In the past few decades, the Indian education sector has witnessed noteworthy progress and today boasts of a global education system that has hosted more than 70 million students in less than 20 years. The country takes pride in its more than 700 world-class universities, and enjoys an influx of thousands of foreign students every academic year from over 100 countries.
According to the last survey on higher education by HRD ministry, there were officially 45,424 foreign students enrolled in India in 2015-16. Today, our national literacy stands at 74.04 percent (according to the last census in 2011), but it was not always the case.
The education system has overcome huge battles and undergone numerous transformations over the decades to achieve this.
Education for the elite only
After being ruled by the British Raj for more than 100 years, India finally got freedom on August 15, 1947. Despite the fact that the country was making great progress in scientific and technological research, the rate of illiteracy remained alarmingly high post-independence.
From 1917 till independence, several Acts were passed and numerous commissions including the National Education Movement (1920-1922) were set up to impart education under the British rule. However, regardless of numerous attempts, education was still only available to the rich and the elite.
Literacy in India was found to be 12% at the end of British rule in 1947, a key indicator of India’s poor socio-economic condition at the time.
The lack of vocational and skill training programmes, inaccessibility to schools, and poor standards of technical education were some of the main challenges facing the country’s education system after Independence.
The churning of the system
The new constitution formulated by India did not make immediate major variations in the administrative policy of the country, and education remained a top agenda for the state governments.
In 1950, the government appointed the Planning Commission to tackle issues such as high rates of illiteracy and lack of high-quality educational institutions by preparing five-year blueprints.
One of the main goals of this planning commission was to achieve universal elementary education in the country.
In the following years, various education committees such as the All-India Council of Technical Education (1945) and NCERT (1961) were set up to address the challenges of education, recommend all-inclusive education policies and improve the general quality of education system.
With the new wave of modern education policies, and increased awareness, the percentage of the primary school-age population and the number of junior high schools and teachers recorded the highest growth rates in 1980; while the literacy rate which was 18.33 percent in 1951 was recorded to be 52.21 percent in 1991.
Chasing the horizon
Even though the literacy rates have gone up and schools are more accessible today, there is still a section of the society struggling with skill gap and un-employability. To solve this problem, a lot of new and unconventional avenues of learning have found their way such as e-learning.
Owing to its flexible and non-intrusive but highly engaging formats, digital learning has gained huge popularity in India among all age-groups.
The overwhelming cost of higher education is also one of the primary reasons for the youth to adopt e-learning method which provides an adaptive, personalized and affordable learning experience.
In fact, one of the main thrust areas for the Ministry of Electronic and IT is e-learning, and the government has successfully launched online learning programmes such as Swayam and the National Academic Depository.
While the country is witnessing revolutionary methods when it comes to unconventional learning, it is also undergoing a paradigm shift when it comes to primary and secondary education with the schools adapting a more skill-focused, personalized and engaging curriculum.
Right from world-class higher education to advent of e-learning platforms, the Indian education system has witnessed significant transformations since Independence and continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the world.