning as a basis for social action and social change.

Quality in the Indigenous Tradition

Challenging dominant Northern ideas about the quality of education, indigenous approaches reassert the importance of education’s relevance to the socio-cultural circumstances of the nation and learner. The following principles are implied:
· Mainstream approaches imported from Europe are not necessarily relevant in very different social and economic circumstances. Assuring relevance implies local design of curriculum content, pedagogies and assessment.
· All learners have rich sources of prior knowledge, accumulated through a variety of experiences, which educators should draw out and nourish.
· Learners should play a role in defining their own curriculum.
· Learning should move beyond the boundaries of the classroom/school through non-formal and lifelong learning activities
---taken from Chapter 1: Understanding Education Quality, Education for All, Global Monitoring Report 2005


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