Education System of India: Its Functions, Drawbacks and Its Contribution

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Why is India still a developing country and what is stopping it from being a developed country? This particular question strikes me every time when I read something about India’s education system. I see India’s education system as a stumbling block towards its objectives of achieving inclusive growth.

Let me inform you about certain startling facts. India is going to experience a paradox of nearly 90 million people joining the workforce but most of them will lack requiste skills and the mindset for productive employment according to a report in DNA. India has about 550 million people under the age of 25 years out of which only 11% are enrolled in tertiary institutions compared to the world average of 23%.

I wouldn’t be laying too much emphasis on the drawbacks of India’s public education system because it has been an issue well debated over in the past and the main flaws have already been pointed out before. I will be focussing on how the education system’s failure is leading to another social issue of income inequality and hence, suggest certain policies to improve India’s education system and reduce inequality.

The really critical aspect of Indian public education system is its low quality. The actual quantity of schooling that children experience and the quality of teaching they receive are extremely insufficient in government schools. A common feature in all government schools is the poor quality of education, with weak infrastructure and inadequate pedagogic attention.

What the government is not realising right now is that education which is a source of human capital can create wide income inequalities. It will be surprising to see how income inequalities are created within the same group of educated people.Let me illustrate this with the help of an example:

Let us take P be an individual who has had no primary or higher education. His human capital is zero and hence it bears no returns. Let Q be an individual who completed his MBA from S.P Jain college and let R be an individual who completed his MBA from IIM Ahmadabad. The average rate of return for an MBA student is 7.5% (hypothetical). Q gets a rate of return of 5% and R gets a rate of return of 10% due to the difference in the reputation and quality of the management school. Let the income of P, Q and R be 1.In a period of 10 years, P will be having the same income as he does not possess human capital. For the same time period Q will earn an income of (1+0.05)^10=1.63 and R will earn an income of (1+0.10)^10=2.59. Now lets see what happens when the rate of return on human capital doubles. Earnings of P will not change since he does not have any human capital. Now Q is going to earn (1+0.10)^10=1.63 and R is going to earn (1+0.20)^10=6.19. Flabbergasting! As soon as return on human capital increases proportionately income inequality increases. With return on human capital doubling, Q’S income increases by 59% and R’s income increases by 139%.

The above example just shows the effect of the quality of human capital n income inequality. So if the government does not improve education system particularly in rural areas the rich will become richer and the poor will get poorer.

Hence, it is imperative for the government to correct the blemishes in India’s education system which will also be a step towards reducing income inequality.

Certain policy measures need to be taken by the government. The basic thrust of government education spending today must surely be to ensure that all children have access to government schools and to raise the quality of education in those schools. One of the ways in which the problem of poor quality of education can be tackled is through common schooling. This essentially means sharing of resources between private and public schools. Shift system is one of the ways through which common schooling can be achieved. The private school can use the resources during the first half of the day and the government school can use it during the second half. It is important to remember that the quality of education is directly linked to the resources available and it is important for the government to improve resource allocation to bring about qualitative changes in the field of education. Common schooling is one of the ways in which government can use limited resources in an efficient way and thus improve resource allocation.

Another reason for poor quality of education is the poor quality of teachers in government schools .Government schools are unable to attract good quality teachers due to inadequate teaching facilities and low salaries. The government currently spends only 3% of its GDP on education which is inadequate and insufficient. To improve the quality of education , the government needs to spend more money from its coffers on education.

Most economists feel that the only panacea to the ills of the public schooling system is the voucher scheme. Under the voucher system, parents are allowed to choose a school for their children and they get full or partial reimbursement for the expenses from the government. But however, the voucher system will further aggravate the problem of poor quality of education in government schools. Such a system will shift resources from government schools to private schools. This will worsen the situation of government schools which are already under-funded. Moreover, if the same amount given as vouchers can be used to build infrastructure in schools then the government can realize economies of scale. For example- The centre for civil society is providing vouchers worth Rs 4000 per annum to 308 girls. This means that the total amount of money given as vouchers is Rs 1232000. If the same amount can be used to construct a school and employ high quality teachers who are paid well then a larger section of the society will enjoy the benefit of education. A school can definitely accommodate a minimum of 1000 students.

I hope government takes certain appropriate policy measures to improve the education system otherwise inequalities are going to be widespread and India’s basic capabilities will remain stunted. Let us strengthen the case for a stronger education system.

Keshav Parthasarathy

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The present day education system in India has come a long way and the age old traditions have undergone a makeover to produce an ecosystem that is evolving every single day.

Initiatives like the Right to Education Act have provided an impetus to growth and progress by laying special emphasis on elementary education in India. Combined with policy changes like making child labour illegal the being government is working ensure that the seeds of education are planted in both the rural and less privileged sub-urban areas of the country though there are a number of pressing challenges at hand that hamper the proliferation.

Key Challenges for the Indian Education System

25% of the Indian population is illiterate.

Only 7% of the population that goes to school managed to graduate and only 15% of those who enrol manage to make it to high school and achieve a place in the higher education system.

A few reasons why education in India is given less importance in some areas are as follows:

  • 80% of schools are managed by the government. Private schools are expensive and out of reach of the poor.
  • More hands to earn remains the mentality amongst many families and therefore little kids are set out to fend for the family over going to school to garner an adequate education, in the most literal sense of the word.
  • Infrastructure facilities at schools across rural areas and in slums dispense very poor quality of education.
  • The teachers are not well qualified and therefore not well paid and therefore are not willing to work hard enough. This has been a classical Catch-22 problem that the government has been trying hard to fight against.

An Overview Of The Levels of Education in India

The type of education systems in India can be classified as:

1) Pre primary education in India: Pre-primary school education in India is not a fundamental right and is divided into two levels – Lower KG ( for children between 3 – 4 years) and Upper KG ( for children between 4 – 5 years).

2) Primary Education in India: This serves as the link between primary school and elementary education. However, not much emphasis is laid on this level by the prevailing education system and policies in this regard continue to exist solely on paper.

3) Elementary Education: The Government has made elementary education compulsory for children between the age group of years 6 and 14.

4) Secondary Education in India: Serves as a link between elementary and higher education in the Indian education setup, which draws a blank again as far as policy is concerned.

5) Higher Education in India: Under graduate and post graduate level: After completion of secondary education, students can choose fields of their interest and pursue undergraduate and then post graduate courses.

Curriculum Bodies

Catering to the largerst population in the world is no easy task and as the annals of beureaucracy dictate, there are more than 15 education boards across the country.

While some of them are regional, the more interesting ones are listed below:

The NCERT – Apex Body for curriculum:

As far as school education and its functions are concerned, the National Council of Educational Research and Training takes care of all curriculum related matters. Various schools in the country seek technical assistance from this body.

State Government Boards: Since 80% of the schools in India are managed by the government, this is the board under which the most children in India get enrolled. The Board of Secondary Education across major states has achieved its objectives of developing various systems.

CBSE: The Central Board of Secondary Education which falls under the purview of the Central Government is a board of education for both public and private schools in India.

ICSE: The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations Board is a non-governmental and private education board for education in India.

NIOS: Established by the Government of India and the Ministry for Human Resource Development in 1989, the National Institute of Schooling Board aims at providing quality education in rural areas in a inexpensive manner.

Cambridge International Exams/IB: International Baccalaureate or Cambridge International Examinations offer international qualifications to students. This is a recent phenomenon in various parts of the country and is mostly offered by upmarket schools and the like.

Islamic Madrasah Schools: These schools may be either controlled by the state government, run autonomously or may be affiliated with the Darul Uloom Deoband that is in the Sahranpur District of Uttar Pradesh.

While there are a number of drawbacks of the education system in India, a number of efforts are being made to create awareness and action for education in India.

Efforts like the Sarva Shisksha Abhiyan aim at making education and good quality of life for today’s children possible by providing community owned school systems. Another indicator of a brighter tomorrow is the Right of Children to free and compulsory education. Large investments in the education system truly make us believe that the children of India will get off the streets and start making education their mainstay for a successful life.

Like with most things we are exposed to today, there are two sides to the education system in India – both good & bad which has made it a subject of many essays and a lot many discourses.

Write your opinions below

  1. Hi Sarthak and everyone else in this site,

    I too want the education system to change and I’ve created an initiative. I’ve created a website where we invite experts and normal citizens like you to divulge your suggestions regarding how the education system can be improved.

    Here’s the website –

    Please visit it and participate in my effort to create a firm decision in changing the education system!

  2. Ya! it’s a worst system and I want to bring change as I too have suffered from this but wants that no more people should be suffered.



  3. informative one…also see education system in india presentatable video…!!

  4. I would like to know more education systems that is undergoing as well as following in current India.

  5. informative, but taking account only of ones economic value looks a little poor conclusion..

  6. the govt. wont tke this step coz its risky to do this.
    if the education is privatised thn the govt. will not be able to stop the parties 4 increasing the fee rates.As the fees wld increase the poor section of the society wld nt be able to afford it.n ther ‘ll be illiteracy.

  7. hey @least dont degrade others in ur lyf dude!!!!!

  8. hi,
    this article was a very informative one.thnkz a lot kashav.thiz helped m 2 prepare 4 ma elocution n back a prize in it
    thknzzzzz a bunch……………….

  9. Lokesh Tripathi , on September 18th, 2010 at 3:46 am Said:

    I m a student doing graduation.I like your article, which was very informative.
    I have got an idea regarding to the revolution in current education system.
    1. There should be only one education system across the country (India).There must be a national eduction board instead of state boards.
    2. Reservation must be avoided at least in education system.
    3. There should be more practical knowledge than bookish knowledge in our education system.
    Your suggestions are awaited.Plz contact me at

  10. we are working on some modification on indian education system externaly as a private body
    after a research of 10 years we have desighn a plateform to initiate. we will be glad if you would like to join us

  11. The syllabus and the curriculum for schools and a colleges in India have always been structured in accordance to the needs of the practical world outside the institutes. The colleges of India always give prior importance to the imparting education to students, which could help them in coping with their jobs in the respective industries. Though, Indian institutes have started giving emphasis on practical training, but still, most of the educational course in India, forms the theoretical part.

  12. Nitika Satya , on July 28th, 2010 at 7:02 am Said:

    I would like to know more about voucher system. WHAT IS IT AND HOW IS IT AFFECTING EDUCATION SYSTEM ?

  13. bhaskar , on June 6th, 2010 at 8:50 am Said:

    I am really confused about the perception of people, if we are breathing and having so much peace around then its because of the govt, it takes time to come up in education sector. pls dont blame govt for everything.

    (1+0.20)^10=6.19 -> this is just gonna matter in the initial stage of the job, Do you think if a guy who does from IIM keeps getting 139% hike even if he dont work, and the guy with 0 human capital still get same salary all his life even if he brings lakhs of profit? Its all upto the individual. would like to hear ur thoughts, pls mail me at

  14. sriram reddy , on April 9th, 2010 at 11:30 pm Said:

    Why is India still a developing country and what is stopping it from being a developed country?

    we are responsible for this. mainly our political system has to change.we need to think awhile while we are nominating a person.we are educated.we should change the system of Indian political. friends think and vote to aright person.and educate the people as much as possible.

  15. Hello,that was a great article. I actually have an idea in mind .Let me know if its worth giving a try:

    Why can’t the education be privatised to 100%? I mean if the government is unable to pay heed to schools then why don’t they let the private parties do it?

  16. Either Keshav doesnt have a clue of B-schools in India or never have entered a corporate to see the salary parities.
    @Keshav: When you write such articles make sure, you do enough research to quote right examples.

  17. your example elaborating the projected earnings of the three differently qualified individuals is intriguing.

    but while mathematically sound, i cannot help but notice that the premise on which you base your assumptions as to what consists human value, do not take into consideration the actions or the inherent potential of the person but are entirely based on the economic value of the label he carries.

    though i must agree that it is within just such a premise, that majority of our human resource is quantified, it need not remain so.
    and accelerated expenditures without systemic changes, prevent just that from happening.

  18. How much money is allocated for education in India and Tamilnadu state? How much money is eaten-up by the authority and middlemen?

  19. How much money is allocated for education in India and Tamilnadu state? How much money is eaten-up by the authority and midlemen?

  20. i need the informaiton about the whole think from 1947 to 2009 how education level in india is increasing day by day and how much people of the india is educated and what is the litrecy rate of the people in india

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