Education in India

September 20, 2011

  • The number of out of school children decreased from 25 million in 2003 to an estimated 8.1 million in 2009.
  • While more than 95 percent of children attend primary school, just 40 percent of Indian adolescents attend secondary school (Grades 9-12).
  • Since 2000, the World Bank has committed over $2 billion to education in India.

Education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality. Education is equally key to enhance India’s competitiveness in the global economy. Therefore, ensuring access to quality education for all, in particular for the poor and rural population, is central to the economic and social development of India.

Key Challenges:

Universalization of good quality basic education:
Almost two decades of basic education programs have expanded access to schools in India.The number of out of school children decreased from 25 million in 2003 to an estimated 8.1 million in 2009. Most of those still not enrolled are from marginalized social groups. Two issues remain:
- Reaching some 8 million children not yet enrolled and ensuring retention of all students till they complete their elementary education (Grade 8)
- Ensuring education is of good quality so it improves learning levels and cognitive skills.
Also, India still faces challenges in providing quality Early Childhood Development programs for all children.

Expanding secondary education and improving quality:
Secondary education yields social and economic benefits but constitutes the primary bottleneck in the education system today. Access, equity, management and quality all need major improvement. Things to consider:
- While more than 95 percent of children attend primary school, just 40 percent of Indian adolescents attend secondary school (Grades 9-12).
- Curriculum and teaching practices need upgrading to impart more relevant skills, such as reasoning skills,problem solving,learning-to-learn, and critical and independent thinking.
- Public-private partnerships need to be expanded to tap into the potential offered by the 60 percent of secondary schools which are privately managed in India

Reforming vocational education and training:
More and higher quality vocational education is required to adequately prepare youth for current jobs. This requires:
- Expanding vocational training in high-growth sectors to overcome existing skills shortages
- Setting common standards for training and reforming institutional governance for greater private sector involvement so that training can dynamically adapt to changing labor market demand.
- Ensuring accountability and good use of resources.

Expanding and Improving Technical and Tertiary Education:
India’s tertiary education system is one of the largest in the world with over ten million students. Nevertheless, only 1 out of 10 young people has access to higher education, and this is predominantly among the well-off. Tertiary education needs to be expanded, especially among low and middle-income students. This will require reforms in the governance structure of higher education, decentralization, and major investments in faculty development.

World Bank Support:

Since 2000, the World Bank has committed over $2 billion to education in India. It also provides technical support. Assistance includes:

Early Childhood Development: The World Bank supports India’s Integrated Child Development Services with several operations. These projects include lessons learned from research and analysis such as Reaching out to the Child which recommends decentralized and integrated approaches to early childhood development. The World Bank is also doing research to explore improvements in service delivery using micro-planning and finding synergies among various social programs for children.

Elementary/Primary education: Since 2003, the Bank has been working with Central and State governments, along with development partners (UK's DFID and the European Union) to support the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan program. In Phase 1 (2003-2007) the Bank invested $ 500 million to expand facilities and improve infrastructure, get children to school, and set up a system to assess learning. In Phase 2 (2007-2012) the Bank will provide a total of $ 1.35 billion to expand access to upper primary education, increase retention of all students until completion of elementary education (Grade 8), and improve learning levels. In addition, Bank evaluations and research provide pointers to further improvements. This includes studies on financing elementary education, teacher absenteeism, instructional time and quality in primary education and the impact of information sharing with village education committees, inclusive education for children with disabilities, comparisons between public and private schooling in UP, AP, and MP, and incentives to improve quality.

Secondary Education: The World Bank is in the process of preparing support to the Government of India’s new centrally sponsored scheme for secondary education, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), for an estimated $ 500 million. This is largely based on the analytical work completed on secondary education, published in 2009, which focused on strategies to improve acccess, equity, management and quality. In addition, the Bank has conducted research into the feasibility for expanded public private partnerships at the secondary level, and has supported learning workshops on the role of information and communication technologies at the secondary level.

Vocational education and training: Based on analysis of vocational education and training in India, the World Bank is supporting efforts to upgrade this sector with a $280 million project. It will upgrade 400 Industrial training institutes (ITIs) as centers of excellence.

Technical and Higher education: A $300 million operation is helping improve India’s technical/engineering education was recently approved by the World Bank, following the successful completion of TEQUIP I. This will finance major reforms in 130 + competitively selected engineering institutions from around the country to improve quality of education and meet the demands of a fast growing economy. Further, several reports examine the increased demand for skilled workers in India and its importance for national competitiveness.

Support to States: World Bank Development Policy Credits in a few states support state level education reforms through policy dialogue and research. Studies were undertaken in Karnataka. The World Bank is currently engaged in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Orissa. Actions supported under these Development Policy Loans include recruitment of additional teachers, establishment of teacher management information systems, capacity-building for school-based mass de-worming programs for improved student health, evaluations of teacher training programs, and research into the most cost-effective interventions to improve student learning.