Special Subject Group on
Policy Framework for Private Investment in
Education, Health and Rural Development
A Policy Framework for Reforms in Education
ISSUES AND IMPERATIVES
a. Social equity
Poor children face
many problems in their childhood years, such as
lack of nutrition, stunted mental development and
reluctance to study. These attributes later lead
to low achievement, high dropout rates and
functional illiteracy. Preprimary school
can tackle these critical deficiencies early and
build a strong base for the childs
education increases the productivity of a child
and in turn increases the probability of the
childs success at school. In the later
years, this may reduce social costs in areas such
as school repetition and health education.
c. Increasing literacy
development programmes combine the objectives of
education with health and nutrition. Pre-primary
schools are mostly in the form of day care
centres where children are taken care of
and provided with the necessary minimum
nutrition. Many children and women dont
attend school because they have to take care of
their siblings or children. The pre-primary
school thus gives them some free time, which they
can use to attend school themselves and improve
participation in the labour force throughout the
developing world is substantial and increasing.
Availability of childcare centres, which provides
education and health, can increase the
productivity and income of self-employed women
and creates opportunities for additional learning
4.1.2 Imperatives for
While the dichotomy
between urban and rural pre-primary education has to
be eliminated, the preprimary education system
needs to change focus from academics to all round
development of children. This calls for a radical
change in teaching methodology based on scientific
Research has shown
that exposing young children to interesting sources
of information for very brief periods each day
stimulates the development of the brain cells during
early years and fosters a spontaneous curiosity and
natural love of learning in children. The
preprimary education system should be based on
these scientific principles and has to focus on
developing a conducive atmosphere for learning and
stimulating the innate curiosity of children.
Learning should be in
the form of presenting information to the child in an
interesting manner and inducing the child to inquire
about the subject. There should not be undue emphasis
on memorising. Active teaching should be confined to
brief periods and not extend beyond the childs
span of interest. The teacher should engage in active
teaching to a group of around five children while
other children are engaged in play and other
activities. Since the child has a natural tendency to
learn languages, very high importance should be given
to development of basic reading and writing skills in
4.2 Primary Education
a. Urban-rural divide
largely perceived as urban-centric. The stark
difference in the literacy rates between rural
and urban areas underline this point. In 1997,
the urban literacy percentage was 80 % whereas
the rural literacy percentage was only 56 %.
Apart from the
large difference in the literacy percentages,
there is a vast quality difference in primary
education between the rural and urban areas. This
glaring disparity results in fewer opportunities
for rural students in the higher education
schools and the students is high in certain
states especially in the rural areas, which
reflects in the educational backwardness of the
states. Compared to the urban areas, the
availability of trained teachers in the rural
areas is limited.
The current system
emphasises teaching by rote. The students are not
exposed to experiential learning. This curtails
the innate spirit of the children to learn
through experiments and practical situations.
c. Low enrolment and
high dropout rates
enrolment and attendance ratios are the most
common indicators to measure the success of a
primary education system. Net primary school
enrolment ratios describe the percentage of
primary school-age children who are registered in
school. Primary school attendance ratios estimate
the percentage of primary school-age children
that are actually attending school. Another
important indication of success of a school
system is the student retention rate, which gives
the percentage of enrolled children who reach a
certain grade level.
A comparison of
these indicators with other developing countries
shows that India fairs poorly on all the counts
and the goal of universal primary education is
still far beyond reach. Countries such as
Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Kenya, Nepal, Peru,
Philippines, South Africa and Tanzania score over
India in at least one of the two factors. The
details of this are presented in Table 4.1.
A major concern is
the gender and caste wise disparity in literacy.
Girls face many obstacles in pursuing education,
including the traditional attitudes about female
roles and a lack of female teachers. They are
often expected to make a critical contribution to
household work and childcare. With the
result, girls constitute two-thirds of all
children not attending school.
literacy rate was 50% as compared to 73% for male
in 1997. There are also wide variations among the
various states, ranging from 90% female literacy
in Kerala to 34% female literacy in Bihar. A
similar situation prevails in the case of male
literacy, which ranges from 96% in Kerala to 62%
e. Myths about
The most common
reasons given for inadequate spread of education
parents dont value education
cannot attend school due to work
However, a recent
survey carried out by a group of researchers
based at the Delhi School of Economics and the
Indian Social Institute finds otherwise. The
survey covered all the schooling facilities in a
randomly selected sample of 188 villages in
Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and
Rajasthan. The survey's findings have been
released as part of the Public Report on Basic
Education for India (PROBE), which is supported
by the Centre for Development Economics (India).
were very keen to enable their children to
acquire education. 80.2 per cent of parents felt
primary education should be made compulsory for
all children. While 98 per cent stressed it was
important for sons to go to school, as many as 89
per cent felt similarly in case of daughters. A
small minority did not consider it important for
a girl to be educated.
children have to work long hours, the survey
found that among children who dont attend
school, about half worked less than three hours
on the preceding day, and 33% had not worked at
all during school hours on that day. Only 18%
worked for more than eight hours. Also, girls
worked more than boys did, but mainly at home. It
is thus clear that the real causes go deeper than
f. Lack of Educational
Infrastructure and Services
One of the main
reasons for Indias poor progress in primary
education is the lack of educational
infrastructure and facilities. Overcrowded
classrooms, long distances to schools, high
student-to-teacher ratios, lack of school
supplies such as desks, chairs, chalk, and
blackboards etc. limit access to primary
g. Cost of education
to make primary education free for all, schooling
is still a costly proposition for the average
agricultural labourer. The PROBE survey estimates
the cost incurred to send a child to a government
primary school at Rs.366 per student per year.
The break-up of the cost is presented in Table
children to school amounts to about 30 to 40 days
wages for an agricultural labourer. Further, the
loss of the childs earnings and his job
experience adds to the familys decision not
to send children to school.
h. Low teacher to
During the period
1951 to 1997, the number of primary teachers
increased by three times and the percentage of
trained teachers has increased from 61% to 87%.
However, the student teacher ratio has remained
stable at around 45 students to a teacher. The
actual number in states varies from 17 in Sikkim
to 78 in Bihar. The PROBE survey found that there
were about 50 children enrolled for each teacher.
Teachers are often absent and spend little time
in active teaching even when they are present.
Further, the distribution of teachers among
schools is highly uneven. This often leads to the
actual pupil-teacher ratio being much higher than
50 in many schools, even shooting up to
three-digit figures in some cases.
manifestation of this problem is that of the
single-teacher school. Officially, single-teacher
schools have been abolished in the country since
introduction of Operation Blackboard in 1986.
However, in the PROBE survey sample villages, 12
per cent of all primary schools had a single
teacher appointed. Another 21 per cent had a
single teacher present, because the other
teachers were absent. Thus, one-third of all
schools effectively had a single teacher.
It is found that
many children are unable to read and write even
after many years of schooling. This is due to the
inefficient teaching methods employed in schools.
Teaching aids are rarely used either because they
are not available or are kept locked up and away
from the children. The favoured teaching method
is copying from the board or from textbooks and
emphasis is on controlling the children rather
than teaching. Teachers are compelled to teach
more than one grade at a time. Some teachers deal
with this by concentrating their efforts on the
higher grades, leaving the younger children to
their own devices.
j. Child labour
The 1991 census of
India lists 112.8 lakhs child workers in the age
group of 514, 90% of which are in rural
areas. Besides, 62 lakhs children are involved in
housework, majority (88%) of which are girls.
There is a strong relationship between child
labour and lack of primary education. Working
children have low enrolment, high absenteeism and
dropout rates. This may be attributable to
fatigue from long hours of labour, injuries and
illnesses, and work schedules that conflict with
the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has
stipulated that the minimum working age should be
more than the age required to complete compulsory
education and in any event, not less than 15
years. However, India does not have any
compulsory education laws.
Department of Labour through its International
Child Labour Programme has studied 16 developing
countries to find the link between primary
education and child labour. The fifth report in
this series states that high absenteeism and drop
out rates are particularly chronic among working
children in rural areas. Though many countries
have complementary child labour and compulsory
education laws, India has no national laws in
this regard. Only 14 states in India have
legislation regarding compulsory education. A
comparison of this legislation is given in Table
4.2.2. Imperatives for
There should be a
compulsory enrolment of children at the age of 5 in
primary schools. This should be enshrined in the
constitution. A system of reward and penalty needs to
be followed. The students should be offered
incentives such as mid-day meals, free textbooks and
teaching aids. There should be stiff penalties for
parents in case the children are not admitted to
To ensure retention,
the mid-day meal scheme and other incentives should
continue. There are a large number of NGOs working in
the field of primary education. The synergy between
the Government and the NGOs should be utilised.
The curriculum should
be overhauled to encourage learning through
experience and not by rote. The teachers role
should shift to that of a facilitator.
The trained teachers
should serve a specified period in the rural areas,
as in the banking system and the medical profession.
A national education
fund needs to be created. The donations to this fund
should be offered attractive tax breaks. This fund to
be utilised for primary education and adult literacy.
There should be at
least one primary school within 2 kms. of each
The reach of new
technology tools such as television, cable television
and Internet should be utilised for enhancing the
reach and quality of primary education.
alone are not very effective in increasing school
attendance. However, a recent survey carried out by
ILO has found it to be very effective when combined
with other social measures such as raising community
awareness about education and improving educational
quality and infrastructure. Economic incentives
are thus very important in raising education levels
and should be employed in India more as a means to
offset the income loss incurred by sending a child to
school. Incentives can be in the form of free meals
to students, food to the students family and
free uniforms and books.
A variety of programs
to provide alternative education opportunities for
working and underprivileged children should be
introduced. These may include the following
which would operate in the lean months of
employment, should be introduced. These schools
should target working children who are early drop
outs or have never attended school and should
impart basic reading and writing skills,
vocational skills and other skills relevant to
their work environment. Focus should be on
generating interest in the formal education
with the highest number of working children in
India, is implementing such a program
successfully with about 74% of the students
subsequently enrolling to formal schools.
for increasing school enrolment and attendance is
to make school schedules more flexible, allowing
working children the opportunity to both work and
study. Schools should operate on a two-shift
basis, one starting in the morning and other
later in the day. Working children should be
allowed the flexibility to attend school in
either shift. Agricultural and rural labour
requirements are highly seasonal. The school
calendar should be adapted so that majority of
the curriculum is covered in the lean months.
Moreover, many labourers migrate to other places
for some time in a year. Appropriate arrangements
should be made to allow children of such
labourers to attend school at different locations
in the same grade. Such programmes have been
successfully implemented in countries like
Guatemala, Peru, Brazil and Mexico.
There should be
national legislation requiring compulsory
education for children during the ages of 6-14.
Effective child labour laws fixing the minimum
working age at 15 should complement this.
An example of a
country where compulsory education has worked to
reduce child labour and increase literacy is Sri
Lanka. The Sri Lankan government decided to
enforce compulsory education in the 1920s
and 1930s. With this compulsory education
policy, school participation rates rose from 58
percent in 1946 to 74 percent in 1963. The
literacy rate also increased from 58 percent in
1946 to 86 percent in 1984 and to 90% in 1997.
Correspondingly, the employment rate of children
in the ten to fourteen age group has shown a
substantial decline from 13% in 1946 to 6.2% in
1963 and currently stands at 5.3% for males and
4.6% for females
4.3 Secondary Education
a. Urban-rural divide
figures though improving with time, is still
lopsided in favour of the urban areas. The
distance to the nearest school is quite high
especially in rural areas.
b. Lack of facilities
Most of the
existing schools have poor facilities for
laboratories, learning resources, computers and
sports. The variance in the quality of teaching
is stark between different schools. Apart from
the lack of facilities, the other major reason
for this is the lack of adequate teaching
professionals in remote areas.
c. Different systems
There are several
organisations administering to this education
system both at the Centre and the states.
4.3.2 Imperatives for
A common system of
education across the nation is absolutely necessary.
This could contain common syllabi across the nation
allowing for regional variations. The states would be
responsible for implementing the syllabi. The
curriculum should provide vocational education at the
10 + 2 levels. The curriculum to be reviewed
All higher secondary
and high schools to be provided computers at a ratio
of at least 1 computer for every 50 students. Stress
should be on practical learning rather than on
4.4 Higher Education
As with the other
sectors, there is a tremendous variance in the
quality of education being imparted by various
institutions. The reasons for these include the
variation in infrastructure facilities in different
institutions and variable quality of the teaching
There are no
innovations in teaching and research. The existing
scheme for continuous learning of faculty is
inadequate. The outcome is ill-equipped faculty
The higher education
is an urban phenomenon with most of the Universities
located in the urban areas. Also the decision making
process of the Universities is extremely slow. This
is one of the reasons for the perception amongst the
rural population that they do not need higher
The content and
curriculum is not in tune with the needs of the
society and does not reflect the changing trends. The
result is an increasing level of educated unemployed.
The objective of
higher education at the most basic level is to
prepare its students for employment. This would mean
value addition of a fairly high level. However, as
mentioned earlier this is merely a dream. The value
addition for the cost of collegiate education is
At the higher
education level, the financing options for the
students is almost non-existent. This and the other
issues discussed above preclude a large segment of
the Indian population from being a part of the higher
4.4.2 Imperatives for
The system should
provide affordable and quality higher education on
par with the best in the world to all. This would
mean tremendous value addition for the students and
they would be better prepared for employment.
There is a need to
evaluate the utility of current Arts and Science
courses in the prevailing scenario. This evaluation
should not restrict to the curriculum alone but also
to the linkage to employment opportunities.
There should be
in-built mechanisms to constantly upgrade and
evaluate curriculum. These evaluations should be
undertaken at a maximum interval of one year.
institutions should be encouraged to establish
science and technology institutions. There should be
no funding from Government to these institutions. The
linkages between industry and academic institutions,
especially in research and development, should be
All courses from the
UG level should have a module on entrepreneurship.
should be made mandatory for all teachers in higher
education on a period basis. This should be at least
6 weeks of training for every two years of teaching.
should be rated by independent agencies, as is done
in the financial markets. The process should be
analogous to the credit rating for financial
instruments. All institutions failing the minimal
quality tests to be given a pre-specified time to
improve, failing which these are de-recognised. All
institutions should obtain this rating each year.
This should be prominently displayed in all
communication and application forms. This would
strengthen the accreditation process.
governance structure should be compact and effective.
In view of global participation of the Universities,
the issue concerning their jurisdiction of
geographical territory needs a review. Also the
University should be allowed to establish their
centres of studies at various locations in India and
administration should be effectively decentralised
and based on the latest information technology
techniques. The courses of studies should be flexible
to encourage the students to choose the variety of
subjects in tune with their strengths and the market
The University system
should establish transfer of credits to enable
students to move from one institution to the other.
The colleges and
universities have largely bypassed the rural sector,
except a few universities designated as rural
universities. India is still a largely rural nation.
It is the duty of the education system to disseminate
knowledge to the entire nation. The urban-centric
approach has left a large population of the country
untouched. These institutions should utilise the
reach of the latest medium and also spearhead the
transfer of technology to the rural sector.
The faculty, once they
are part of the academic system do not keep
themselves abreast of the latest happenings in their
field. There should be methods to compulsorily train
teachers at specified periodicity. This would enable
them to update themselves on the latest tools and
techniques especially in the emerging areas.
There is a variance of
quality of education amongst institutions, with the
result that for a few colleges and institutions,
there is a greater demand for admissions, and for
some others there are not enough requests for
The cost of
professional education is quite high. The lack of
financing options attenuates this.
4.5.2 Imperatives for
examination for professional courses on the lines of
SAT, GMAT or GRE should be organised. This will be
the evaluation criterion for entry into professional
courses at the undergraduate courses. The tests can
be conducted every quarter. The students are free to
take the test at their convenience. The entry into
post-graduate level for the technology courses must
be strictly through GATE or other similar entrance
The curriculum should
be reviewed and updated to be globally competitive.
The teaching faculty should compulsorily attend
programmes to update their knowledge and skills on
the latest research and trends.
Consistency in quality
amongst all technical education should be ensured.
The role and powers of AICTE, MCI and other
organisations responsible for accreditation needs to
be merged into one single entity which would grant
institutions an annual certification process based on
the rating obtained from independent authorities.
should explore methods of increasing their corpus and
reduce their dependence on the Government for
Private Universities in the field of Science and
technology should be encouraged. An enabling
legislation for this purpose should be passed.
4.6 Adult Education
a. Rapid Increase in
population of the country has been increasing at
a fast rate and is currently around one billion.
Though, the literacy rate has also been
consistently rising it has not been able to keep
pace with the population growth rate.
Consequently, the number of illiterates kept
increasing for several decades. However, there
has been a turnaround in the trend since 1991.
The details are presented in Table 4.4.
b. Needed for a larger
focus on certain states
About one-third of
the worlds illiterates are in India. 48 %
of the illiterates in India are in the four
states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and
c. Functional literacy
functional literacy and emphasis not on mere
enrolment of learners but on attainment of
certain predetermined norms and parameters of
literacy, numeracy, functionality and awareness
is not focussed.
disparity has posed a major problem with respect
to literacy. However, in this decade the growth
of literacy in the rural areas has been
significant. In spite of the improvements in this
decade the literacy percentage in the urban area
is 80 % and in the rural areas is only 56 %.
e. Economic disability
Poverty is widely
acknowledged to be the underlying cause for all
the social problems facing India, illiteracy
obviously being one of them. An individual in
India, especially in the rural areas does not
have the inclination towards education, since he
would rather earn his living than spend time on
getting educated. Hence the opportunity cost of
learning is high. In other words, the utility
from education is considered very low.
reason to the slow growth of education could be
attributed to access; in terms of time and place.
The timings of the educational
institutions/communities are not convenient for
most of the people. A common man will not
compromise on his daytime to study since he has
to sustain his family through employment. Also,
the community centres imparting adult education
are more concentrated in urban or semi-urban
areas rather than rural areas. Basically, the
reach of these programs is very poor and again it
becomes inconvenient for a common man to access
g. Weak Policy
A review of the
efforts made so far in policy formulation and
planning on training in adult education in India
indicate that though meticulous planning has been
done and concrete policy guidelines formulated
but there is a lacuna in implementation of these
programs and policies at the grassroots level. A
number of research and evaluation studies have
been conducted of the implementation of total
literacy campaign (TLC) in India and these
studies have revealed the following facts which
need to be rectified immediately.
revealed by these studies are generally the
1. It is not
2. Lack of proper
3. Training needs
are not properly identified.
training methods are not used (focus is on
5. Lack of
relevant training materials on specific aspects
monitoring, evaluation and documentation is not
7. Numbers of
participants are bigger in size (un-manageable
support system for training.
9. Same training
model is followed in low and high literacy areas.
10. Research in
training is very poor.
11. Development of
training skills is not properly attended.
4.6.2 Imperatives for
India should achieve,
by 2010 AD, 100 % literacy levels in the age group 6
to 65. The current estimates of NSSO state that by
2005, our literacy rate would be over 75 %. We would
need support of a large number of organisations to
achieve this, both within Government and outside of
programme similar to those launched for polio
vaccination needs to be organised involving large
number of social organisations and NGOs.
should be placed with a single ministry who will
co-ordinate with all the States and Union Territories
for achieving the first objective.
Additional sources of
funding for this programme should be explored. The
norms for receipt of foreign funding for literacy
programme to be liberalised. Focus should be more on
the educationally backward states.
for women illiteracy eradication, taking into account
the social norms should be drawn up on a
ATTENDANCE AND RETENTION
Net Primary School Enrolment
Primary School Attendance Ratio
Primary School Children Reaching
Not Available (NA)
Source : UNESCO and
ATTENDING PRIMARY SCHOOL
Source: PROBE survey
COMPULSORY EDUCATION AND MINIMUM WORK AGE
Minimum work age (years)
Number of years
Source : UNESCO, UNICEF
and UNDP publications
of Illiterates (7+)
Source: NSSO survey 53rd
round and extrapolation based on the same