Education sector : What has changed?

[Updated : January 2018]

In India, the Education is treated as a noble occupation on ‘no-profit-no-loss’ basis. This fact is reiterated by the Hon. Supreme court in various Judgments. Thus, those who establish and manage any educational institutions are not expected to indulge in profiteering or commercialize this noble activity. With respective to this objective, the court did not give complete freedom to the educational institutions in respect of right to admit the students and also with regard to fixation of fee.

But all is not well in education. The education sector is treated as noble occupation so as to prevent any concentration of knowledge, and keep opportunity to education open to all. But the reality is far different and there is obvious concentration of knowledge. The rural, urban divide has widen further. Further, In India we politicize everything, and education is not exception to it. Education that was suppose to liberate our mind, well we have corrupted the tool itself.

Rather than going philosophical in the beginning let me present some facts based on few dimensions ranging from basic literacy to academic research and job market. In 2009 I wrote my first post on this topic – 14 facts about Indian education system and a remedy Today I am going to revisit the topic, raise some questions and update the data.

1. Basic Literacy – Quality Vs Quantity

FACT: In India, a person aged 7 years and above who can both read and write with understanding in any language is considered as literate. This puts Indian literacy at 74.04%.

Is this sense of literacy good enough?

According to ASER report, in 2016 a quarter of all children in standard 8 in rural India were unable to real standard 2 level text and unable to solve a 3 digit by 1 digit division problem.

In 2017, ASER assessed age group of 14 to 18. They found that  About 25% of this age group still cannot read basic text fluently in their own language.  More than half struggle with division (3 digit by 1 digit) problems. Only 43% were able to do such problems correctly.

#ASER report takes sample from rural India, the statistics for Urban area will be different. sadly i did not come across any NGO who has published report on it.

2.  Teaching quality 

FACT: As on March 2016, 5 lakh sanctioned teaching posts are vacant country-wide. (source)

Even with the right to education, The quality of school education hasn’t improved. A recent study found that in rural north India on an average day, there is no teaching activity in about half” of the primary schools.


In the age of specialization, paradoxically, even today there is no formal training for the technical education teachers! While the teachers in schools and colleges once in while goes on strike to get their entitled monthly pays! leading to serious consequences like delays in results. (source)

No wonder hardly anyone aspires to be a teacher and it is viewed as one of the last resorts of ’employment’. Teaching should be an activity filled with passion, devotion and creativity sadly today it is filled with apathy, ignorance and business as usual sense.

3. Enrollment in education

Gross Enrollment Ratios: it means Proportion of students enroll for higher education after passing from a lower level. i.e. How many students enroll for 11th after passing 10th and so on.

The GER at elementary school level is about 97% which subsequently reduces to 25% till the child reaches higher education.

(GER) at the Secondary (Classes IX-X) and Senior Secondary (Classes XI- XII) levels are 62.7% and 35.9%, respectively leading to a combined GER for Class IX-XII at a considerably low 49.3% . (source) I.e. About 1/2 drops out.

In 2009, Just one out of nine children finishing school joined a college. In 2017 the ratio has improved to 25.2%. i.e. one in 4 student in looking forward to take a degree/ diploma course.

In 2016-17, the (GER) for Higher Education in India has increased to 25.2% according to a report released by Ministry of Human resource development. Tamil Nadu tops in country with 46.9 per cent gross enrollment ratio. Thus in terms of quantity we have leaped forward.

 4. Investment on Education.

According to census 2011 data, About 28% of Indian population falls in the age bracket of 0-14. And 41% of India’s population is below the age of 20.

Unfortunately, the government spending on Education is on decline since 2013-14. It was 4.57% in 2013-14, it declined to 3.65% in 2016-17. With Inflation of 5-6% in account, The spending has declined in real terms as well.

Although, It will be unjust to blame a government of developing country out-rightly as the resources are scarce and government has to trade-off certain priorities. But how can you justify trade-off in education? after all its people that must matter the most and democracy explicitly asks for informed opinion, thus making education a topmost priority. How an informed opinion will be shaped if the mind is unable to process the information?

5. The plethora of Institution


According to government data, India has whopping 38498 colleges!

As per   (THE) World University Rankings 2018, None of Indian colleges made into the top 250 institutes. And only IISC Bangalore and IIT Mumbai made into the top 500 institutes.

How many of these colleges are learning from the premiere institute? or try to establish any point of contact/ experience exchange? answer mostly is none, because of arrogance of university administration who are in love with their age old rules and bureaucracy and don’t allow such ‘defiance’. However, today thanks to internet students can indulge in such defiance, provided information is available on the web and someone to guide them in accessing such information.

(Feel free to read the university act and AICTE act to feel the rigidity of these institutions in terms of learning methods)

6. Quality of education : Output/ Outcome

About a decade ago, ASSCoM-McKinsey study showed that only one out of Ten Indian students with degrees in humanities and one out of four engineering graduates are employable.

There are about 6,214 engineering and technology institutions which are enrolling 2.9 million students. In 2016-17 Aspiring Minds, conducted an employability-focused study based on 150,000 engineering students who graduated in 2013. They find that As many as 97 per cent of graduating engineers were looking for jobs either in software engineering or core engineering.

However, only 3 per cent had suitable skills to be employed in software or product market, and only 7 per cent were able to handle core engineering tasks.

Why would an IT company hire this burden when IT sector itself is facing tough times? clearly there is a need of mind-shift. The administration at universities and colleges need to take cognizance of the fact that – the college curriculum is outdated and new learning opportunities are available at MOOCs such as and But that altruist behavior of going one step beyond prescribed job duty is largely lacking in our culture.

7. Pupil- Teacher ratio

Pupil-qualified teacher ratio :Average number of pupils per qualified teacher at a given level of education. less students per teacher implies better teacher-student interaction, a mentoring role which is hardly executed by the teacher.

According to The All India Council for Technical Education the ratio should be 20:1 i.e. one teacher per 20 students. This ratio till last year  (2016-17) was 15 students per one teacher. (The AISHE report indicates this ratio at an average of 22!)
The The University Grant Commission has recommended this ratio for Under Graduate programmes  1:15 in the media and mass communication departments, while the ratio should be 1:30 for social sciences and 1:25 for the science stream.

The regulators – UGC and AICTE don’t talk in same ratios, while reality indicates a different ratio all together. I hope you can see the chaos!

What is the significance? The most significant question in this regard is – What is the UTILITY of maintaining this ratio and does college administration knows it? do they train their teachers? every parent need to ask this question to the principle before admitting their child to a college. (sum up point no. 5 and 6, and relate with this point.)

8. Quality of education : Input.

On an average most Indian universities revise their curricula only once in five to 10 years but even then they get defeated in both letter and spirit. The disconnect is glaring in engineering and technical courses where teachers never undergoes any formal training regarding teaching. Even if a teacher learns such skill, he is bound by rigid curriculum designed by university and AICTE.

Fortunately, and finally there is a ray of hope. As per news, AICTE chairman is mulling over introducing the social sciences and humanities in the technical education. This is a much welcome step, however, who is going to teach it and how it will be taught? that question remains unanswered.

We need the students to learn the art of reasoning and argumentation. There is a chance of bringing synergy among the erstwhile ignored social sciences, humanities and the binary technical education.

9. Syndicate of education mafia.

Over-regulation by the government and a multiplicity of agencies have seen higher education stagnate and corruption become institutionalized.

FACT: In India, 77.8% Colleges are privately managed and  20.1% of the Colleges are having enrollment less than 100 and only 4.1% Colleges have enrollment more than 3000.

(source – The AISHE report 2016-17, page no. 6)

The institutions which have less than 30 percent enrollment for five consecutive year will be asked to stop their operation from 2018. Accordingly, AICTE is going to shut down 300 Engineering colleges and another 500 are under scanner of Ministry of human resource and development.

How this unplanned mushrooming of engineering colleges developed?

There is a sophisticated cartel operational in Indian education sector. The level of corruption has also touched even the higher judiciary. There is a case in supreme court related with Prasad Education Trust’s medical college. In the CBI inquiry, it is revealed that even highest judiciary is also involved in this bribery case.

years After the dismantling the corrupt institution – Medical council of India, that looked after medical education in India, The government and medical fraternity is yet to resolve the impasse. As of 2018, Restructuring the Medical Council of India to eliminate corruption NITI Aayog have proposed replacing the compromised MCI with a new National Medical Commission (NMC), outlined in a draft Bill known as the National Medical Commission Bill of 2016. (source)

At least Healthcare should be a sensitive issue in India, but the apathy towards the regulation of this sector shows how low the government evaluates human life in India.

10. Ray of Hope : MOOCs.

Distance enrollment constitute 11.45% of the total enrollment in higher education, of which 55% are female students.  However, these courses lack vitality of a full time course mainly due to lack of direct guidance or dialogue from qualified teacher. The distance educations need to go online MOOC mode.

Online education industry will be a $1.96 billion industry by 2021 according to a research conducted by KPMG, along with with insights from Google search.

The government is considering to allow 15% universities to offer online degrees. These courses/ degrees will be of non technical nature (excluding engineering and medical). Universities accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and rated A+ will be allowed to offer such courses. The rules in that regard will be notified by first quarter of 2018.

Apart from these formal channels, emerging MOOCs in India are Byju’s that focuses on academic learning while websites like neostencil, talentsprint focuses on competitive exams.

11. Education and value of life.

India has one of the world’s highest suicide rates for youth aged 15 to 29, according to a 2012 Lancet report, which illustrated the need for urgent interventions.

According to National Crime Records Bureau, 2403, 2646 and 2413 suicides were committed due to failure in examination in the country during 2014-2016. This should be a shocking revelation. However, even today most of the colleges don’t have any professional psychiatric to council the students. Further, the teachers themselves lack any understanding of millennial psyche.

The colleges of humanities and that of Technical education need to conduct workshops together to share their field of knowledge. This exchange will create win-win situation, the technical students will learn about complexities of life, while the Humanities students will learn about scientific thinking, positivism and practical aspect of technology. Who knows perhaps we will get out Durkheim analyzing stress and depression in our youth.

12. Education abroad

An HSBC report, ‘Value of Education, Higher and Higher’, shows the number of Indian parents wanting their children to study abroad has jumped from 47% in 2016 to 62% in 2017. (link)
While. Indian higher education budget is of Rs 30,000 cr;  Indian students spend Rs 44,000 cr in just US. (link)

Indian students now spend $7 billion to go abroad and study in foreign universities because of the poor quality of education at home. Yet the government drags  it feet over permitting foreign universities to set up shop in India. Where in same cost we can successfully implement and run around 10 more IITs.

But this doesn’t concern current Indian government as it has put on hold the plan to let in foreign universities. Rather, it is going to focus on building domestic world class universities! (source)

13. Status of Research and Development : Beyond academics into future.

  • A national survey on the status of research and development in the country has shown that the gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) has more than tripled from Rs. 24,117 crore to Rs. 85,326 crore in the decade from 2004-05 to 2014-15. and it crossed the Rs. One lakh crore mark in 2016-17 reaching up to Rs. 1,04,864 crore.
  • The Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy, 2013 envisages increasing R&D expenditure (from current level of 0.88%) to 2% of GDP with enhanced participation of private sector through policy and reform processes. But India is stuck to the level of 0.88%  since past few years.
  • Government participation in R & D is around 55% which is highest compared to mere 7% in UK and 37% in mexico. Though India topped the list with regard to the government’s participation in R&D, it hit the bottom in terms of participation of institutions of higher education.
  • The share of institutions of higher education in R&D in the other countries varied from 7% in China to 40 % in Canada, as compared to India’s a mere 4%.
  • 81.3% of R&D expenditures incurred by central government sources came from just eight major scientific agencies :
  1. Defence Research and Development Organisation  – 37.8%
  2. Department of Space (16.6%),
  3. Department of Atomic Energy (11.6%),
  4. Indian Council of Agricultural Research (11.4 %),
  5. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (9.5%),
  6. Department of Science and Technology (7.7%),
  7. Department of Biotechnology (2.9%)
  8. Indian Council of Medical Research (2.4%)

During 2015-16 46,904 patents were filed. Out of them, 28 per cent or 13,066 were filed by Indian residents. As per WIPO report 2016, India is ranked 10th in terms of resident patent filing activity.

Implication : The government is largest contributor to R & D but with the government funds comes government red tapes! This is also restricted by trade off that government needs to make such as expenditure on a moon mission 2018 and expenditure on weather forecast system. There is a need of increasing private participation in R & D.

The wisdom or aspiration often flows from R & D, the quality of research further motivates students and other aspirants to endeavor into a field of knowledge. For this to happen, there is need of establishing dialogue. Unfortunately this perspective is not widely shared among University administration. Its like modern caste system – An IITan will get R n D exposure while the Mumbai university student will stay with dead syllabus.

14. Education and Jobs – the conclusion.

More than half of the country’s population is young i.e. Up to 30 years of age. Almost 18% per cent of them or 31,50,31,984 are between the ages of 18 and 24. If they are equipped with both knowledge and skills, they could drive India’s entrepreneurial and Competitive spirit and make it into global power.

Implication : keeping that in view The government of India has appointed Dr. Kasturirangan committee to frame the New Education Policy (NEP) that will be operational from 2020. it will be critical to focus on teachers and teacher education to ensure quality education. Also, any education policy henceforth must establish a rapport with future rather than romantic relation with past. Educators need to stimulate intellectual debates and reestablish the argumentative traditions of ancient India, perhaps the only worth quality to inherit from the past.

The present government has established ministry of skills to stimulate and promote skills based education instead of illusion of having an engineering degree. The skill based training coupled with government’s focus on manufacturing sector can create more jobs for youth. However, at present jobs are not visible as expected and India is going through a paradoxical phase – Jobless growth.

Summing up :  Education, Health and basic policing should be the fundamental utility and backbones of a developing society. Sadly not only they are overburdened in India, they are on verge of breakdown. This collapse will not make any immediate sound, it will be silent collapse which will eventually destroy the youth and then the society as whole. To prevent this, a prompt corrective action is needed.

In the wake of globalization and network governance, it is high time that government must wake-up to the reality that education has been commercialized a long ago. Perhaps government knows it, after all who owns these plethora of mushrooming colleges? pinpointing the problem is equally hard to finding solution to the mess of education sector in our country.

But one day it will change. Slowly and incrementally, as people will start demanding what they deserve. The regulators will use their authority in right spirit like the recent crackdown on deemed universities. We are a democratic country and as George Bernard Shaw has pointed out, Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” if we think we deserve better, we need to raise such issue more often, only then change is possible.

Till then, our education sector is dead, like John snow. Lots of hopes, aspirations and potential but dead and not going anywhere and ”Melisandre” is not in north yet to resurrect it.
(Ps: you need to know Game of thrones to understand analogy)

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