State of Education In India: An Analysis

Government of India has taken many efforts to rejuvenate the education sector in India, especially in higher professional education to create skill and employability in Indian youth.

• The curriculum of MBBS was revised by Medical Council of India after 21 years, making it relevant to the changing needs.
• MCI has finalised a new MBBS curriculum for 2019 onwards which will include a programme on ethics, attitude and communication along with assessment of students’ handling patient relations, sensitive situations, counselling for organ donation etc.

• It will be more learner-centric, patient-centric, outcomeoriented and gender-sensitive.
M Anandkrishnan Committee has been set up by Ministry of Human Resource Development, to study feasibility of granting more autonomy to 23 Indian Institute of Technology’s (IITs).
• The move comes months after IIMs getting unprecedented autonomy.
• It will advise on composition of Board of Governors for IITs, all 9 of whom are either directly or indirectly nominated by the government under the IIT Act. (In contrast, each IIM, under the new IIM Act, has 15 members of which five represent the Institute’s alumni.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has given directive to all the Universities on Innovation & Entrepreneurship. It has asked them:
• To set up Intellectual Property (IP) Centres to promote and safeguard innovation and entrepreneurship.
• To set up Innovation Labs, entrepreneurship cells.
• To add entrepreneurship in curriculum.
• To promote organizing boot camps, mentoring and investor sessions and holding entrepreneurship-focussed events.

Importance of the Education Sector for Young India:
• Economic: India has the largest youth population in the world –28% of total population under the age of 14. If India manages to modernize and expand its education system and provide skills to its youth, it could gain a significant competitive advantage over swiftly aging countries like China, Japan and Germany.

• Social: Education enables inclusive development. It uplifts the bottom of the pyramid like no other tool. Education helps diffuse modern, liberal ideas that erode orthodox and divisive mindsets which are major hurdles in India’s progress.
• This is directly visible in the status of women and diluted caste/religion consciousness in more educated people.
• Politico-administrative: With an impetus on transparency and digitization to minimise corruption in government functioning, there is a demand for technically skilled manpower to put requisite infrastructure in place.
• Environment: A push towards R&D in green technology can lead to economic progress which is also environmentally sustainable. Education also creates behavioural change making people sensitive towards the environment.
• Ethics and Values: Wholesome education is not limited to employability. It also creates a population that is conscientious, moral and disciplined. This, perhaps, is the most vital yet imperceptible aspect of education.

Current Scenario of Education in India and Challenges:

Primary Education:
• Some Achievements:
With the formulation of National Policy on Education, India initiated a wide range of programmes for achieving the goal of Universal Elementary Education (UEE) through several schematic and Programme interventions, like, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Right to Education Act, Scheme to Provide Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM) etc.
• Primary school enrolment in India has been a success story, largely due to various programs and drives to increase enrolment even in remote areas. Enrolment has reached at least 96 percent since 2009, girls making up 56 percent of new students between 2007 and 2013.
• Improvements to infrastructure have been a priority to achieve this and India now has 1.4 million schools and 7.7 million teachers so that 98 percent of habitations have a primary school (class I-V) within one km and 92 percent have an upper primary school (class VI-VIII) within three kms.

• Challenges at Primary Education Level:
• Very poor quality of education in government schools, rote learning and no emphasis on learning outcomes. According to Pratham’s Annual Status of Education 2013 report, close to 78 percent of children in Standard III and about 50 percent of children in Standard V cannot read Standard II texts. Arithmetic is also a cause for concern as only 26 percent students in Standard V can do a division problem.
Dropout rate at primary level is 29%.
Teacher shortage of 689000 teachers at primary level leads to high student-teacher ratio.
Teachers are not well-trained, absenteeism is prevalent.
Poor infrastructure and lack of furniture. Only 53 percent of schools have functional girls’ toilets and 74 percent have access to drinking water.
Poor implementation of RTE Act, only 9.5% schools being fully RTE compliant.

Challenges at Secondary Education Level:
• The gap between expected and actual abilities of students increases further. Only 53% of all 14-year-olds can read a simple text in English and just 44% can perform a simple division.
Dropout rates are high: 43% before class 8 and only 42% complete high school.
Gender ratio gets highly skewed, 23% girls drop out during adolescence. Lack of separate toilets is a major factor.
Lack of options at high school level for choosing streams; no guidance or career counselling to choose stream.
• Absence of Vocational Training Modules.
• Poor financial support: Low spending on the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), the government’s flagship programme aimed at providing universal access to quality secondary education.

• 12th Five-Year Plan had recommended Rs. 27,466 crore to be allocated to RMSA, only Rs. 19,372 crore was allocated and even less spent.
• Added pressure of Board exams in class 10 and 12, mass copying, leakage of question papers even at CBSE level are major pain points that need immediate attention.
Lack of proper education and career counselling leads to proliferation of alternate coaching institutes.

Challenges at Higher Education Level:
• India’s higher education system, governed by UGC, is the third largest in the world, after the US and China.

University Grants Commission (UGC):
• It is statutory body set up by the UGC Act 1956 under Ministry of Human Resource Development.
• The UGC is the central body for coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of
university education in India.
• The UGC’s mandate includes overseeing distribution of grants to universities and colleges in India; providing scholarships/fellowships to beneficiaries; and monitoring conformity to its regulations by universities and colleges.

Issues with UGC:
• Arbitrary and irregular approval of colleges and courses.
Policies made by the UGC to keep pace with the changing dynamics of higher education are ill-considered, as well as lacking in research and consultation with stakeholders.
Improper regulation by UGC lets smaller substandard institutions slip by as deemed universities, but also instigates witch-hunts against reputed deemed universities.
Instances of delay in fellowships, especially the ones under other ministries such as minority affairs, social justice, and tribal affairs, have become a regular affair, placing underprivileged research scholars in a tough spot.

• Low standard of higher education: This is reflected by the low number of Indian institutes/universities featuring in the list of global top universities.
• As per All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2016, number of colleges per lakh eligible population (18-23 years) is 28.
Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education is a mere 24.5%, which is calculated for 18-23 years age group.
Inadequate infrastructure for R&D: Only 1.7% Colleges run Ph.D. programme and 33% Colleges run Post Graduate Level programmes.
• This leads to significant brain drain. India is currently the second-largest sending country of international students worldwide after China, and outbound student flows are surging.
• The number of Indian international students enrolled in degree programs abroad doubled from 134,880 students in 2004 to 278,383 in 2017, as per UNESCO.

• Lack of Diversity: Only 10 Higher Education Programmes (like engineering, Medicine, etc.) out of approximately 180 cover 83% of the total students enrolled in higher education. This shows a linear path of education without possibility of quality options.

Commercialisation of Education:

The rapid growth of private higher education system in addition to the diminished governmental financial support adversely affects small and rural educational institutions.
• It led to many non-accredited institutes mushrooming and duping rural and semi-urban students.
• Poor employability of Indian Graduates: 47% of graduates are not employable in any sector of the knowledge economy (Aspiring Minds Employability Report).
• This is mainly due to outdated curriculum, absence of application based education and inadequate industry-academia linkages.
• Multiple Regulatory Bodies supress clarity in vision and accreditation processes.

Steps taken to Improve Primary and Secondary Education in India:
• Central Government has launched an integrated scheme named Samagra Shiksha w.e.f.2018-19, which subsumes three schemes i.e., Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and Centrally Sponsored Scheme on Teacher Education (CSSTE).
• To improve quality, RTE Act rules were amended to introduce assessment based on Learning Outcomes methodology.
National Achievement Survey for classes 3, 5, and 8 based on learning outcomes was conducted in 2017 up to district level to enable States and UTs to identify gaps in learning outcomes at district level and design strategies to address those gaps.
Swachh Vidyalaya scheme was launched with aim of separate functional girls’ toilet to arrest gender biased dropouts in junior and secondary levels.
• RTE Act has been amended so all untrained in-service teachers working in Government, Government-aided, and private unaided schools should acquire minimum qualification as laid down by an academic authority, authorized by government, by 31st March, 2019.
National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) has been entrusted to conduct this teacher training through ODL (Open Distance Learning) mode. The online Diploma in Elementary Education (D.El.Ed) course has started from 3rd October, 2017. More than 13 Lakh teachers have joined these courses.
Early grade reading, writing & comprehension, and early Mathematics programmes through a sub-programme namely ‘Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat’ (PBBB) in foundational years of schooling.
Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyan (RAA) launched in 2015 to motivate and engage children of the age group from 6-18 years in Science, Mathematics and Technology through observation, experimentation, inference drawing, model building, etc. both through inside and outside classroom activities.
• NCERT has developed a framework  for Performance Indicators for Elementary School Teachers (PINDICS).

Steps taken to Improve Higher Education:
• Reforming Higher Education Regulatory Bodies in India: Government is revamping Medical Council of India (MCI). Currently, it has tasked Oversight Committees to administer its functions. Similarly, other bodies such as UGC may also get reformed soon.
Conducting Exams in a Uniform Manner: The competitive exams are getting conducted on pan-India level in a uniform manner through exams like NEET (UG and PG medical graduates) and TET (teachers).
Accreditation Process: Proper and globally comparable standards for approval and accreditation of Higher Education Institutes (HEIs).
Focus remains on adequate funding, better infrastructure and teaching/research facilities: Government is promoting industry for funding by making research productivity-oriented. Research and pure sciences need adequate grants to produce results.
Vocational training and its need to be rejuvenated to provide alternate course of action to large number of students to gain quick and meaningful employable skill set.
• Transparency and more autonomy to HEIs in functioning and getting grants will promote a culture of awarding merit.

• With the proliferation of smartphones and affordable internet, digital education and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are a tool to take higher education to the masses. There is scope for standards and proper regulation to promote it in a positive manner and provide certification too.

Various Government Schemes:
• Rashtriya Uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) has received almost fourfold increase in funding.
• Global Initiative for Academic Networks: GIAN initiative helps in bringing best teachers in India from across the globe. A lack of quality teachers on various specializations limits study and career options. Such demand should be met globally if not possible domestically.
• SPARC (Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration) launched to promote research collaborations with foreign universities.

Atal Innovation Mission to promote entrepreneurial tendencies in HEIs.
Impactful Policy Research in Social Sciences (IMPRESS) scheme to popularise India-centric social research.
Study in India programme to promote global student exchange.
• UGC has also allowed doctoral degree holders from top 500 foreign institutes as per QS ranking to be eligible for direct recruitment as assistant professor in Indian universities now.
• UGC has decided to set up a Consortium of Academic and Research Ethics (CARE) to approve a new official list of academic publications and weed out predatory, unreliable journals.
• Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) set up by MHRD and Canara Bank to fund higher education institutes.

• National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) created for objective and comparative evaluation of HEIs in India.
• Recently, new programs for improving faculty performance in HEIs have been launched: LEAP (Leadership for Academicians) and ARPIT (Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching).
SWAYAM, a MOOC platform was launched by MHRD.

Way Forward:
TSR Subramaniam Committee to formulate a new education policy for India submitted its report in 2016. Its recommendations, though rejected by the government on the grounds that it was more of repackaging of older recommendations, are still relevant.
• The outlay on education should be raised to at least 6% of GDP.
• An All-India Indian Education Services should be established on the lines of IAS with overall control of MHRD.
• Minimum eligibility condition with 50% marks at graduate level for entry to existing B.Ed courses. Teacher Entrance Tests (TET) should be made compulsory for recruitment of all teachers.
• Compulsory licensing or certification for teachers with provision for renewal every 10 years based on independent external testing.
• Pre-school education for children in the age group of 4 to 5 years should be declared as a right.
• No Detention Policy must be continued for young children until class 5.
• On-demand board exams should be introduced to offer flexibility and reduce year end stress of students and parents.
• A National Level Test open to every student who has completed class XII from any School Board should be designed, similar to SAT in USA.
• Mid-day meal (MDM) program should be extended to secondary schools as levels of malnutrition and anaemia continue to be high among adolescents.
• UGC overhauling: It needs to be made leaner and given the specific and limited role of disbursal of scholarships and fellowships to bring efficiency.
• A separate statutory body to replace UGC in overall management of higher education in India.
• Top 200 foreign universities should be allowed to open campuses in India and give the same degree which is acceptable in the home country of the said university. As per some sources, the committee had also originally recommended banning political parties to form wings in universities to avoid excessive politicisation, but this was not included in the official report.

• While much is being done in policy formulation stage, implementation is not always up to the mark.
• Even then, efforts in education have long gestation period before showing perceptible results. Need of the hour is to set aside political apathy towards education and invigorate India’s education sector.
As India enters the period called “demographic window” which will last roughly 30-40 years, the government urgently needs to educate and skill the burgeoning youth to capitalise on it.
• As economists Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze put it, India is looking “more and more like islands of California in a sea of sub- Saharan Africa.”
• Hence, without proper education, this demographic dividend could easily turn into a demographic liability.

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