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CHAPTER III: Context and Objectives of the New NPE 

Context and Objectives of the New NPE


3.1 Broad Objectives of the New National Policy on Education , 2016


3.1.1 The starting point for the new National Policy on Education (NPE) must necessarily be a clear articulation of the meaning and goals of education in the Indian context. What are the basic objectives which we seek to achieve through the new NPE? What knowledge, skills and other qualities do we seek to instil through education? What kind of citizen should emerge as an end product of the education system? What attributes should an educated citizen possess in order to be able to function as an informed and enlightened member of society?

3.1.2 Discussions on these objectives of education predate the independence of India. In 1938, a Committee on the Wardha Education Scheme (Nayi Taleem of Mahatma Gandhi) set up by the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), worked out the modalities for the implementation of the Nayi Taleem in great detail and recommended it for adoption by all provincial governments. This was reiterated by the CABE Committee on "Post-War Plan for Educational Development in India" (1944), also known as the Sargent Plan. This was a Plan to ‘Indianise’ education; universalize primary education; and improve the quality of education so as to make the Indian education system comparable to the best available elsewhere.

3.1.3 Education has all through been considered a key driver of national development; an essential condition for building a humane society. However, the core objectives of education in the coming years should encompass four essential components – i.e. building values, awareness, knowledge and skills. While knowledge and skills are necessarily specific to the objectives of study and largely determined by factors like future employment or the pursuit of a vocation, awareness and values are universal in nature and should be shared by all. Ideally, these should foster development of personal qualities and behavioural attributes, which will help children, develop into good citizens.

3.1.4 Along with the economic objectives (i.e. creating human capital), education should aim to develop pride in India and in being an Indian. It should foster learning about our ancient history, culture and traditions. Indian society is characterized not only by multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious diversity, geographical differences and regional disparities, but also by inequalities of income, wealth, opportunity and access to resources. Education should be seen as a powerful route to reduce regional and social disparities, and enabling choice and freedom to the individual to lead a productive life and participate in the country’s development.

3.1.5 Education should foster peace, tolerance, secularism and national integration. Towards promoting greater understanding of diversity in India as well as social cohesion, education should inculcate awareness of India’s rich heritage, glorious past, great traditions and heterogeneous culture. Education must enhance and sustain the cultural capital in the country, a powerful input for national development. Education must be seen as development and not a means of development; it should find a prominent place in the national development agenda.



3.2. Inculcation of Values through Education

3.2.1 Value orientation is an over-arching and comprehensive area that needs conscious integration with general education at each stage including adult education, teacher education, and also technical and management education. Education has little meaning without development, nurture and internalization of values.

3.2.2 In an increasingly complex globalized world, the erosion of values is adversely impacting human life in practically every sector of activity. It has resulted in alarming levels of exploitation of human beings and also of the nature. The sensitive man-nature link is in danger of snapping irretrievably. Sufferings inflicted on much of the mankind largely go unnoticed. When values are ignored, humanity suffers; so does the man-nature dependency.

3.2.3 India has suffered serious consequences arising out of increasing threat of terrorism and fundamentalism. Education, in its entirety, has to prepare persons for contributing to a world of peace, harmony, mutual trust and a value-based society.

3.2.4 An acquaintance with the Indian tradition of acceptance of diversity of India’s heritage, culture and history could lead to social cohesion and religious amity. The content and process of education, particularly school education has to be prepared accordingly.

3.2.5 Every teacher is to be prepared to internalize that apart from his professional readiness and responsibility, he is a role model, inculcator of values and is expected to lead a value-based life.

3.2.6 For a proper appreciation of secularism and value education, the recommendations of the Chavan Committee Report are particularly relevant. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, in its 86th Report submitted to both Houses of Parliament on 26 February, 1999 contained a comprehensive analysis on how education should contribute to character building. Its recommendations referred to the following:

3.2.7 It is also relevant to recall that the Supreme Court of India in its judgement delivered on September 12, 2002 stated that making children aware of basics of all religion should have been done long time back.

3.2.8 The Justice J.S. Verma Committee Report (1999) expounded that, along with fundamental rights, it is equally necessary that citizens should understand their fundamental duties laid down in the Constitution.

3.2.9 Schools must help inculcate key qualities and attitudes like regularity and punctuality, cleanliness, self-control, industriousness and a spirit of entrepreneurship, sense of duty, desire to serve, responsibility, creativity, sensitivity to greater equality, respect towards women, care for the elderly, a democratic temper and an obligation to preserve the environment.

3.2.10 Creating and maintaining a congenial school environment, and enabling the teachers in inculcating social values to the students, and to get the children to learn that every act, action and activity is equally important. These attributes shall include friendliness, cooperativeness, compassion, self-discipline, courage, concern for the rights of others and keenness to support genuine causes of justice and fairness.

3.2.11 NPE should aim to equip and enable students to remain relevant in a globalized, digital world.

3.2.12 Finally, familiarity with the basics of the Constitution of India, particularly its Preamble and the Chapters on Fundamental Rights and Duties must form part of the education of every citizen.


3.3.1 Education was originally included in the State List of the Constitution of India. Under the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976, education was transferred to the Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule, within the competency of both the Centre and the State Governments, but with residual powers vesting with the Union Government. This implies that, in case of a conflict, laws passed by the Parliament shall prevail over those made by State Legislatures, and that, any State law shall be void to the extent of repugnancy.

3.3.2 Under Article 246, Entry 2, State Governments are vested with the power to legislate upon "education, including technical education, medical education and the universities…. vocational and technical training of labourers." Entry 66 of the Union List in the Seventh Schedule vests the Central Government with the power to legislate for "co-ordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher education or research and scientific and technical institutions."The Constitution vests the State Governments with powers relating to school education, syllabus, Boards, textbook bureaus and medium of instruction. The regulation and maintenance of the standards of higher education in the country as a whole has been located within the remit of the Central Government. However, because of its concurrent authority, the Central Government has been providing over-arching policy inputs as well as implementing important schemes with shared financial responsibility.

3.3.3 Further, the power of State Governments to establish universities is subject to the power of Parliament to legislate under Entry 66 to maintain the required standards of higher education. This was reinforced by the ruling of the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Osmania University Teachers Association versus the State of Andhra Pradesh and Another in 1987.

3.3.4 Moreover, a number of institutions specified in Entries 63, 64 and 65 of the Union List fall exclusively within the competence of the Central Government. These include the Benares Hindu University; the Aligarh Muslim University; Delhi University; any institution declared by law as being of national importance; institutions of national importance for scientific or technical education financed wholly or partly by the Government of India; and Union agencies and institutions for professional, vocational or technical training, including the training of police officers; the promotion of special studies or research; or scientific or technical assistance in the investigation or detection of crime.

3.3.5 Various apex institutions have been vested by Acts of Parliament with the responsibility to regulate the standards of education. The University Grants Commission (UGC) is empowered to coordinate and maintain minimum standards of university education. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) was established in 1994 to assess the standards of quality and accredit Universities along with their constituent and affiliated colleges. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) was established in 1987 for planned and coordinated development of the technical education system in the country. The National Board of Accreditation (NAB) has been set up to assess and accredit technical institutions in the country and make recommendations for recognition and de-recognition of qualifications.

3.3.6 Further, there are apex statutory bodies, like the National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE), Medical Council of India (MCI), Dental Council of India (DCI), Indian Nursing Council (INC), Council of Architecture, Bar Council of India (BCI), Pharmacy Council of India (PCI), Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), Rehabilitation Council of India, Central Council of Homeopathy (CCH) and Central Council of Indian Medicine (CClM), Distance Education Council, National Council for Vocational Training, etc., which regulate the standards of education in various professional fields.

3.3.7 Finally, it is important to take note of the changes effected by the 73rd Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in 1992, dealing with the powers of Panchayati Raj institutions. Under this amendment, State Legislatures may by law, endow Panchayats under their jurisdiction with the requisite powers and authority to function as institutions of self-government. Among the subjects which may be devolved to the Panchayats under such State laws are the implementation of schemes relating, inter alia to education, including primary and secondary schools; technical training and vocational education; and adult and non-formal education.(Reference Article 243G, Items 17-19 of Schedule XI). However, in practice it is noticed that in most states such devolution of authority and responsibility has not been formalized to any significant extent.

3.3.8 From the above provisions, it is clear that the Central government has a Constitutional obligation to regulate and maintain the standards of higher education in the country as a whole. However, as an item on the Concurrent List, education also falls within the purview of the State Governments. Accordingly, there has been considerable expansion in the number of universities and colleges established by State Governments, as well as in the number of private universities and colleges in the States. However, many States have not felt themselves responsible for the maintenance of quality and standards. There is thus wide variation in the quality of higher education institutions and many of them are sub-standard.

3.3.9 Over the years the central Government has established important institutions to undertake funding, regulatory and oversight functions but the ground reality is that hundreds of sub-standard institutions have been permitted to be set up over the decades, contributing to a fall in educational standards. Equally, a variety of factors, including lack of resources for maintenance of physical infrastructure, libraries, teacher management and other local and state level factors have contributed to the significant decline in quality of educational standards.


(a)       Fundamental Rights


3.3.10 Several provisions relating to Fundamental Rights in the Constitution impact on education. Of these, the most important are the Right to Education, Religious Instruction in Educational Institutions and the Right of Minorities to Establish and Administer Educational Institutions.  

(b)       Religious Instruction/Worship


3.3.11 Article 28 provides for “Freedom of attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions” as a Fundamental Right. It mandates that no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds and that no minor person attending any State-recognized or State-aided educational institution shall be required to take part in any religious instruction or attend any religious worship without the consent of his guardian. However, this shall not apply to educational institutions which are administered by the State but established under any endowment or trust which requires that religious instruction be imparted in the institution.

(c)       Non Discrimination in Education

3.3.12 Article 29 (2) provides, as a Fundamental Right, that no citizen shall be denied admission to any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language.

(d)       Rights of Minorities

3.3.13 Article 30 relates to cultural and educational rights of minorities. It lays down that all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

3.3.14 In  making  any  law  providing  for  the  compulsory  acquisition  of  any property of an educational institution established and administered by a minority, the State shall ensure that the amount fixed by or determined under such law for the acquisition of such property is such as would not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed under that clause.

3.3.15 In granting aid to educational institutions, the State shall not discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.

(e)       Education for Weaker Sections

3.3.16 The Constitution makes special provision for safeguarding the educational interests of the weaker, socially and educationally backward sections of society and members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes.

3.3.17 Article 15 empowers the State to make any special provision, by law, for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the  Scheduled  Castes  and  Scheduled  Tribes with  regard  to  their  admission to educational institutions, including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, with the exception of minority educational institutions.

3.3.18 Article  46  enjoins  the  State,  as  a  Directive  Principle  of  State  Policy,  to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes with special care, and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.

(f)        Provisions with Regard to Language

(i) Linguistic Rights of Minorities

3.3.19 Article   29   (1)   guarantees   the   protection  of   the   linguistic   rights   of minorities. Any section of citizens with their own distinct language, script or culture has the Fundamental Right to conserve it.

3.3.20 Article 350 B provides for the appointment of a Special Officer for linguistic minorities to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under the Constitution.

(ii) Instruction in the Mother Tongue

3.3.21 With language emerging as the primary criterion for the demarcation of Indian States, mother tongues have received special emphasis as medium of instruction and subjects of study. Under Article 29 (1), the Constitution recognizes the study and preservation of one’s mother tongue as a Fundamental Right.

3.3.22 Article 350 A requires every State and local authority to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother-tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups.

(iii)  Promotion of Hindi

3.3.23 Article 351, titled ‘Directive for Development of the Hindi language’ states that “it shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the  composite  culture  of  India  and  to  secure  its  enrichment  by  assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.

(g)       Right to Education (RTE)

3.3.24 The  RTE  was  originally  included  as  a  non-justiciable  Right  under  the Directive Principles of State Policy. In the Constitution as originally adopted by the Constituent Assembly in November, 1949, Article 45 stated that: “The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution,  for  free  and  compulsory  education  for  all  children  until  they complete the age of fourteen years.” Further, Article 41mandated the State, among other  things,  to  make  effective  provision  for  securing  the  right  to  education “within the limits of its economic capacity and development.”

3.3.25 In Mohini Jain vs. State of Karnataka (1992) the Supreme Court ruled that the RTE is implicit in and flows directly from the right to life under Article 21, thus virtually elevating the RTE to the status of a fundamental right. This was made explicit in Unni Krishnan vs. State of Andhra Pradesh & Others (1993) when the Supreme Court ruled as follows: “The citizens of this country have a fundamental right to education. The said right flows from Article 21. This right is, however, not an absolute right. Its content and parameters have to be determined in the light of Articles 45 and 41. In other words every child/citizen of this country has a right to free education until he completes the age of fourteen years. Thereafter his right to education is subject to the limits of economic capacity and development of the State.”

3.3.26 The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserted Article 21A in  the  Constitution  as  a  Fundamental  Right,  mandating  that  “The  State  shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.”

3.3.27 The consequential legislation envisaged to give effect to Article 21 A was The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act), giving every child the right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. With this, education has been moved to a rights based framework with the Central and State Governments having a legal obligation to implement this fundamental child right.

3.3.28 The RTE Act, inter-alia provides for the following:

(i)        Right of children to free and compulsory education till completion of elementary education in a neighbourhood school.

(ii)    It clarifies that ‘compulsory education’ means obligation of the appropriate government to provide free elementary education and ensure  compulsory  admission,  attendance  and  completion  of elementary education to every child in the six to fourteen age group.‘Free’  means that  no  child  shall  be liable to pay any kind  of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.

(iii)     It makes provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class.

(iv)     It specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local   authority   and   parents   in   providing   free   and   compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.

(v)      It  lays  down  the  norms  and  standards  relating  inter  alia  to  Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, school-working days, teacher-working hours.


(vi)     It provides for rational deployment of teachers by ensuring that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school, rather than just as an average for the State or District or Block, thus ensuring that there is no urban-rural imbalance in teacher postings. It also provides for prohibition of deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.

(vii)  It provides for appointment of appropriately trained teachers, i.e. teachers with the requisite entry and academic qualifications.

(viii) It prohibits (a) physical punishment and mental harassment; (b) screening procedures for admission of children; (c) capitation fee; (d) private tuition by teachers and (e) running of schools without recognition.


3.4 Earlier National Policies on Education


3.4.1  In the Indian context, the fundamental role of education in nation-building, progress, security and social and economic development has been recognized from the outset. Even before independence, Gandhiji had formulated a vision of basic education in India, seeking to harmonise intellectual and manual work. Subsequently, the University Education Commission (Radhakrishnan Commission, 1948-49) and the Secondary Education Commission (1952-53), as well as other Commissions and Committees had reviewed the issues relating to educational reconstruction. The Resolution on Scientific Policy (1958) underlined, inter alia, the importance of science, technology and scientific research in education.


3.4.2 The first National Policy on Education (NPE) was formulated by the Government of India in 1968, based on the recommendations of the Indian Education Commission (1964-66), also known as the Kothari Commission.


3.4.3 Apart from the goal of universalization of education as envisaged in the Constitution, the 1968 NPE dealt with:


                 (i)  measures to ensure that teachers are accorded an honoured place in society;

                 (ii) training and quality of teachers for schools;

                 (iii) stress on moral education and inculcation of a sense of social responsibility;


                   (iv) equalisation of educational opportunity for all sections of society, including girls, minorities, disadvantaged classes, tribal people and in rural areas;

                   (v) introduction of work-experience, manual work and social service as integral parts of general education;

                   (vi) science education and research;

                   (vii) education related to the needs of agriculture, industry and employment opportunities;

                   (viii) vocationalization of secondary education;

                   (ix) development of games and sports;

                   (x) spread of literacy and adult education; strengthening of centres of advanced study; setting up of a small number of cluster centres aimed at achieving the highest international standards; development of quality or pace-setting institutions at all stages and in all sectors.

3.4.4 The NPE of 1968 aimed to promote national progress, a sense of common citizenship and culture, and to strengthen national integration. It laid stress on the need for a radical reconstruction of the education system, to improve its quality at all stages, and gave special attention to science and technology, the cultivation of moral values and a closer relation between education and the life of the people.


3.4.5 However, the general formulations incorporated in the 1968 Policy were not underpinned by a detailed strategy of implementation, accompanied by the assignment of specific responsibilities and financial and organizational support. Consequently, with the passage of time, it was felt that the problems of access, quality, equity, utility and financial support merited a comprehensive review of the NPE.


3.4.6  The NPE was adopted by the Parliament in May, 1986. This was reviewed and modifications suggested by the Ramamurthi Committee (1990-92) and the Janardhana Reddy Committee (1991-92). After consideration by the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), a revised document entitled ‘National Policy on Education, 1986 – Revised Policy Formulations’ was laid on the Table of the House in 1992.


3.4.7 The NPE of 1986 as modified in 1992 reiterated the centrality of education for all as a national goal and sine qua non of all-round material and spiritual development, national cohesion and national self-reliance.


 3.4.8 The 1986-1992 NPE endorsed the concept of a National System of Education in which all students, irrespective of caste, creed, location or sex, would have access to education of a comparable quality up to a given level.


3.4.9  It envisaged a common educational structure and a national curricular framework with a common core along with other components that were flexible and oriented towards occupational and employment requirements.


3.4.10  The common core included the history of India's freedom movement, the constitutional obligations and other content essential to nurture national identity. These elements cut across subject areas and were designed to emphasize India's common cultural heritage, egalitarianism, democracy, secularism, equality of the sexes, protection of the environment, removal of social barriers, observance of the small family norm, inculcation of the scientific temper and an international outlook characterized by peaceful co -existence and understanding between nations, treating the whole world as one family.


3.4.11 The NPE 86/92 emphasized life -long education, universal literacy and provision of opportunities to the youth, housewives, agricultural and industrial workers and professionals to continue the education of their choice, at the pace suited to them through open and distance learning.


3.4.12 The NPE 86/92 also delineated the competencies and sharing of responsibility between the Union Government and the States in terms of the 42th Constitutional Amendment of 1976, which moved Education to the Concurrent List. While the role and responsibility of the States was to remain essentially unchanged, the Union Government would accept a larger responsibility to reinforce the national and integrative character of education, to maintain quality and standards (including those of the teaching profession at all levels), to study and monitor the educational requirements of the country as a whole in regard to manpower for development, to cater to the needs of research and advanced study, to look after the international aspects of education, culture and Human Resource Development and, in general, to promote excellence at all levels of the educational pyramid throughout the country.


3.4.13 The NPE 86/92 laid special emphasis on the removal of disparities and the equalization of educational opportunity to specific disadvantaged target groups, including removal of women’s illiteracy, education of Scheduled Castes and Tribes, Minorities, the disabled and handicapped, neo-literates and through non-formal and adult education programmes.


3.4.14 Recognizing the holistic nature of child development, the NPE accorded high priority to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), which was to be suitably integrated with the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programmes.


3.4.15 The NPE 86/92 advocated a child-centred approach to education, with corporal punishment being firmly excluded and a no- detention policy at the primary stage. Talented students should be given special treatment and access to good quality education regardless of their ability to pay for it.



3.14.16 Vocational education was envisaged to be a distinct stream of education, intended to prepare students for identified occupations after, or even prior, to the completion of secondary education.


3.4.17 The NPE 86/92 proposed that the system of affiliation should be phased out by encouraging the development of autonomous colleges.


3.4.18 The NPE 86/92 envisaged the establishment of a national body and State Councils of Higher Education for policy making, planning and coordination of higher education.


3.4.19 Finally, the NPE 86/92 emphasized the need to raise the outlay on education to six percent of the GDP in the Eighth Five Year Plan (1992–1997) and to uniformly exceed this figure thereafter.


3.4.20  The NPE of 1986-1992 was followed up by a ‘Programme of Action’ announced by the HRD Ministry. However, with the passage of time, it has become clear that many of the objectives of the 1986 policy could not be achieved due to ineffective follow up on a continuing basis, with little attention being given to the implementation phase of the proposed policies.


3.4.21 This brief survey of the National Education Policies adopted in 1968, 1986 and 1992 underlines that many of the essential elements of these policies retain their relevance and will continue to do so in future. The earlier policies have analysed the ways and means of achieving the national objectives of universalization of education, providing equality of opportunity, improving the quality of learning outcomes, enforcing norms of accountability and benchmarking with international standards exhaustively and in depth. The policy prescriptions set out in these earlier documents are a valuable resource which will guide the new NPE, as it seeks to build on the past experience to refine, revise and attune the education policy to meet the needs of the nation.


3.4.22 In continuation and in furtherance of the objectives of NPEs of 1968 and 1986-92, a number of significant legislative and executive steps have been undertaken over the past two decades – some of these are mentioned in the paragraphs which follow.


3.4.23  The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) has imposed legal obligations on the Central and State Governments to provide every child between the ages of 6 to 14 access to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. As against this, over 92 lakh children still remain out of schools as per official records. If one estimates the numbers of these added to the dropouts after one or two years, the number of out-of-school children could easily be around 3 crore. The challenge before the nation is still enormous in magnitude.


3.4.24 Since the adoption of the 1986-1992 NPE, the Central Government has launched several schemes to address issues of equity, access and quality in the elementary, secondary and higher education sectors. The shortfalls and lacunae in the achievement of the targets laid down in these programmes need to be analyzed and corrective measures taken as appropriate.


3.4.25 The District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) was started in mid-1990s and was, for many years, the flagship programme of the Government of India in elementary education. Indeed, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme, which is still an important implementation vehicle, is the successor programme to DPEP.


3.4.26 The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan(SSA) programme, operational since 2000-2001, aims at the universalization of elementary education in a time bound manner. Although the original targets of bridging all gender and social category gaps by 2007 and achieving universal retention at the elementary education level by 2010 have yet to be achieved, the programme remains in force as one of the largesteducation initiatives in the world.


3.4.27 The Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), launched in 2009, aims at enhancing access and improving the quality of secondary education by removing gender, socio-economic and disability barriers and making all secondary schools conform to prescribed norms. The principal objectives were to increase the total enrolment rate from 52% in 2005–06 to 75% over the five year period from 2009–2014 by providing a secondary school within a reasonable distance of any habitation. The programme aims to provide universal access to secondary level education by 2017, i.e., by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan and achieving universal retention by 2020.


3.4.28 The Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) was launched in 2013 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme to provide norm based and outcome dependent strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions. RUSA aims to improve the overall quality of state institutions by ensuring conformity to prescribed norms and standards, adopting accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework, promoting autonomy and improving governance in State Universities.


3.4.29 As a party to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2000, India was committed, inter alia, to achieving universal primary education, in terms of both enrolment and completion of primary schooling for all girls and boys, by 2015. It was also committed to eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education, “preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.” Unfortunately, these goals remained unrealised. It is imperative now to work seriously to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.


3.5 The State of Education in India


3.5.1 Education in India is currently provided by the public sector as well as the private sector. The central and most state boards uniformly follow the "10+2+3" pattern of education. In this pattern, study of 12 years is done in schools and / or in colleges, and then 3 years of graduation for a bachelor's degree. The first 10 years are further subdivided into 5 years of primary education, 3 years of upper primary and 2 years of high school. This pattern originated from the recommendation of the Kothari Education Commission of 1964–66.


3.5.2  Under the RTE Act, a ‘no-detention’ policy has been in place since 2010. Under this policy, no child can be held back or expelled from school until Class 8. The larger purpose of this blanket rule is to ensure compulsory education up to the age of 14 years, and prevent students from dropping out from school, a consideration which is particularly important in schools in the rural districts.


3.5.3  The earlier National Education Policies of 1968, and 1986 as modified in 1992, had endorsed a norm of 6% of GDP as the minimum expenditure on education. However, this target has never been met. The expenditure by Education Departments of the Centre and States has never risen above 4.3% of the GDP, and is currently around 3.5%.


3.5.4 As compared to 12% in 1947, the overall literacy rate in India in 2011 was 74%, with a male literacy rate of 82.1% and a female literacy rate of 65.5%. However, the level is well below the world average literacy rate of 84% and India currently has the largest illiterate population in the world. Kerala is the most literate state in India, with 93.91% literacy, while Bihar is the least literate state with a literacy rate of 63.82%.


(a)  Elementary Education (Classes I- VIII)

3.5.5 The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme for universalization of Education for All, along with the no detention policy, has resulted in a significant enhancement both in the Gross Enrolment Ratio (to over 95%) as well as in the enrolment of girls. Its precursor, the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP), was launched in 1994 with the aim of universalizing primary education in India. With 85% funding by the central government, the DPEP had opened 1.6 lakh new schools, including 84,000 alternative education schools delivering alternative education to approximately 35 lakh children.


3.5.6  In 2014-15, there were 14 lakh schools in the country imparting elementary education, with a total enrolment of 19.77 crore. Of these, Government schools numbering 11 lakh accounted for an enrolment of 11.9 crore at the elementary level; while 3 lakh private schools catered to 8.56 crore students. Additionally, there were 23,529 unrecognised institutions and 3750 unrecognised Madrasas with an enrolment of 33 lakh at the elementary level in 2014-15. There were a total of 80 lakh teachers at the elementary level, including 47 lakh teachers in Government schools. In 2014-15, more than 8.6% of the total teachers at the elementary level were in private aided schools; 29.9% were in private unaided schools; and 2.6% were in unrecognised schools and Madrasas (U-DISE, 2014-15).


3.5.7 The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) at the primary level (grades I-V) was 100.1%; it was 91.2% at the upper primary level (grades VI-VIII) in 2014-15. The Net Enrolment Ratio (NER) was 87.4% at the primary level and 72.5% at the upper primary level. However, the Adjusted NER was 92.1% at primary level and 82.4% at upper primary level in 2014 -15. Large number of children continues to leave the school before completing elementary education. In 2014-15, the retention rate at primary level was 83.7% and it was as low as 67.4% at the elementary level. Roughly, four in every 10 children enrolled in grade I was leaving the school before completing grade VIII U-DISE, 2014-15).


(b) Surveys Relating to Quality of Education

3.5.8 Currently, two large-scale nation-wide learning assessment surveys have been conducted in India at the elementary stage.


3.5.9 The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has conducted National Achievement Surveys (NAS) periodically since 2001 for Classes 3, 5 and 8. The NAS is a school-based national survey covering all States and Union Territories and focusing on specific classes in particular years. It is carried out by NCERT under the mandate of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme to “monitor improvement in children’s learning levels and to periodically assess the health of the government education system as a whole”.


 3.5.10 The NGO, Pratham has been bringing out its Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) since 2005, on the basis of extensive household surveys conducted to assess children’s schooling status and basic learning levels in reading and arithmetic. In 2014, the surveys covered 577 rural districts, around 17,000 villages and over 6 lakh children between the ages of 3-16. The 2014 survey found that nearly half of the grade V students were not able to read at grade II level; and nearly same proportion of grade V students did not have the basic arithmetic skills, which they should have learned by the end of grade II (ASER, 2015).


3.5.11  It is also necessary to refer to Gunotsav, a mass assessment process, first introduced in Gujarat in 2009, but now also implemented with variations in some other states as well. It tries to address the above issues and serves as a starting point to achieve 'quality education' at scale. A key focus of Gunotsav is to highlight the levels of student learning (with a focus on basic skills like reading, writing and arithmetic operations in the lower classes and subject knowledge in the higher classes) and provide systematic year-on-year data and insights to improve learning levels in a measurable way.


3.5.12 The surveys indicate that, quantitatively, India is inching closer to the Constitutional and RTE Act guarantee of universal access and participation in elementary education. In 2013-14, the total enrolment at the elementary level (grades I-VIII) in India was 19.89 crore, including 12.1 crore in government schools, and 1.1 crore in aided schools. Girls share in the total enrolment was 48.2% at primary level, and 48.8% at upper primary level. At the all India level, nearly 39% of children enrolled at the elementary level were attending private schools (DISE 2013-14). ASER (Rural), 2014 found that 96.7% of children in the age group 6- 14 years were enrolled in schools in rural India. The survey also found that around 31% of rural children attend private schools.


3.5.13 Encouragingly, at the all-India level, the percentage of older girls (in the 11-14 age group) not enrolled in school has dropped from 10% in 2006 to close to 5% in 2014. Except for Rajasthan and UP, the figure has dropped significantly for many states, with Bihar showing the steepest decline from 17.6% in 2006 to 5.7% in 2014.


3.5.14 Further, visits to government schools on randomly selected days show an attendance rate of about 71% of enrolled children. However there is considerable variation in daily attendance across states, ranging from 50-59 per cent in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Manipur to over 90 per cent in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.


3.5.15  While the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GRE) is satisfactorily high, the quality of education, in terms of learning outcomes, is undeniably poor, particularly in the government school system. This is a matter of serious concern, since approximately 80% of all recognized schools at the elementary stage are government run or supported.


3.5.16 Reading is a foundational skill; without being able to read well, a child cannot progress in the education system. However, reading outcomes are unacceptably poor, particularly in Government and rural schools.


3.5.17  For example, ASER 2014 found that over 75% of all children in Class 3, over 50% in Class 5 and over 25% in Class 8 could not read texts meant for the Class 2 level. At the all-India level, the number of children in rural schools in Class 2 who could not even recognize letters of the alphabet increased from 13.4% in 2010 to 32.5% in 2014. In the last year of their primary education in Class 5, almost 20% of children could only read letters or were not literate even at this level; 14% could read words but not sentences; and 19% could read sentences but not longer texts.


3.5.18 Further, reading levels for children enrolled in government schools in Class 5 showed a decline between 2010 and 2012. While reading levels in Class 5 in private schools were also not high, the gap in reading levels between children enrolled in government schools and private schools appears to be growing over time.


3.5.19 Early childhood years are critically important, when the child’s mental and physical development are at their highest, and when many lifelong characteristics are developed; this is when basic skills are acquired for subsequent development. Without a strong foundation in early years, the child’s future progress, mental and physical, is highly circumscribed. The criticality of addressing the child’s mental and physical growth in the early years has not been adequately understood or addressed. Available data indicate that in 2014, nearly 20% of children in Class 2 did not recognize numbers from 1 to 9 and nearly 40% of children in Class 3 were unable to recognize numbers till 100. More disturbingly these proportions have grown progressively and substantially since 2010, indicating that learning outcomes are deteriorating rapidly at the primary stage.


3.5.20 In sum, half of all children in Class 5 have not yet learned basic skills that they should have learned by Class 2. Close to half of all children will finish eight years of schooling but will still not have learned basic skills in arithmetic.


3.5.21 Teacher absenteeism, estimated at over 25% every day, has been identified as one of the reasons for the poor quality of student learning outcomes.


3.5.22 At the disaggregated level, the National Achievement Survey (NAS) reveals significant differences in the average achievement levels of students between states, suggesting that the quality of educational outcomes is far from equal across the country. In a number of States, NAS results also show much diversity in achievement between students in the highest and lowest performing categories. Despite the significant differences in methodology, NAS confirms the findings from a number of other studies such as ASER, Educational Initiatives etc. and identifies poor learning outcomes as the biggest challenge facing Indian education. Poor quality of learning at the primary school stage naturally spills over to the secondary stage, where the gaps get wider; and continues to the college years, leading to very poor outcomes in the higher education sector. This inevitably leads to students being rendered incapable of taking full advantage of educational opportunities.


3.5.23 It is noteworthy that the poor quality of education in government schools has been underlined by a recent directive from the Allahabad High Court ordering all government servants in Uttar Pradesh to send their children only to public schools run by the State Basic Education Board.


(c) Secondary & Higher Secondary Education (Classes IX to XII)

3.5.24  At the secondary stage the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), is the most important programme rolled out by the HRD Ministry. It has the twin aims of enhancing access to and improving the quality of secondary education in the country.


3.5.25 Enrolment is sought to be increased by providing a secondary school within a reasonable distance of all habitations and by removing gender, socio-economic and disability barriers to education. The prescribed infrastructural and physical facilities include adequate number of class rooms, laboratories, libraries, art and crafts rooms, toilet blocks, drinking water availability, electricity connection, telephone and internet connectivity and disabled friendly amenities.

3.5.26 Equity aspects are sought to be addressed by according special focus on micro planning and preference in opening schools in areas with concentrations of SC/ST/Minorities. Undertaking a special enrolment drive for the weaker sections, providing more female teachers in schools and separate toilet blocks for girls are some of the significant strategies.


3.5.27 The RMSA aims at achieving a GER of 100% by 2017 and universal retention by 2020. While the first target could be seriously addressed, it is highly doubtful if it would be realistic to retain the ‘retention’ target by 2020, even if major remedial steps are urgently undertaken.


3.5.28 Under the RMSA, the funding pattern between the Centre and the State Governments is in the ratio of 75:25. For the North Eastern States, the Centre meets 90% of the funding requirements. In spite of this, the State universities and their affiliated colleges suffer from severe fund constraints and poor governance, leading to poor quality of outcomes. With the changes in devolution of funds to states based on the recent Finance Commission Report, changes in these percentages have been made for FY 2015-16 – though it is not fully clear if there is full concurrence between states and Centre in this regard.


3.5.29 Over the years, there has been significant and rapid increased participation of the private sector and NGOs, in secondary education. Currently, approximately 51% of the secondary schools and 58% of the higher secondary schools are privately managed.


3.5.30 The RMSA specially aims to improve access and retain the girl child in secondary and higher secondary classes; and to ensure that girl students are not denied the opportunity to continue their education due to distance from school, financial constraints and societal factors.


3.5.31 The Scheme of Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage (IEDSS), launched in 2009-10, has now been subsumed under the RMSA. The Scheme provides assistance to enable all students with disabilities who have completed 8 years of elementary schooling, to pursue a further 4 years of secondary schooling from Class 9 to 12.


3.5.32  With its specific focus on removing disabilities, the RMSA has opened up opportunities for children who are not able to enrol themselves in the formal education system through the modality of national and state open schools and by utilising contact-centres and multi-media packages.


3.5.33  The Committee has been given to understand that with the rapid expansion of the school system, access to school education has become near universal; however, children from certain sections of the population, for reasons arising out of poverty, need-to-work, social restrictions or lack of belief in usefulness of education have not been able to take full benefit of the educational opportunities. Many girls are not sent to schools; and many who complete primary levels, are not able to pursue their studies at the secondary levels and in colleges.


3.5.34 From a quantitative standpoint, the gaps in average enrolments between the general population and specific disadvantaged groups like the girl child, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Minorities and Children with special needs have decreased. However, issues of social access and equity remain complex and have been only partially resolved.


3.5.35 Moreover, social and income disparities continue to be reflected in gaps in learning levels, which remain large and seem to be growing. Children from historically disadvantaged and economically weaker sections of society and first generation learners exhibit significantly lower learning outcomes and are more likely to fall behind and drop out of school.


3.5.36 The interventions which are currently being made to bridge these gender and social gaps need to be stepped up, and more focused strategies need to be worked out for effective inclusion and participation of girls and other special category children.


3.5.37 While there has been a rise in the demand for secondary education and increase in the number of secondary schools, the spread of secondary education throughout the country remains uneven. Regional disparities continue, as do differences in access depending on the socio-economic background of students. Absence of teachers; lack of incentives; and low academic standards in government schools have contributed to the rise of the private sector in secondary school education.


(d) Higher Education

                        There has been an upsurge in the demand for higher education after independence, resulting in a virtual explosion in the number of universities and colleges in the country. Many students join university courses merely to obtain a degree, which has come to be considered as a sine qua non for white (and even blue) collar employment and social status.


The institutions of higher learning in India consist of:

(i) Central Universities established by an Act of Parliament;
(ii) State Universities established by State Legislatures;
(iii) Deemed Universities recognized as such by the Central Government on the recommendation of the UGC;

(iv) Private Universities established by various State Governments through their own legislation; and
(v) Institutes of National Importance declared as such by the Government of India by an Act of Parliament.

3.5.40  All these institutions are empowered to award degrees. A small number of Central and State Universities are stand-alone unitary institutions; however, the vast majority have constituent or affiliated colleges attached to them.

3.5.41 Most colleges in India are affiliated to universities and provide undergraduate education. Some colleges also undertake post-graduate teaching and research. The affiliating universities are expected to oversee the standards of the affiliated colleges, hold examinations and award degrees to successful candidates.


3.5.42 There are at present 46 Central Universities and 128 Deemed to be Universities in the country (UGC Annual Report 2014-15). No institution has been granted Deemed to be University status since June 2009. In January 2010, the Government of India decided to de-recognise 44 Deemed Universities. This decision was challenged and a final decision is still pending in the Supreme Court, which has, in the interim, allowed these institutions to admit new students.


3.5.43 The Indian higher education system, which includes technical education, is one of the largest of the world. The number of Universities has grown from 27 in 1950-51 to 621 in 2010-11 and further to 712 in 2013-14. The number of Institutes has grown from 11,095 in 2010-11 to 11,443 in 2012 -13. The number of colleges has shown phenomenal growth, from 578 in 1950-51 to 32,974 in 2010-11; 34,852 in 2011-12; 35,829 in 2012-13. In 2014-15, there were 711 universities, 40,760 colleges (UGC Annual Report 2014-14) and 11922 stand alone institutions in higher education sector in India (AISHE 2014-15).


 3.5.44 As against 2 lakh students in 1950-51, the total enrolment in higher education in 2014-15 was 3.33 crore, comprising 1.79 crore boys and 1.54 crore girls. The number of teachers stood at 14 lakh, with 39% female teachers. The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education was 23.6% (24.5% for boys, 22.7% for girls; 18.5% for SCs and 13.3% for STs) (AISHE, 2014-15).


3.5.46 As is to be expected, the largest number of students (around 80%) are enrolled in Under-Graduate courses, followed by Post-Graduate (11.4%) and Diploma (7.2%) courses.


3.5.47 During the academic year 2014-15, out of the estimated total enrolment of about 3.33 crore , 37.41% students were enrolled in Arts, 17.59% enrolled in Science, 16.39% enrolled in Commerce and Management, and the remaining 28.61% were pursuing professional courses, including Engineering/Technology (16.27%), followed by Medical courses (4.02%).


3.5.48  The private sector has played a major role in the growth of colleges and institutions in India. In 2011-12, 63.9% of the total number of colleges and institutes were in the private sector and 58.9% of the total number of students was enrolled in private colleges and institutes. State institutes accounted for 35.6% and Central institutes for 0.5% of the total number of colleges and institutes. Enrolment in these institutions was 38.6% and 2.6% respectively.


3.5.48 The Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), launched in 2013, aims at providing strategic funding to eligible state higher educational institutions on the basis of a critical appraisal of State Higher Education Plans. The central funding (in the ratio of 65:35 for general category States and 90:10 for special category states) would be norm based and outcome dependent. The funding would flow from the MHRD through the State Governments / Union Territories to the State Higher Education Councils before reaching the identified institutions.


3.5.49 Regional disparities have increased with the expansion of higher education in India. Inter-state disparities in the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) are large and have increased over time. In 2002-03 the GER spread varied between 5% (Jammu and Kashmir) and 29% (Chandigarh). In 2011-12 the variation in GER was much larger, between 8.4 % (Jharkhand) and 53% (Chandigarh).


3.5.50 The utility of higher education in assuring employment is questionable. Many graduate and post graduate students do not get jobs in their respective fields even after spending several years in acquiring higher education. While the problem of educated unemployed youth remains acute, there is also, paradoxically, a shortage of skilled manpower in the labour market. There a clear gap between the focus and quality of education in academia and the actual skills required by industry.


3.5.51  The global ranking of universities is a useful indicator of their institutional performance, based on a relative assessment in the areas of research and teaching, reputation of faculty members, reputation among employers, resource availability, share of international students and activities and other factors.


3.5.52 Indian universities do not find a place in the top 200 positions in the global ranking of universities. Even the top ranking institutions in India figure only in the lower echelons of global rankings.


3.5.53 As per the Times Higher Education Rankings in 2012-13, the top ranked Indian institutions were IIT Kharagpur (234), IIT Bombay (258) and IIT Roorkee (267).


3.5.54  Similarly, the top ranked institutions as per the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) System in 2012 were IIT Delhi (212), IIT Bombay (227) and IIT Kanpur (278). The Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore ranks 99th the world’s top 100 universities for engineering and technology. As per 2015/16 QS rankings IISc Bangalore has a rank of 147, IITD 179, IITB 202, IITM 254, IIT Kanpur 271.


3.5.55 Accreditation agencies were established in India in 1994 as a measure of quality assurance in order to enhance standards of higher education. Accreditation was voluntary and institutions of higher education were supposed to approach the accreditation agencies to get their institution or programme accredited. Of the 164 universities recognized by the UGC, 140 have got themselves accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), with only 32% percent being rated as A grade or above.


3.5.56 Among the 4,870 colleges, 2,780 are accredited by the NAAC, with barely 9% making the A or above grade. Among the accredited institutions, 68%of the universities and 91% of the colleges are rated average or below average in terms of the quality parameters specified by the NAAC. Quality and excellence in colleges clearly leaves much to be desired.



3.6.1The above represents a brief summary of the significant developments in the education field in the past recent decades. There are many other developments relating to literacy programmes, teacher’s training and recruitment system, ICT related applications and variety of other factors not summarized above; these have been addressed in the main Report at the appropriate places.


3.6.2 In conclusion of this chapter, the most noteworthy point that emerges is that while issues of accessibility and enrolment have dramatically improved in the past decades, and much advance has been made in relation to equity in opportunities, issues relating to quality of education, both at the school and higher levels have not been addressed adequately either in policy or in practice; indeed, there is a secular decline in the overall quality of education. Necessarily, issues of equity, as also of quality have to be the main focus of any new national policy.



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