Little Clear Notes on Indian Education

In India, education is a subject matter of regulation both by the Central government and the state governments. Education providers are both, public as well as private institutions. The predictable result is that richer and urban areas have better schools and that students in these schools have a better chance of going on to high education.

While right to education is a fundamental right and providing education the responsibility of the state, children from economically weaker backgrounds attend separate and entirely unequal state-government schools in the urban areas. In rural areas, where there are no private schools, the rural-rich send their children to the urban elite and private schools while the poor have to make do with schools without adequate physical and human teaching resources.

Access to primary and secondary education was and is unequal. The same inequality continues or rather increases for the post-secondary education.

As per a report of Ministry of HRD, Government of India titled ‘Analysis of Budgeted Expenditure on Education 2013-14 to 2015-16’ Elementary Education accounted for 50.96% of the total expenditure on education in 2015-16, followed by Secondary Education, which was 30%. The share of University & Higher Education and Technical Education was 12.84% and 4.60% respectively.

State universities, for example, educate 65% of students but receive only 45% of the various higher education grants from the states. The perversity of this is seen in this statistic: at the elite schools, students pay only 35 paise of every rupee to fund their education while at the large state universities they pay 55 paise of every rupee. Not surprisingly, the graduation rate for the elite institutions is above 90% while it is below 50% for the other tiers.

Elite state institutions are almost as lavishly funded as the old-line institutions such as BITS. The defence of spending more on these institutions and students is merit, of which, there are two kinds. Both are manufactured.

It is not that these institutions do not turn out good education work. Rather, in the battle for funding, they up their rankings by inviting more and more students to apply for a limited number of spaces – which allows them to prove their elite status by showing the small percent of applicants they actually enrol.

Elite institutions also manufacture their status through their reliance on admissions testing scores or percent cut-offs. India is famous for IIT-JEE or CPMT or CAT. There are a number of studies which prove that such tests miserably fail in predicting how students will do during their first year in the institution.

Anyone and everyone interested in higher education in India may like to read – Odile Henry and Mathieu Ferry, « When Cracking the JEE is not Enough », South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal [Online], 15 | 2017, Online since 22 March 2017, connection on 19 April 2019. URL :; DOI : 10.4000/samaj.4291; not because I endorse the views therein, but because there is a point of view.

That we as a nation have created a ‘brahminical’ class of institutions called the IITs and the tier-1’s whose priests seem to control every regulation, every accreditation, every ranking and every policy making body on education, is not a matter of pride but shame that even in the seventh year of its rule, the NDA government is unable to finalise an education policy for the country. On the other hand, the world of knowledge has moved many leaps over these seven years and in all likelihood, India may have an obsolete education policy right on the day it is adopted, if that day ever comes.

(First published 07 June 2020)


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