State of School Education in India [UPSC Notes for GS I]

This article will describe in detail the state of school education in India and what are its shortcomings, reforms needed, and challenges. 

These UPSC Notes on education in India are aligned with the UPSC Syllabus and aspirants should prepare this topic for General Studies Paper I.

School education in India is an important topic and is often seen in the news and hence its relevance for the UPSC Mains.

IAS Exam aspirants can find more notes for UPSC Mains General Studies topics from the links given at the end of the article.

Aspirants should go through the following links to complement this article on the state of school education in India:

Evolution of India’s Education Policy Higher and Technical Education in India
New National Education Policy 2020 Indian Education System during British Rule
RSTV: Education Agenda for New India Elementary Education
RSTV: Higher Education Quality Mandate Right to Education (RTE) Act

State of School Education in India


  • The Annual State of Education Report (ASER by Pratham) released recently gives the overall trends in education in India in addition to the lacunas in the education system. 
  • National Education Policy has also stirred a debate about the direction that education in India needs to take.

Problems faced by the Indian school system

  • India’s spending on education as a percentage of GDP is 3.8% as per World Bank. This is inadequate to meet the educational needs of the largest school-going population in the world.
  • The quality of teachers is also a serious concern. India also lacks high-quality Teacher-training infrastructure.
  • Teacher absenteeism is also a chronic problem that affects education in India.
  • Even though many schemes regarding the improvement of school infrastructure are being implemented, it is still inadequate. 
  • The Right to Education (RTE) Act has improved enrolment in many places. But the quality of education is still a concern.
  • A mid-day meal scheme is being implemented across the country to improve student retention. But the quality of meals served has been a cause for constant concern. 

ASER Report – Major findings

  • The proportion of children (ages 6-14) who are not enrolled in school has fallen below 3% for the first time and stands at 2.8% in 2018. 
  • The overall proportion of girls in the 11 to 14 age group out of school has fallen to 4.1%. This figure is more than 5% in only 4 states. 
  • Further, in 2008, nationally, more than 20% of girls in the 15 to 16 age group were not enrolled in school. In 2018, this figure had decreased to 13.5%. The difference between the number of girls and boys enrolled in schools has also come down. 
  • The percentage of children (age 6-14) enrolled in private school was 30.6% in 2016 and is almost unchanged at 30.9% in 2018. Additionally, there has been a decrease in private school enrolment in many states. 
  • Nationally, in 2018, 4 out of 10 government primary schools visited had less than 60 students enrolled. This number has increased every year over the last decade. It was 26.1% in 2009, 30% in 2011, 33.1% in 2013, 39.8% in 2016, and stands at 43.3% in 2018.
  • At the all India level, no major change is seen in students’ and teachers’ attendance. Nationally, substantial improvements are visible over these 8 years (2010-2018) in the availability of many school facilities mandated by RTE. The fraction of schools with usable girls’ toilets doubled, reaching 66.4% in 2018. The proportion of schools with boundary walls increased by 13.4 percentage points, standing at 64.4% in 2018. The percentage of schools with a kitchen shed increased from 82.1% to 91%, and the proportion of schools with books other than textbooks available increased from 62.6% to 74.2% over the same period. However, stark differences exist between states.
  • Slightly more than half (50.3%) of all children enrolled in Std V can read at least a Std II level text.
  • Even though many states have shown improvement in the arithmetic skills of students, the overall national metric has not shown a significant rise. 
  • For the age group 14 to 16, the all India figure for the proportion of girls who can read at least a Std II level text is very similar to that of boys. 
  • In basic arithmetic, boys seem to hold a substantial advantage. Nationally, 50% of all boys in the age group 14 to 16 can correctly solve a division problem as compared to 44% of all girls.
  • There is an increase in enrolments in private schools. Students of private schools fare relatively better in performance. However, this is a relative phenomenon and in absolute terms students of private schools also face the same learning challenges as in public schools.

Get the latest findings of the ASER Survey in the linked article. 

Way Forward

  • Government spending on education as a whole (not just school education) should be increased to at least 6 percent of GDP by 2022 from the present 3%. According to the World Bank, the world average is 4.7%. 
  • State governments should develop and formulate robust mechanisms to enforce regulations on teacher qualifications, teacher absenteeism, and learning outcomes. 
  • Small schools, especially in sparsely populated regions must be given transport facilities.
  • Greater emphasis should be put on continuous and comprehensive evaluation (CCE) to achieve the defined learning outcome. Remedial classes, if and when necessary, should be put in place in a timely and effective manner. 
  • Flexibility in education – Courses with fixed credits must be introduced with a set minimum credit to be earned to appear for the final examination. This will encourage students to learn subjects based on their interests. 
  • Students with an advanced aptitude in certain subjects must be mentored separately to nurture their talent. 
  • Design guidelines for states to implement vocational education at the school level. Additionally, the syllabus of vocational education must be updated regularly after consultations with all stakeholders. 
  • Life skills, including coping with failure/crises and stress management, should be included as part of the school curriculum. Easy and safe access to mental health support should be strengthened. 

Aspirants can refer to the UPSC Mains Syllabus at the linked article.

Aspirants can cover the topics mentioned in the UPSC Syllabus by following the below-mentioned links:

Draft National Education Policy, 2019

Key observations and recommendations of the draft Policy include:

  1. Early Childhood Care and Education: the draft Policy recommends developing a two-part curriculum for early childhood care and education. This will consist of: (i) guidelines for up to three-year-old children (for parents and teachers), and (ii) educational framework for three to eight-year-old children. This would be implemented by improving and expanding the Anganwadi system and co-locating Anganwadis with primary schools. 
  2. The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act): It recommends extending the ambit of the RTE Act to include early childhood education and secondary school education. 
  3. Curriculum framework: The current structure of school education must be restructured based on the development needs of students. It suggests that the curriculum load in every subject should be reduced to its essential core content. This would make space for holistic, discussion, and analysis-based learning.
  4. Teacher management: For teacher training, the existing B.Ed. programme will be replaced by a four-year integrated B.Ed. program that combines high-quality content, pedagogy, and practical training. For all the subjects, integrated and continuous professional development will also be developed. Teachers will be required to complete a minimum of 50 hours of continuous professional development training every year. 
  5. The draft Policy recommends establishing a National Research Foundation, an autonomous body, for the purpose of funding and mentoring, and also creating the capacity for quality research in India. 
  6. Education Governance: It recommends the creation of a National Education Commission or Rashtriya Shiksha Aayog, as an apex body for education, This body would be headed by the PM. This body will be responsible for developing, executing, assessing, and revising the vision of education in the country on a continuous and sustained basis. It will oversee the implementation and functioning of several bodies. 
  7. Vocational Education: It recommends integrating vocational educational programmes in all educational institutions (schools, colleges, and universities) in a phased manner for 10 years. 
  8. Education and Indian Languages: it recommended that the medium of instruction must either be the mother tongue/home language/local language up to standard five and preferable till standard eight, wherever possible. It recommended that this 3-language formula be continued with flexibility in the implementation of the formula.

State of School Education in India (UPSC Notes – GS 1) – Download PDF Here

Related Links:

UPSC Mains UPSC Books UPSC Current Affairs
NCERT Notes For UPSC Daily News Analysis UPSC Notes PDF
UPSC 2021 UPSC Optional Subjects IAS Topper


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