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Indian Education System

Written by  Piyush Bhartiya, MBA

Published on Fri, February 21, 2020 9:23 AM   Updated on Sat, August 1, 2020 1:38 PM   21 mins read

The Indian Education system is one of the oldest education systems that exist. Starting from palm trees to laptops as writing pads, the education system has changed a lot. The education system started from the Gurukul Systems and has now reached to online learning.

The education system laid focus on the following subjects before independence:

  • Religion
  • Philosophy 
  • Warfare
  • Medicine
  • Astrology 

However, post-independence, a little more emphasis was paid to education and the subjects offered for education were:

  • Astronomy 
  • Logic
  • Mathematics
  • Grammar
  • Law
  • Philosophy 
  • Medicine, etc. 

   The education system has been divided in different categories:

  • Pre-primary 
  • Primary 
  • Secondary, and  
  • Higher education. 

Even though the education system has improved a lot, there are a lot of problems and challenges the system faces. This article talks about all the problems, challenges, advantages, and drawbacks faced by the Indian Education System.

Problems in Indian Education System

Indian Education System is one of the oldest education systems. However, irrespective of producing a number of notable personalities, the Indian Education System lacks a lot of factors from the newer education systems which make it backward. A few reasons for this backwardness can be:

  • Infrastructure: The majority of government schools, as well as a lot of private schools, lack proper infrastructure. A lot of schools do not provide the students with facilities like proper science gears, libraries, computer labs, proper urinal systems, hostel, playgrounds, or even a drinking water facility. A number of schools do not have a proper power supply, teaching boards, and study material as well. Because of the lack of these facilities in the infrastructure, the desired outcome for the education system is not achieved.
  • Funds: The Indian Education System faces a problem of shortage of funds. The absence of funds makes it almost impossible to accomplish a better education system. Schools do not have enough funds in order to enhance the quality of education. This problem results in improper infrastructure facilities, teaching facilities, and quality teachers. Teachers are not paid adequately, irrespective of their qualifications which may be one of the reasons why they are unwilling to work hard.
  • Theory and Practical: The Indian Education System, a very old education system, prefers theory over practical. The skills/intelligence of a student is judged on the basis of academics only, via exam papers. Education is not based on practical knowledge. In order to score more, a student can easily mug up the studying material without understanding the topic. A very little percentage of marks is given to practical examinations. This may count as an encouragement to the theoretical knowledge rather than practical knowledge.  The Indian Education System does not put much emphasis on other skills, like sports and arts.
  • Wastage of resources: The Indian Education system is based on the idea of general education. Most of the students leave school in very early stages of education, which leads to a waste in financial as well as human resources
  • Personality Development: Education does not only mean academic development but also personality development. Schools and colleges expect a student’s performance in terms of marks and put very little emphasis on his/her personality growth. This may be a reason why, when students complete their graduation and enter the real world through jobs, they face problems for they have do not have skills that are required for the job. Companies often tend to hire people who meet the criteria of the job and have more and relevant skills than the other candidates. 
  • Syllabus: The Indian Education System follows an outdated syllabus. The students learn and get knowledge from an old syllabus and curriculum. The students might be unaware of the new technological and scientific improvements taking place. 
  • Quota: One of the problems the Indian Education System is a reservation. The system allows reservations for reserved caste and rich students. An equal chance at education is not given to everyone because of their caste and creed. According to a survey, the child of a rich family gets education easily because of money, while the child of a poor family has only one out of seven chances to afford/ get primary education. 
  • Language Barrier: The medium of teaching in the majority of the schools is English. While it may be considered nice and important in the contemporary world, it creates a problem for a lot of students to understand and comprehend English. Students with very little or no knowledge of English may find it extremely hard to understand the topics covered in class and the reading material for the same because a lot of the standard distributions are not available in regional languages.
  • Student-Teacher Ratio: The student-teacher ratio in schools as well as colleges are inadequate. A class has approximately 50 students, and a batch may have more than a hundred students and a single teacher for one subject. It becomes almost impossible for a teacher to take responsibility for a lot of students at once, which is why they may not be able to have a one conversation with all the students. An inadequate student-teacher ratio creates a big problem in the Indian Education System.
  • Governance and funds: One of the major problems The Indian Education System faces is poor governance and misuse of funds. Corruption in the system has been increasing with time, and it degrades the quality of education. The funds for the educational system are misused and transferred to personal accounts and it becomes a contributor to domestic black money. 

Indian Education System: History 

The Indian Education System has its roots to the history when they followed the Gurukul System, a system where the students had to reside in the house of their teacher until the teacher felt that he had imparted all education that he could. Subjects like Sanskrit, Scriptures, Mathematics and Metaphysics were taught.

Traditionally, only the Brahmin boys (the highest caste), had the opportunity to learn how to read and write. In other words, education was provided to the boys of the highest caste and was an unachievable dream for the rest. Girls of any caste were not allowed education for a long time. In the year 1612, The East India Company set up its first establishment in Surat, to establish its own empire in the country. Much emphasis was given to the establishment of the East India Company, and education was neglected. However, later in the British era, institutions for education were established in the medium of the English Language. This effort of imparting education in the English language led to dissatisfaction among many, due to which the Charter of 1813 was enacted. The charter threw light on the education policy of India and accepted the responsibility of government to provide education. The government made numerous efforts to promote education since then. However, dissatisfaction with people started surfacing when the expectations were not met.

Ancient Indian Education System 

It is believed that education in ancient India was very disciplined and organized. The main subject of learning was traditional and religious knowledge. Palm trees and tree barks were usually used as writing pads. Most of the teachings were oral. Education became even more prevalent with the Gurukul System, which required the students to stay with the Guru till he felt he has imparted all knowledge to the students. The main subjects of teaching were:

  • Religion 
  • Philosophy
  • Warfare
  • Medicine
  • Astrology

Universities like the Takshahila University, Nalanda University, and Ujjain started in the beginning of the first millennium. During the 18th century, education was widely spread with the availability of schools in most villages in India. The medieval times also saw an establishment of Madrasas, libraries as well as literary societies. The subjects for learning were: 

  • Astronomy
  • Grammar
  • Logic
  • Philosophy
  • Literature
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Hinduism 
  • Buddhism 
  • Politics and Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Logic

Modern Indian Education System 

Modern Indian Education System started with the British era, where education was imparted to students in the English Language. This laid more emphasis than other language learning. The modern form of the education system was proposed by Lord Macaulay, who believed that Indians should attain modern education to come out of their:

  • Traditional thoughts
  • Interests
  • Morals

Post-independence, the entire basis of education system demanded revolution. The aim of education in India became enabling the students to realize their responsibilities and liabilities of the society. The Constitution of India said, “No citizen shall be denied admission into the any educational institutions maintained by the state or receiving aid out of the state funds on grounds only of the religion, race, caste, language or any of them.” The purpose of education became: 

  • To give him knowledge of the world in which one lives, 
  • To develop the personality of the individual, 
  • To develop skills needed to sustain and advance social life so that one can be a creative member of society,
  • To satisfy the individual’s search after values. 

Education was largely controlled by the central government, but it slowly became a joint effort by the central and state governments through 1976. By the beginning of the 21st century, compulsory education for children up to 14 years and they plan to spend 6% GDP in education, focusing on primary education more were formulated. Even though India has a rich past when it comes to the education system, the country still has high illiteracy and a high rate of school dropouts.

Indian Education System Today 

The Indian Education System today has changed a lot from the earlier times. More importance is given to education in contemporary times than it was in the earlier periods. Women were either not allowed to study, or it was frowned upon when they received education. However, this status has changed, a lot of women get an education without being frowned upon.

A few highlights of the present education system are mentioned below:

  • Technology: Different technologies introduced in learning have changed the scenario of the education system. Usage of smartboards, internet connections, interaction with students and teachers across the globe has benefitted the education system in some way or the other. Teachers can show the students academic videos in the class, like interviews based on the topic, news based on the topic, which not only helps the student understand the topic better, but also helps the student build an idea of the topic in the real world. 
  • Options: In earlier times, students had only a few career options, like engineering, medical or teaching. However, the students now have a sea of career opportunities in any field they would like to go. 
  • Cost of Education: The cost of education has increased to multiple levels. Whether they are government schools, private schools or colleges, the cost of education continues to increase. 
  • Theory over Practical: Very less emphasis is laid on the practical use of the topic. The skills/intelligence of a student is judged on the basis of academics only, via exam papers.
  • Syllabus: Even though the education system has improved, the students still gain knowledge from an outdated syllabus. 

Indian Education System: Advantages

The advantages of the contemporary Indian Education System have been listed below:

  • The students go through several exams in years. It teaches the students to analyze strengths and weaknesses consistently.
  • The education system emphasizes the competitive spirit, which encourages the students to unleash their full potential.
  • The schools give basic knowledge of all subjects. 
  • The concept of the annual system helps the slow learners to catch up. 
  • Even though practical knowledge is not given much emphasis, but it has been increasing with time.

Indian Education Systems: Drawbacks

Though there has been an improvement in the education system, there are some drawbacks to it. The drawbacks are mentioned below:

  • Emphasis on memorizing facts rather than understanding them 
  • Completely relying on textbooks
  • No autonomy for teachers
  • No freedom for creativity 
  • Taking marks as an assessment 
  • Textbooks do not talk about the relevance of topics in practical life
  • No incentive for teachers to encourage critical thinking in children 
  • Lack of infrastructure
  • Theoretical syllabus
  • Lack of capable teachers in government schools
  • Low salaries given to teachers
  • Peer Pressure
  • High Cost of Education 
  • Ethics are not taught 
  • Very Low teacher to student ratio 
  • High prices for higher education 
  • Many schools do not have playgrounds
  • No encouragement for research and innovation 
  • High competition 
  • Shortage of textbooks for Govt. school students
  • No proper career guidance
  • Teachers are negligent towards students
  • Not everyone has access to school 

How to improve the Indian Education System?

The Indian Education System has improved and is still improving. However, there have been issues with the education system which leads to students getting pressurized. A way to improve the Indian Education System can be:

  • Infrastructure: Many schools do not have adequate infrastructure. The schools do not have proper chairs, tables, or even a proper toilet. Therefore, the first step to improve Indian Education System should be improving the infrastructure of schools so that the students have a healthy environment to study in. 
  • Rote Learning: Rote learning is prevalent in the majority of the schools in the country. These schools must introduce conceptual learning where they will be able to understand the topics instead of mugging them up. 
  • Skill Based education: Students are forced to study subjects like Science and Maths up to a certain grade, irrespective of his/her ability to understand and perform in the subject. The education system should identify the strengths of the students, and then be given an appropriate field. Through the idea of skill-based education, the students would perform the best of their potential in the field they like. 
  • Rural Education: India is a developing country and has a great population of rural areas. The Indian Education System mainly focuses on urban clusters. The rural areas are ignored or not given much importance. There are very few decent education centers for the people from rural areas. Education centers for rural areas must be introduced for improvement of the education system in the country.
  • Better training for teachers: Teachers receive very less or no training of teaching, which is why the teachers might not be able to teach the students irrespective of their capability. A periodic training for teachers will help them adapt to the new changes. 
  • Educate Parents: It is observed that students choose the fields according to the wishes of their parents. As a result, the students are unable to perform as well as they might in their chosen field. This leads to unfulfilled expectations, and the student may as well suffer from some pressure issues. To prevent this, parents should be educated about all the career options and the scope for each of them. 

Indian Education System: Ranking 

The ranking of the Indian Education System in various fields of education are listed below.

  • India was ranked 72 out of 74 countries, by OECD in the year 2009 based on the Programme for International Student Assessment. 
  • According to the 2011 Census of India, India ranked 168th out of 234 countries in terms of literacy rate. 
  • In the year 2013, United Nations ranked India 145th out of 191 countries based on Education Index. 
  • As per the Legatum Prosperity Index 2015, India ranked 92 in education among 145 countries. 
  • According to the Global Human Capital Report, WEF 2017, ranked India 103rd of 130 countries. 
  • In the year 2018, India was ranked 37 in the quality of education. 
  • As per the Worldwide Education for the future Index 2019, India ranked 35th overall. 

Indian Education System: Structure

Originated from the recommendation given by the Education Commission of 1964-66, most of the central and state boards follow the “10+2+3” pattern. 10 years of study Is given in schools, 2 years in Junior College and 3 years for graduation. 

The apex body which makes decisions on the curriculum related matters for school education across India is the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). NCERT provides support, guidance, and technical assistance to several schools, and looks after many aspects of the education policies. A few other curriculum boards are:

  • State Boards: State government boards usually have one single State Board of secondary education. However, states like Andhra Pradesh have more than one state boards. 
  • Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE): The Central Board of Secondary Education is a national level board of education for public as well as private schools. CBSE follows the NCERT curriculum and conducts examinations in the 10th and 12th standards called the “board exams”.
  • Council for Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE): The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations is a privately held national level board of education for schools in India. Also recognised as “Non-Governmental Board of School Education” by the Constitution of India, CISCE conducts two examinations namely, Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) (Class 10), and Indian School Certificate Examination (ISC) (Class 12).
  • National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS): The National Institute of Open School is a board of education which is under the Union Government of India. NIOS examinations are held twice a year on dates decided by the board. 
  • International Baccalaureate (IB): The International Baccalaureate is an international educational foundation which offers four educational programmes:
  • IB Diploma Programme
  • IB-Career related programme
  • IB Middle years Programme
  • IB Primary Years Programme

       The pattern “10+2+3” that is followed by most of the schools and colleges in the country has been summarised in the flowchart below.

  A summary of the education boards in India is presented below. 

The stages of the Indian School System are:

Indian Education System: Future

The future of the Indian Education System looks to be unpredictable. Scholars and education have been negligent for years. The education system cannot stop until the illiteracy rate is reduced. However, the rates of the scholars and their issues are increasing and are being placed into thought. While some suppose regarding turning education into a business, others believe putting in place of recent colleges. However, within the finish, the government desires the education system to stay prospering to make a stronger future for the country. The analysis shows that the education system has been deteriorating thanks to the interference of varied political interests. That is because the government does not trust the normal education system. Even once it does not offer funds for the education system, it will continue mistreatment lecturers, distance education and alternative means that to manage the education system. However, what is the long run of Indian education system? If we glance at this situation, it seems there is no solution. 

Challenges of Indian Education System 

The Indian Education System faces various challenges, which in turn act as hurdles for improvement in the education system. Some of the challenges are listed below.

  • Most villages do not have proper schools, which makes the students travel a few kilometres to attain education. 
  • The quality of education is not up to the mark. Education delivered is generally theoretical in nature but lacks practical aspect. 
  • The education system lacks funds which is why it is difficult to enhance the quality of education, infrastructure facility, and teaching environment. 
  • The mentality of the Indian families that more the earning people in the family, the better is the biggest challenge to the education system.
  • A lot of families refrain their children from attending school because they have not realised the value of education yet. 

Changes needed in the Indian Education System 

    Education plays an important role in everyone’s lives. Though the Indian Education System is reforming, there are still a lot many factors that require attention and changes. India being a developing country and one of the most populous countries, it is home to a big proportion of the world’s youth and rural people. The Indian Education System needs to pay attention to the key demographic and make changes as soon as possible. To improve the condition of the Indian Education System, the commission should: 

  • Instead of focusing on higher enrolment, insights and understanding of topics should be the goal, that is, focus more on quality education
  • Instead of laying emphasis on white collar jobs or government jobs only, people should be made aware of the diverse profession choices available and their scope. 
  • Qualified teachers should be hired in schools and given periodic training in teaching. 
  • Educational programs should be made by specialists or policymakers who have a fair idea of the subject. 
  • Infrastructure should be improved so that students have a good environment to study in. 
  • No weight should be given to students based on their wealth, caste, religion, or region. 
  • Attention to the education of girls is important. 
  • Schools and colleges must start personality development programs to improve education standards.
  • Importance to regional/native languages should be given. 

Indian Education System: Facts

 Facts about the very old education system, the Indian Education System are listed below. 

  • Indian Education System is the third largest higher education system in the world. 
  • It has the first and the oldest university, Nalanda University.
  • It has the largest residential university in the world, Banaras Hindu University.
  • It has the world’s largest school, City Montessori School. 
  • The government provides free education to children between the age of 6-14 years, under the Right to Education Act.
  • The first state to achieve 100% primary education in the country is Kerala. 
  • It has a poor higher education enrolment number. 
  • The system lags in Science and Technology. 
  • The cut off marks for getting into a college are a lot higher than they should be. 
  • Teachers in schools are often not present without a valid reason and still receive salaries. 

Globalization and Indian Education System

Globalization has affected the entire world in every field. The impact of the same in the field of education. It has impacted the Indian Education in very contrasting ways. While the basic aims of education are to enable children to develop their potentials, define and pursue a meaningful purpose; globalization has put extra pressure on the education system to create ‘winners’ who are ready to battle in the race for the survival of the fittest.

  • There is exaggerated stress on getting ready world voters United Nations agency square measure able to face the extremely competitive world.
  • There may be a large upsurge within the demand for learning English, growing the quality of international colleges, want for syllabus restructuring, etc. 
  • The education situation in our country must be revamped in several areas at a quicker rate. This method might begin in an efficient manner once there exists a stiff competition from abroad. 
  • Talking concerning Republic of India, wherever a large Influence of foreign culture exists. Such cultural exchange adds completely different flavours to the native culture and enriches it. 
  • Students and schools will currently be a neighbourhood of the world education system off their alternative while not even relocating the country. Thus, sanctioning them to utilize the most effective of obtainable opportunities of the globe relaxed.

Indian Education System Vs. Foreign Education System 

Point of Distinction Indian Education System Foreign Education System 
Approach More focus on theory and less on practical. Follows a more practical approach. 
Option to Switch An option to switch majors in between in the program is not allowed. An option to switch majors is allowed. 
Research InitiativesThe funds for research are limited, therefore, research initiatives are less. Research in foreign universities is funded by big organizations. 
Curriculum The curriculum followed is outdated. The curriculum is often updated. 
Course OptionsLimited Course Options. Multiple course options available. 
FundsPursuing education is relatively cheaper. Pursuing education is very expensive. 
ScholarshipsLimited Scholarships. Numerous Scholarships are available. 


✅ How does the education system work in India?

The education system follows a “10+2+3” pattern for the education system. In the pattern, ‘10’ implies 10 years of school study, ‘2’ implies 2 years of study in a junior college, and ‘3’ implies 3 years for graduation. The 10 years are further subcategorized into 4 years of primary education and 6 years of secondary education. 

✅ What are the three types of Education?

Three types of education are Formal, Informal, and Non-formal.

1. Formal Education: Formal education refers to learning which takes place in a systematic or a formal setting such as a classroom. Few examples can be a middle school or high school.
2. Informal Education: Informal Education refers to learning which does not use formal learning and teaching methods.
3. Non-formal Education: Similar to formal education, this type of learning often involves instructions.

✅ What rank is India in education?

India ranks 35th according to the Worldwide Education for the future index 2019.

✅ Who is the father of Education?

John Amos Comenius, born in the year 1592, is considered to be the father of modern education.

About the Author & Expert


Piyush Bhartiya

Author • MBA • 20 Years

Piyush values education and has studied from the top institutes of IIT Roorkee, IIM Bangalore, KTH Sweden and Tsinghua University in China. Post completing his MBA, he has worked with the world's # 1 consulting firm, The Boston Consulting Group and focused on building sales and marketing verticals for top MNCs and Indian business houses.

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