Development of Education in India after Independence

After the Independence of India in 1947, the government established different education commissions to address the educational challenges and recommended comprehensive policies to improve the education system in India.

Development of education under Five-Year Plans

In 1950, the Indian government appointed the Planning Commission to prepare Five-Year Plans for the development of different aspects of life, including education. The main objectives of these plans were:

  • to eradicate illiteracy,
  • to achieve universal elementary education,
  • to establish vocational and skill training programs,
  • to upgrade standards and modernise all stages of education,
  • to provide facilities for high-quality education in every district of the country.

Commissions and Reforms

In 1948, the Central Advisory Board of India decided to set up two commissions, one to deal with university education and the other for secondary education.

  1. University Education Commission.
  2. Mudaliar Commission.

University Education Commission (1948)

The University Education Commission was the first and foremost commission to be appointed in Independent India under the chairmanship of Dr S. Radhakrishnan. It was established to:

  • report on the status of university education in India,
  • propose improvements and extensions that would be desirable to suit the then and future requirements of the country,

The commission also aimed to set up universities that would provide the knowledge and wisdom for the inclusive development of the student’s personality. The report suggested the reconstruction of the education system in tune with the vision of the Constitution of India.

Mudaliar Commission (1952-53)

The recommendation of the Mudaliar Commission occupies a very significant place in the development of the secondary education system in Independent India. The commission emphasized the need of training Indians in the democratic way of life.

Based on the reports and recommendations of the Mudaliar Commission, some reforms were introduced in the Indian educational system. For instance, the introduction of the Higher Secondary Scheme, along with a three-year degree course and the opening of more vocational and technical schools and colleges. Education became the responsibility of both the Central and State governments.

Kothari Commission (1964-66)

The Mudaliar Commission was followed by the Kothari Commission. This education commission was appointed under the chairmanship of D. S. Kothari. It was mandated to deal with all aspects and sectors of education and advise the government on the development of the national education system. The report of the commission led to a resolution on a national policy for education.

Indian Education Policies

National Education Policy (1968)

Based on the recommendations of the Kothari Commission, the government led by Prime Minister Indra Gandhi formulated the National Policy on Education in 1968. The policy called for a “radical restructuring” and proposed equal educational opportunities in order to achieve national integration and greater cultural & economic development.

This 1968 policy emphasized the learning of regional languages, outlining the “three-language formula” to be implemented in secondary education – the instruction of the English language, the official language of the state where the school was based, and the Hindi language. The use of regional languages in secondary schools was encouraged to establish an effective relationship between teachers and students. The National Education Policy of 1968 called for education spending to increase to 6% of the national income.

National Policy on Education (1986)

In 1986, the Government of India, led by Rajiv Gandhi, introduced a new National Policy on Education (NPE). The new policy called for a “special focus on the removal of disparities” and to equalize educational opportunities, especially for women, Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Caste (SC) communities. The policy emphasized expanding scholarships for the poor, adult education, recruiting teachers from the oppressed groups, developing new institutions and providing housing and services.

The National Education Policy provided a “child-centred approach” to primary education and launched “Operation Blackboard” to improve primary schools nationwide. The policy also laid the creation of the “rural university” model, based on the philosophy of Mahatama Gandhi, to encourage economic and social development at the grassroots level in rural India.

Operation Blackboard (1987)

In pursuance of the National Education Policy 1986, the Indian Government launched the “Operation Blackboard” in 1987-88 with the aim of improving the human and physical resources available in the primary schools of the country. The Scheme mainly consists of three components:

  • Providing at least two classrooms in each primary school, along with separate toilet facilities for boys and girls.
  • Providing at least two teachers in each primary school.
  • Providing essential teaching and learning equipment, including blackboards, maps, charts, toys, and games, to all primary schools bought under the scheme.

During the 8th Five-Year Plan, the Scheme was revised in 1993-94 and expanded to provide the third classrooms and third teacher to primary schools where the enrollment exceeds 100. It was also extended to cover upper primary schools as well.

Teacher Education Scheme (1987)

As envisaged in the National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986, the Government launched a Centrally-Sponsored Scheme of Restructuring and Reorganization of Teacher Education in 1987. It aimed to create a sound institutional infrastructure for pre-service and in-service training of elementary and secondary school teachers. It also provided for the provision of academic resource support to elementary and secondary schools. The Scheme had the following components:

  • Setting up of District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs).
  • Strengthening of Secondary Teacher Education Institutions into Colleges of Teacher Education (CTEs) and Institutes of Advanced Study in Education (IASEs).
  • Strengthening of State Councils of Education Research and Training (SCERTs).

Under this Scheme, recurring and non-recurring Central assistance is provided to the State Governments as resource support to the DIETs, CTEs, IASEs, and SCERTs.

District Primary Education Program (1994)

In 1994, the Government launched the centrally-sponsored scheme of the District Primary Education Program (DPEP) as a major initiative to revitalize primary education and achieve the goal of universalization of primary education. In this program, 85% of the project cost is shared by the Government of India, while 15% by the concerned State. The Central share was funded by several external agencies, including the World Bank, UNICEF, and Department for International Development (DFID).

The program aims at providing access to primary education for all children by reducing the primary drop-out rates, increasing the learning achievement of primary school students and reducing the gap among gender and social groups.

Mid-Day Meal Scheme (1995)

The Government of India initiated the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) on 15 August 1995 under the name of “National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education” (NP-NSPE). The objective of the programme is to help improve the nutritional status of primary school children.

Under this scheme, a cooked midday meal with 300 calories and 12 grams of protein is provided to all children enrolled in classes one to five. Initially, the programme was launched in 2408 blocks of the country. By 1997-98, the programme had been implemented across the country.

In October 2007, the NP-NSPE was renamed as “National Programme of Mid Day Meal in Schools”. The Scheme included students in upper primary classes of six to eight in 3479 educationally backward blocks in 2007.

In September 2021, this scheme was again renamed the “Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM-POSHAN)” scheme. The Central Government announced to include an additional 24 lakh students receiving pre-primary education at government and government-aided institutions under the POSHAN scheme by 2022. The Ministry of Education (MoE) is the nodal ministry for this scheme.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (2001)

In 2001, the Government of India launched the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) to ensure education for children from 6 to 14 years. The roots of SSA go back to 1994 when the District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) was launched to achieve the objective of universal primary education.

SSA aimed to change the elementary education system in the country by providing useful-quality elementary education to all children of the age group of 6-14 years by 2010.

Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat“, launched in 2014, is a nationwide sub-programme of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. This sub-programme looks to improve the comprehensive early reading, writing and mathematic skills of children of classes I and II.

86th Constitutional Amendment Act (2002)

In 2002, the Indian Government introduced the 86th Amendment Act of 2002 to amend the Constitution of India, which:

  • Made elementary education a Fundamental Right by adding a new Article 21-A in Part III of the Constitution. Article 21-A laid out that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the State may determine.
  • Changed the subject matter of Article 45 in Part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy) of the Constitution. Now, Article 45 laid out that State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of 6 years.
  • Included a new Fundamental Duty under Article 51-A, which laid out that it shall be the duty of every Indian citizen who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child between the age of 6 to 14 years.

Right to Education Act (2009)

The “Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act“, also known as the “Right to Education Act (RTE)“, is an Act of the Indian Parliament, enacted on 4 August 2009. The RTE describes the conditions of the importance of free and compulsory education for children in the age group of 6-14 years in India under Article 21-A of the Constitution. The RTE came into force on 1 April 2010. Following are the provisions of the Right to Education Act (RTE):

  • The Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the age of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum standards in elementary schools.
  • It requires all the private schools (except the minority institutions) to reserve 25% of seats for the poor and other categories of children (to be reimbursed by the State as part of the public-private partnership plan).
  • Children are admitted into private schools based on caste-based reservation.
  • It laid out that no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education.
  • The Act prohibits all unrecognised schools from practising.
  • It makes provisions for no donation or capitation fees and no interview of the child-parent for admission.
  • The Act also laid out a provision for special training for school drop-outs to bring them up to par with the students of the same age.
  • The Act made other provisions for improvements to school infrastructure and teacher-student ratio.

The Right to Education Act is the first legislation in the world that provided the Government with the responsibility of ensuring enrollment, attendance, and completion of education for children of age between 6 and 14 years.

National Education Policy (2020)

The Union Cabinet of India approved the National Education Policy of India 2020 (NEP 2020) on 29 July 2020. This new policy replaced the National Education Policy of 1986. NEP 2020 is a comprehensive framework for elementary education to higher education, including vocation training in both rural and urban India. The policy aims to transform the education system of India by 2040.

The National Education Policy 2020 will not force to study any particular language. Also, the medium of instruction will not be shifted from English to any regional language. The language policy in NEP 2020 is a broad guideline and advisory in nature. NEP 2020 has emphasized the use of “mother tongue” or local language as the medium of instruction till Class 5 while recommending its continuance till Class 8 and beyond.

The “10+2” structure will be replaced with the “5+3+3+4” model to optimize learning based on the cognitive development of children. The new model will be implemented as follow:

  • Foundation Stage: It includes 3 years of preschool, followed by Classes 1 and 2 in primary schools, covering the children of ages 3 to 8 years.
  • Preparatory Stage: This stage consists of Classes 3 to 5, covering the children of ages 8 to 10 years.
  • Middle Stage: It covers children between ages 11 and 13 years, studying in Classes 6 to 8.
  • Secondary Stage: It comprises Classes 9 to 12, covering the children of ages 14 to 18 years.

The National Education Policy 2020 discusses reducing the curriculum content to enhance essential learning, critical thinking, and more holistic experiential, analyses-based learning.

Related Policies on Education

National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (2003)

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has limited financial provisions for girls’ education in the form of innovations at the district level. Thus, there was a need for an additional component.

Therefore, the Government of India launched the National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level (NPEGEL) in July 2003 as a significant component of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). NP-EGEL is a focused intervention of the Indian Government to reach the “Hardest to Reach” girls, especially those not in school. The programme provides additional support for improving girls’ education over and above the investments for girls’ education through normal SSA Interventions.

The Indian Government formulated the NPEGEL for the education of underprivileged/disadvantaged girls from classes I to VIII as a separate & distinct gender component of the SSA. The objectives of the programme were as follows:

  • Reduction of the gender gap in the educational sector.
  • Improve the quality of education.
  • Ensure greater participation of women and girls in the field of education.
  • Emphasize the relevance and quality of girls’ education for their empowerment.

Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme (2004-05)

The Indian Government launched the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) scheme in July 2004 for setting up the residential schools at the primary level for girls belonging predominantly to the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), OBC and minority communities.

The scheme provides a minimum reservation of 75% of the seats for girls from SC, ST communities and priority for the remaining 25% is given to girls from families below the poverty line. It is being implemented in those Educationally Backward Blocks (EBBs), where the female rural literacy is below the national average, and the gender gap in literacy is above the national average.

During the 11th Five Year Plan, the KGBV scheme was merged with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in 2008.

Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (2009)

Rashtriya Madhyam Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) is a flagship scheme of the Government of India, launched in March 2009. It is a centrally sponsored scheme to enhance access to secondary education and improve its quality. It includes multidimensional research, technical consulting, and funding support.

The principal objective of the RMSA is to enhance the enrollment rate by providing a secondary school within a reasonable distance of every home. The objectives of the Rashtriya Madhyam Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) are as follows:

  • To improve the quality of secondary education by making all secondary schools conform to prescribed norms.
  • To provide universal access to secondary level education by 2017, i.e., by the end of the 12th Five Year Plan.
  • To remove gender, socio-economic, and disability barriers.
  • To enhance and universalize retention of students by 2020.
  • The scheme is envisaged to achieve a gross enrollment ratio of 75% from 52.26% in 2005-06 for classes IX-X within five years of its implementation by providing a secondary school within a reasonable distance of any habitation.

Saakshar Bharat (2009)

Saakshar Bharat is an initiative of the Indian Government to create a literate society through a variety of teaching-learning programmes for the non-literate and neo-literate of 15 years and above. The programme was launched in September 2009 as a centrally sponsored program. It aims to promote and strengthen adult learning, reaching out to those who missed the opportunity to access or complete formal education. It also covers vocational education and skill development, applied science and sports.

It was formulated to achieve an 80% literacy level at the national level by focusing on adult women’s literacy. The four broader objectives of the mission are:

  • Imparting functional literacy and numeracy to non-literates.
  • Acquiring equivalency to the formal education system.
  • Imparting relevant skill development programme.
  • Promote a learning society by offering opportunities for continuing education.

Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (2013)

Rashtriya Uchchatr Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) was launched in 2013 for the development of higher education in India. It is a centrally sponsored scheme which aims to work with State universities and their affiliated colleges to raise the bar of campus life. It aims at providing strategic funding to eligible State higher education institutions throughout the country.

The amount of funding from the Central Government will be in the ratio of 60:40 for general category States, meaning 60% of the total grants contributed by the Central Government and 40% will be contributed by the State as a matching share. However, for special category States, the amount of the Central Government funding will be in the ratio of 90:10 and 100% for the Union Territories.

Funds flow from the Central Ministry through the State Governments/Union Territories to the State Higher Education Councils before reaching the identified institutions. The funding to the States would be made based on the critical appraisal of State Higher Education Plans.

RUSA operates in a mission mode to achieve the aims of equality, access and excellence. The salient objectives of RUSA are as follows:

  • To improve the overall quality of state institutions by ensuring that all institutions conform to prescribed norms and standards and adopt accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework.
  • To ensure reforms in the affiliation, academic and examination systems.
  • To usher transformative reforms in the State higher education system by creating a facilitative institutional structure for planning and monitoring at the State Level, promoting autonomy in State Universities and improving governance in institutions.
  • To ensure adequate availability of quality faculty in all higher educational institutions and promote capacity building at all levels of employment.
  • To create an enabling atmosphere in the higher educational institutions to promote research and innovation.
  • To expand the institutional base by creating additional capacity in existing institutions and establishing new institutions to achieve higher enrollment.
  • To correct the regional imbalances in terms of access to higher education by setting up institutions in un-served and underserved areas of the country.
  • To improve equity in higher education by providing adequate opportunities for higher education to SCs, STs, and socially & educationally backward classes, promote inclusion of women, minorities, and differently-abled persons.

Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (2018)

The Indian Government launched the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan in 2018 as an overarching programme for the school education sector extending from preschool to Class 12. The Scheme has been prepared with the broader goal of improving school effectiveness measured in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and equitable learning outcomes. It is a centrally sponsored scheme.

The Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan subsumes three schemes, which are:

  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA),
  • Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA),
  • Teacher Education (TE).

The vision of the scheme is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education from pre-school to senior secondary stage in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for Education.

(In detail: Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan)

Important Educational Organizations

All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)

The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is a national-level council for technical education under the “Department of Higher Education“. It was established in November 1945 as an advisory body. In 1987, AICTE was given statutory status by an Act of Parliament, the All India Council for Technical Education Act of 1987.

As per the Act, AICTE is the statutory authority for proper planning, formulation and maintenance of standards, Quality assurance through school accreditation, monitoring and evaluation, maintaining parity of certifications and awards, and ensuring coordinated development and management of the technical education in India.

University Grants Commission (UGC)

Based on the recommendation made by the Univesity Education Commission of 1948, the Univesity Grants Commission (UGC) was set up on 28 December 1953. The government decided that all grants to universities and higher learning institutions should be handled by the UGC.

In November 1956, the UGC became the statutory body by enacting the “University Grants Commission Act of 1956” by the Indian Parliament. The headquarter of UGC is located in New Delhi. In 1994, the UGC decentralized its operations by setting up six regional offices in Bangalore, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Guwahati, Kolkata, and Pune.

UGC promotes and coordinates university education and determines & maintains standards of teaching, examination, and research in the universities. It provides recognization to universities in India and disbursements of funds to such recognized universities and colleges.

National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT)

The Government of India established the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) on 27 July 1961 to assist and advise the Central and State governments on policies and programmes for qualitative improvement in school education. It is an autonomous organization that formally began operation on 1 September 1961. The Council was formed by merging seven existing seven national governmental institutions, namely:

  • Central Institute of Education,
  • Central Bureau of Educational and Vocational Guidance,
  • Central Bureau of Textbook Research,
  • National Institute of Basic Education,
  • National Fundamental Education Centre
  • National Institute of Audio-Visual Education,
  • Directorate of Extension Programmes for Secondary Education.
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