Education is the most crucial investment and an essential
element in human resource development. It has always been accorded an
honoured place in every economy. It implies ability of the people to read,
write and understand. It has the fundamental aspects of imparting knowledge,
wisdom and culture. It helps in drawing out the latent potentials and
talents of an individual. A well-defined educational system holds the
key to economic growth, social transformation and modernisational integration
of a country. It develops manpower for different segments of the economy
and is the substrate on which innovation, research and development flourish.
Thus, education helps the country in achieving social, political and economic
goals on national and international levels. It also strongly influences
improvement in health, hygiene, demographic profile, productivity and
quality of life.
Eradication of illiteracy has been one of the major national
concerns of the Government of India since independence. Under the Constitution
of India, initially, education was a State subject , that is, it was the
exclusive responsibility of the States. But, the 42nd Amendment Act of
1976, shifted it from the 'State list' to the 'Concurrent List'. This
step gave both Central and State Governments jurisdiction over it concurrently.
While the role and responsibility of the States in education remained
largely unchanged, the Central Government accepted a larger responsibility
of reinforcing the national and integrated character of education, maintaining
quality and standards for all areas including those of the teaching profession,
as well as studying and monitoring of the educational requirements of
the country. In other words, it aimed at promoting excellence at all levels
of the educational pyramid by developing efficient manpower base, catering
to the needs of research and advanced study as well as looking after the
international aspects of education.
At the Central level, the Ministry
of Human Resource Development is the nodal organisation for dealing
with all the facets relating to education in the country. It consists
of two Departments, namely:- (i) Department
of School Education and Literacy; and (ii) Department
of Higher Education. The former department is concerned with the areas
like universalisation of elementary education, achieving full adult literacy,
meeting increasing demands for secondary education, as well as raising
the quality of education at all levels and improving learner's achievements.
While, the main objectives of the latter department are:-
- Laying down of National Policy on Education and overseeing
- Planned development (including expansion of access and
qualitative improvement) of:- University/ Higher Education and Technical
Education with special attention to disadvantaged groups,like scheduled
castes, scheduled tribes, girls, minorities and disabled persons
- Scholarships to deserving students
- International cooperation in the field of education,
including with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Among the several policy initiatives of the Ministry, the
most notable being the National Policies on Education (NPE), which has
been first formulated in 1968,
then in 1986 and thereafter modified
in 1992. The policy envisages a 'National System of Education' to bring about uniformity in education, making adult education programmes a mass movement as well as providing universal access, retention and quality in elementary education. It gives special emphasis on education of girls, establishment of pace-setting schools like Navodaya Vidyalayas in each district, vocationalisation of secondary education, synthesis of knowledge and inter-disciplinary research in higher education, starting more Open Universities in the States, strengthening of the All India Council of Technical Education, encouraging sports, physical education, Yoga and adoption of an effective evaluation method, etc. In other words, the policy document seeks to improve and expand education in all sectors, including consolidation of technical and professional education; attainment of rightful place for the disadvantaged, linguistic groups and minorities; and elimination of disparities in access.
The Indian educational structure mainly consists of the
three stages, namely:-
- Elementary Education
The 'Elementary Education' system includes the children
between the age group of 6-14 years, studying in classes I-VIII, comprising
of classes I-V (for children of 6-11 years of age) at primary school level
and classes VI-VIII (for children of 11-14 years of age) at upper primary
school stage. It is one of the highest priority areas in the country's
economic development programme, with strong resolve to attain the goal
of education for all. For achieving this, several measures have been undertaken
- Amendment to the Constitution of India making 'Right to
Education' as a fundamental right (under Section 21A), which stipulates
that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children
of the age of six to fourteen years.
- Decentralisation of planning,
supervision and management of education through local bodies.
mobilisation for adult literacy and
- Provision of opportunities for
non-formal and alternative education for out of school children in the
most backward areas or unreached segments of the population.
The major programmes/ schemes taken to bring about quantitative
and qualitative improvement in elementary education are:-
- Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) - is the national programme which has been launched with the following objectives, namely:- (i) all children of 6-14 years of age to be in school/EGS (Education Guarantee Scheme) centre/bridge course; (ii) bridge all gender and social category gaps at primary stage by 2007 and at elementary education level by 2010; (iii) universal retention by 2010; and (iv) focus on elementary education of satisfactory quality with emphasis on education for life. The SSA covers all States and Union Territories (UTs) and reaches out to 19.4 crore children in 12.3 lakh habitations. The achievements up to September 30, 2007, include construction of 1,70,320 school buildings, construction of 7,13,179 additional classrooms, 1,72,381 drinking water facilities, construction of 2,18,075 toilets, supply of free textbooks to 6.64 crore children and appointment of 8.10 lakh teachers besides opening of 1,86,985 (till 31.3.07) new schools.
- Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme - is one of the largest school feeding programme, which has been launched in order to boost univeralisation of primary education as well as improve nutritional status of children at primary stage. Under it, cooked midday meal with a nutritional content of 450 calories and 12 grams protein is served to children studying at primary level in Government, Government-aided and local body schools. While, for children at the upper primary stage, the nutritional value is fixed at 700 calories and 20 grams of protein. Adequate quantities of micro-nutrients like iron, folic acid and vitamin-A are also recommended under the programme. To meet the nutritional norm, the Central Government provides foodgrain @ 100 grams per primary school child/school day and 150 grams per upper primary school child/school day.
- District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) - has been launched as a major initiative to revitalise the primary education covering classes I to V. It adopts a holistic approach to universalise access, retention and improve learning achievement as well as reduce disparities among social groups. DPEP at its peak was operational in 273 districts in 18 States. At present, DPEP is in operation in Odisha and Rajasthan covering 17 districts.
- National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary
:- has been launched to enhance education for girls. It provides for development of a 'model girl child friendly school' in every cluster with more intense community mobilization and supervision of girls enrolment in schools. Under it, 35,252 model schools have been opened in addition to supporting 25,537 Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) centres.
- Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) Scheme:- has been launched for setting up residential schools at upper primary level for girls belonging predominantly to the SC, ST, OBC and minority communities. It provides for a minimum reservation of 75% of the seats for girls of such communities and 25% to girls from families that live below the poverty line.
With the vigorous implementation of the SSA and the MDM Scheme, the number of out of school children has come down to less than 5% of the total population in the age group of 6 to 14 years i.e. from 4.4 crores in 2001-02 to 70 lakhs in 2006. The Gross enrolment ratio (GER) at primary level has increased from 97.82 per cent in 2004-05 to 110.86 per cent in 2006-07. Similarly, for upper primary, it has gone up from 59.17 per cent in 2005-06 to 64.72 per cent in 2006-07.
The 'Secondary Education' plays a very important role in
country's development by serving as a link between the elementary and
higher education. A child's outlook depends a lot on the type of education
he/she receives at the secondary level. Apart from grounding the roots
of education of a child, it is also instrumental in shaping and directing
him/ her to a bright future. Secondary education, which has a 2+2 structure,
starts with classes IX-X leading to higher secondary classes XI-XII. It
prepares young persons in the age group of 14-18 years for entry into
the world of higher education and work.
A host of organisations that support secondary education
under the administrative control of the Ministry are:-
The number of secondary and higher secondary schools has increased from 7,416 in 1950-51 to 1,52,049 in 2004-05. The corresponding increase in total enrolment has been from 1.5 million in 1950-51 to 37.1 million in 2004-05. While, the gross enrolment ratio (GER), which shows total enrolment in secondary stage (IX-XII class) as a proportion of total population in the relevant age-group, has increased steadily from 19.3 per cent in 1990-91 to 39.91 per cent in 2004-05. With rapid scientific and technological changes, the productivity and average earning of a secondary school certificate holder is significantly higher than that of a person who has studied only up to class VIII.
India has one of the largest 'Higher Education' system in the world. Higher/ University education usually covers the students of age group of 18-24 years. There are three principle levels of qualifications within the higher education system in the country. These are: (i) Bachelors / Undergraduate level; (ii) Masters / Post-graduate level; and (iii) Doctoral / Pre-doctoral level. Professional/ Diploma courses are also available at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The enrolment in various courses at all levels in Universities/ colleges and other institutions of higher education in 2005-06 was 11.34 million as compared to 10.50 million in the previous year. Out of this, the number of women students were 4.58 million constituting 40.39 per cent.
Grants Commission (UGC)
has been established as a statutory body of the Government of India through an Act of Parliament for the coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of university/ higher education in India. It not only provides grants-in-aid to Universities and colleges, but also advises Central and State Governments on the measures which are necessary for the development of higher education. The head office of the UGC is located in New Delhi. In order to ensure effective region-wise coverage throughout the country, the UGC has also decentralised its operations by setting up regional centres at Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bhopal, Guwahati and Bangalore. The various objectives of the UGC are:-
- Promoting and coordinating university education.
- Determining and maintaining standards of teaching, examination
and research in universities.
- Framing regulations on minimum standards of education.
- Monitoring developments in the field of collegiate and
- Serving as a vital link between the Union and State governments
and institutions of higher learning, etc.
UGC has 'Professional
' which are responsible for recognition of courses, promotion
of professional institutions and providing grants to undergraduate programmes
and various awards. Some of these are:-
Also, several State Governments have established 'State
Councils of Higher Education' in their respective States. These councils
prepare coordinated programmes for the development of higher education
in the States. They seek to consolidate the efforts and investments of
institutions of higher education. For example:- Andhra
Pradesh State Council for Higher Education
State Higher Education Council
Nadu State Council for Higher Education
At present, there are 24 Central Universities; 251 State Universities; 103 Deemed universities; 5 Institutions established under State legislations and 33 Institutes of national importance established by Central legislations. In addition, there are 20,677 colleges including 2166 women's colleges.
'Adult Education' has been accorded a high value as without
it, illiteracy cannot be completely eradicated from the country. Accordingly,
the National Literacy
has been set up in order to impart functional literacy
to non-literates in the age group of 15-35 years, which is the most productive
age group and constitutes a major segment of the workforce. The Mission
defines literacy as acquiring the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic
and the ability to apply them to one's day-to-day life. Thus, its goal
goes beyond the simple achievement of self-reliance in literacy and numeracy
of functional literacy. The Mission broadly aims to achieve a sustainable
threshold level of 75 per cent literacy rate by 2007. The main programmes
of the Mission include:-
- 'Total Literacy Campaign' which aims to provide
basic education to the non-literates
- 'Post-Literacy Programme' which
aims to reinforce the literacy skills to the neo- literates and
- 'Continuing Education Programme' which aims to provide facilities for
life-long education to the community at large.
Out of total 600 districts in the country, 597 districts have been covered by NLM under adult education programme. At present, around 95 districts are implementing Total Literacy Campaigns, 174 districts Post-Literacy Programmes and 328 districts Continuing Education Programmes.
There is also a scheme of 'Jan
Shikshan Sansthan (JSS)' or 'Institute of People’s Education' which has been launched as a polyvalent or multi-faceted adult education programme aimed at improving the vocational skill and quality of life of its beneficiaries. The objective of the scheme is educational, vocational and occupational development of the socio-economically backward and educationally disadvantaged groups of urban/ rural population, particularly neo-literates, semi-literates, SCs, STs, women and girls, slum dwellers, migrant workers, etc. At present, there are 221 JSSs in the country. They run a number of vocational programmes with varying duration of different skills. About 380 vocational courses are offered by these institutions. The trades/ courses for which training is imparted include cutting, tailoring and dress making; knitting and embroidery; beauty culture and health care; handicrafts; art, drawing and painting; repair of electrical software; etc. About 16.89 lakh persons have benefited through vocational programmes and other activities organized by the JSS during 2006-07.
'Technical Education' is very important for the sound human resource development of the country as it helps to create skilled manpower, enhance industrial productivity and improves the quality of life. It covers courses and programmes in engineering, technology, management, architecture, town planning, pharmacy, applied arts and crafts, hotel management and catering technology. It is broadly classified into three categories, namely, Central Government funded institutions; State Government/State-funded institutions; and Self-financed institutions. In 2007-08, there were 52 Centrally funded institution of technical and science education, besides Apex level Councils like All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Council of Architecture (COA).
Two Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) were established during 2005-06 at Kolkata and Pune, and a third one at Mohali in 2006-07. Two more IISERs have been approved at Bhopal and Thiruvanthapuram during the Eleventh Plan. In order to make technical education more broad-based, the XI plan envisages major expansion in the Centrally funded Technical Education Institutions, such as:- (i) To set up 8 new IITs, of which 4 will be located in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh; (ii) To set up 7 more IIMs, of which Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management has already been set up at Shillong in 2007-08; (iii) To set up 20 new IIITs with focus on application of IT in different specific domain areas; etc.
Hence, over the years, considerable progress has been achieved
in terms of literacy, school enrolment, network of schools and spread
of institutions of higher education including technical education. The
literacy rate has gone up from 18.43 per cent in 1951 to 64.84 per cent
in 2001. According to the Census of India, 2001, the male literacy is
75.26 per cent and female literacy is 53.67 per cent. Efforts are also
being made for revision of curricula with more emphasis on vocalisation
and employment-oriented courses, expansion and diversification of open
learning system, re-organisation of teacher training as well as greater
usage of new information and communication technologies, like computers.
Thus, there exists ample opportunities for growth, diversification and
investment in the education sector. It can be concluded that education
is the ultimate guarantee of achieving national self-reliance on all fronts
in an economy.