Is India’s formal education system failing?


According to Raghuram Rajan who is the economic advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the government has failed to deliver its responsibilities. This in turn has led to failure of the Indian formal education system. He also laid emphasis on the need for more organizational training in the education sector.

Rajan has said that the Indian formal education system as a whole and the Indian school system are failing as the government is not delivering what it is expected to deliver. He added that India has to improve in the field of education and that the country needs more organizational training in the field of education.  According to him superstar teachers in the United States is paid more and this has helped them to improve the quality of education. He said that in India good teachers should be given incentives in order to improve the level and quality of education across schools and colleges.

Now let us take a deep dive to the Indian formal education system and see for ourselves whether we need to agree with the views of Mr. Rajan.

The problem

The Indian education system produces millions of graduates every year, who are skilled in management, Information technology and engineering. This gives India an advantage and led to the recent economic development in the country. At the same time it masks the real problem that we are facing in the area of formal education system. According to statistics India will have a young population while all other developing countries have an aging population. But this advantage is no help to India as the education system produces only a small group of highly skilled people.

In India we have 35 per cent of population under the age of 15, and we are going to face the problem of providing quality education to them. The governments in power have pledged to increase the spending on education by 6 per cent, but the actual spending has always remained in the range of 4 per cent for the past years. When the premier institutes in India such as Indian Institute of Technology and India Institute of Management offer competitive graduates, the primary and secondary education, mainly in the rural areas where the institutions find it difficult to find quality faculty.

Even though efforts have been made to bring all the sections of the population into the Indian education system through steps like positive discrimination and non formal education, there are millions of young people who have not attended schools. Statistics show that the number of students enrolling into primary education is increasing, but still there 35 to 60 million students under the age of 6 to 14 years who are not in schools. There are severe gender, cast and regional disparities which worsen the situation further.

Contributing factors

The main factors that account for the failure of formal education system in India are:

  • Increased drop out of students from schools, that too after 10th grade.
  • Insufficient and inadequate infrastructure.
  • Improper functioning of schools.
  • Increasing absenteeism of teachers.
  • Unfilled teacher vacancies.
  • Poor quality of teachers.
  • Insufficient funds

The poor quality of teachers is an important factor affecting the quality of education in government schools as stated above. Low compensation and lack of teaching facilities are the main reasons that make it difficult to attract good quality teachers. The government has to spend more on improving the quality of education as the current spending which amounts to 3 percent of the GDP is inadequate.

Another reason for the failure of the education system is the lack of common school system. In Indiastudents are guided into private, government and government aided schools based on their ability to pay. Financial capacity limits students from going to private schools and so those who cannot afford private schools go for government aided schools. Towards the bottom of the line are those schools run by the government which serve the poor majority which are poorly managed. Even though education for all is guaranteed by the constitution of India, the quality of education that the students get varies with their ability to pay.

Who is responsible for lack of quality?

According to the constitution, the responsibility of formal education is being shared by both the state and central government. The central government prepares the framework, sets policies and gives directives to the state governments. The state government is responsible for the execution and operation of the educational system. This adds to the problem as the states differ in terms of resources available. Today an inadequate resource is the most important reason that affects the education system badly.  Moreover allocation of these resources is another problem that the state governments face. The fact is that richer southern states perform better in terms of improving the education system in the country.

The quality of education and educational facilities in primary and secondary schools are higher in richer states than in poorer ones and it is evident form states such as Bihar and Jharkhand.

According to Rajan, education is a game changer and that china gives much more importance to education than India and that has resulted in their increased literacy rate in China. He said that education has now become a global problem as a result of globalization.

Let us Hope for the best

The main reason for India being a developing country rather than a developed country is its education system. The education system in India is the main barrier that prevents India from achieving inclusive growth. In India 90 million people is about to join the work force and the irony is that majority of them lack the require skills and mindset of productive employee. Out of 550 million youth under the age of 25 only eleven percent have enrolled in educational institutes which way below the world average of 23 percent. Let’s hope that more effort will be taken by the government to come up with solutions to tackle problems that our present education system is facing.



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