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Progress in Education Sector Since Independence

Lovey Chaudhary

Pulling itself out from widespread illiteracy, India has managed to bring its education system at par with the global standards. We have made significant progress in the arena of education in the 70 years since independence. The picture in the field of education was completely different in 1947 than now. India has come a long way in terms of its overall literacy rate with more number of universities and educational institutions. In 2001, the literacy rate was 64.8 per cent which has gone up to 73 per cent in 2011. It stood at a paltry 18.33% in 1951. Currently, India's higher education system is the largest in the world enrolling over 70 million students in less than two decades.
Spread of Higher Education
Higher education, once the prerogative of elite, is now easily accessible to a large segment of society. The government established different education commissions in order to address educational challenges and recommend comprehensive policies for education and also for the improvement of the education system in India.
Commissions and Reforms
Central Advisory Board of India decided to set up two commissions, one to deal with university education and the other to deal with secondary education.
i) University education commission (1948)
The first and foremost commission to be appointed in independent India was the University education commission of 1948, under the chairmanship of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, to report on the status of Indian university education, and suggest improvements and extensions that would be desirable to suit the then and future requirements of the nation.
The commission also aimed at creating universities which would provide knowledge and wisdom for an inclusive development of the personality of students. This report proposed the reconstruction of education system in tune with the vision of Indian Constitution.
ii) Mudaliar Commission (1952-53)
The recommendations of Mudaliar commission occupy a very significant place in the development of secondary education in Independent India. It emphasized the need of training Indians in the democratic way of life.Some reforms were introduced in the educational system of the country based on the reports and recommendations, for example, the introduction of Higher Secondary scheme along with Three Year Degree Course and the opening of more and more vocational and technical schools and colleges. Education became the responsibility of both state and central governments.
Kothari Commission
The Mudaliar commission was followed by the appointment of the Indian education commission under the chairmanship of D.S Kothari, popularly known as Kothari commission; it was entrusted with the tasks of dealing with all aspects and sectors of education and to advise the government on the evolution of national system of education.
National Education Policy (1968):  It is in accordance with the recommendations of this commission the National education policy of 1968 was formulated. The most important development in improving the education sector came with National education policy in 1968. It drew out the prospects of education to all sections of the society to accomplish the goal of harmony and integration. It was well promoted use of regional languages in secondary schools for an effective teacher-student relationship. The prominence was given to Hindi as a medium of instruction in schools.
It was viewed that education had the power to work as a popular instrument of social, economic and political change. Educational objectives were rather related to long term national aspirations.Further, Government set up commissions to review the development of the education in modern period particularly since independence and came to the conclusion that Indian education needs a drastic reconstruction, almost a revolution, to realise the constitutional goals and to meet the various problems facing the country.
Draft National Policy on education in 1979, proposed the development of educational system that helped people not only to enhance their knowledge but also academic skills. A paradigm shift was taking place in the methodology of government.
The core focus was drawn on building awareness for morals and ethics among students so they could develop a good personality and become worthy citizens. It was suggested that a good educational system that reinforces the constitutional values must be implemented.
National Policy of Education (1986)
National Policy of Education, 1986 stressed on the provisions for fellowships of the poor, imparting adult education, reorientation of the whole system to promote gender equality, recruiting teachers from oppressed groups, the physically and mentally handicapped and for the areas which need special attention and also developing new schools and colleges.
All these policy initiatives after Independence led to appreciable results in all areas such as Enrolments, Increase in Expenditureon Education, Growth in Literacy Rate and Universalization of Education etc.
It is notable that the country now has comprises more than 1.5 million schools with over 260 million students enrolled and about 751 universities and 35,539 colleges as opposed to a pathetic situation in 1947, when we had only 19 universities and 400 colleges. India of 1947 constituted only 5000 secondary schools.
Growth  in  Enrolment:  It is also worth mentioning that the number of primary schools increased by more than 230 per cent between 1951 and 1980. The percentage of the primary school-age population attending classes, the number of middle and high schools and teachers registered the steepest rates of growth in 1980.   In 1981 there were 664700 schools against 230700 in 1951, it indicated the increase of 65% in the total number of schools within the 30 years, and after 20 years (2011) it levitated to 1396331.In the matter of Upper-Primary in 1981 there were 118600 schools against 13600 in 1951, India achieved the absolute increase of 105000 (88%) schools within 30 years and in 2011 the total number of same schools sprang up to 447600 with an absolute increase of 329000 schools.
Expenditure on education has seen multiple increases since Independence. As per the official data released by the HRD Ministry, expenditure on education by education and other departments was mere Rs. 64.46 crore in the year 1951-52, a meager 0.64 % of the GDP which increased to a total of over Rs. 4,65000 crore in 2013-14 which was 4.13 % of the GDP.
Growth in Literacy Rate
India reached the highest growth rate of 15.52% in literacy in 1991 due to the implementation of New Education Policy 1986, which provided maximum possibilities to get cent percent literacy in the country. About 360,000 students enrolled in colleges and universities in the year of 1951-52; the number had considerably climbed to nearly 4 million by 1990-91. Enrolment has continued to rise steadily. 
The education sector in India is composed to witness foremost growth in the years to come as India will have world's largest Tertiary-age population and second-largest graduate talent pipeline globally by the end of 2020.
After an array of committees and commission set up, Indian education system was on its way to a greater transformation, with a focus on quality enhancement. It intended to develop moral values among students and bringing education closer to life. But what was essential was a gallant and firm effort on the part of all concerned-rulers, administrators, teachers, students, and society to make education more meaningful and purposeful. However, in the absence of such strength, education in India fell short to serve as a catalyst of human social development.
It also highlighted effective universalization of elementary education, eradication of illiteracy and skill development in the 15-35 age group, nationalization of education and preparation of the manpower needed for the developmental needs, improvement in quality at all levels and scientific and technological research. The implementation of the policy was to be reviewed after every five years.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (2001)
The Government launched the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in 2001 to ensure education for the children from 6 to 14 years. Prior to that, it had launched an effective initiative - Sponsored District Education Programme, which augmented the number of schools across the country. In a bid to attract children to schools, especially in the rural areas, the government also started implementing the mid-day meals program in 1995.
Then, the Planning Commission of India stressed on the Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) to make education system beneficial to the nation. The provision of proper infrastructure and number of trained staff was ascertained and publicized by states in 2008, through the local Panchayat.
The central government ran and espoused about 1,000 central schools for children of central government employees in the era after independence. Similarly, some of the other path breaking initiatives taken by government in 2017 include the Union Budget 2017-18 which  has pegged an outlay of Rs 79,685.95 crore (US$ 11.952 billion) for the education sector for the financial year 2017-18, up from Rs 72,394 crore (US$ 10.859 billion) in 2016-17-a 9.9 per cent rise.
Recent Initiative
The Government has now allocated around Rs17,000 crore (US$ 2.55 billion) towards skilling, employment generation, and providing livelihood to millions of youth, in order to boost the Skill India Mission. Also, this is little more than 8 per cent increase in education sector budget allocation compared to the last budget. However, looking at the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission with an increased salary burden, the education budget may come out as the same like last year. This year, the Finance Minister has allocated 3.711 per cent to education sector compared to 3.653 per cent of the last budget.
It has also approved an all-time record of over 4,000 post-graduation (PG) medical seats to be added in various medical colleges and hospitals for the academic session 2017-18. It has as well approved the proposal to open 50 new Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) under Civil/ Defence sector in the country requiring an investment of Rs 1,160 crore (US$ 180.11 million).
Moreover, The Government of India and the World Bank have signed a US$ 201.50 million International Development Association (IDA) credit agreement for the Third Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP III), aimed at improving the efficiency, quality, and equity of engineering education across several focus states.
Certainly, the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP), the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS), the Teacher Education Scheme (TES) and the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme (KGBVS) have worked well in the country and they are still working well in many States. The number of children attracted to primary school education has grown by leaps and bounds, although the number of dropouts on the way is still high. These schemes have met, no doubt, the massive needs of millions of children requiring primary education. Primary education is now available to children in villages within 1 to 2 kms.
Quoting from a Planning Commission document, "the number of habitations that had a primary school within a distance of one kilometer was 10.71 lakh (87 percent) and the number of habitations that had an upper primary school within a distance of 3 km was 9.61 lakh (78 percent)." There are only one lakh habitations yet to be covered for primary (Standards 1-5, Age 6-11 years) and upper primary schools (Standards 6-8; Age
7-14 years) according to the same document.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE), is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted on 4 August 2009, which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India under Article 21a of the Indian Constitution. India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child when the Act came into force on 1 April 2010.
 The Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools. It requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats to children (to be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan). 
Roadmap ahead
Various other government initiatives are being proposed and adopted to boost the growth of distance education market, besides focusing on new education techniques, such as E-learning and M-learning.
The education sector has seen a host of reforms and improved financial outlays in recent years that could possibly transform the nation into a knowledge haven. With human resource increasingly gaining significance in the overall development of the country, development of education infrastructure is expected to remain the key focus in the current decade. In this scenario, infrastructure investment in the education sector is likely to see a considerable increase in the current decade.
There are close to 650 districts in India and each district has approximately 2 million population equivalent to the total population of some countries in the West. In fact, some states of India have populations exceeding the combined populations of countries like Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands. Therefore our planning and priorities of education should be totally different from those of the Western countries. But it is important that India is trying its best to provide the growing number of children the infrastructure essential for pre-primary and primary education.
Despite all such problems, Indian education scenario embracing all sectors is one of great and gigantic expansion and it is certainly on the upward swing. The steps taken by various agencies such as the UGC, the AICTE, the IMC, etc., and the various educational bodies such as NCERT, SCERT, CBSE and the private professional bodies and management associations will certainly bear fruit in the long run and make India a Knowledge Society and an attractive educational destination for today's globalized world. Let us conclude this article with the observation made by the UNESCO three decades ago: 'Education is the planned process of inducing those attitudes and transmitting those skills that are essential for local, regional and national development. Social change with economic and political change is most essential to all countries, especially developing countries that are yet to bring about fundamental changes for the fulfillment of the basic needs of all sections of their people.' Let us hope that the commendable overall development made by India in all sectors of education during the past 65 years will be augmented further in the years to come.
Let us wish that we go farther and farther only to augment developments in the years to come. The ripening of education is a continuum that pleats its past history into a breathing stream, rolling through the present into the future since 70 years of independence.
(The author is a working Journalist based in Delhi)
Views expressed are personal.