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date: 24 July 2024

Current Issues and Trends in India’s School Educationlocked

Current Issues and Trends in India’s School Educationlocked

  • Vimala RamachandranVimala RamachandranIndependent Scholar

Summary

Discussing the heterogeneous nature of Indian society and the management of school education is not only diverse, but it is characterized by inequality at all levels. The Right to Education Act (RTE) of 2009 attempted to address these inequalities, however, given the quasifederal nature of the distribution of powers to make laws pertaining to education and unequal access to financial and human resources, implementation has been uneven. The variations are particularly significant in dropout rates, secondary education completion rates, teacher deployment and in-school availability, inclusion/exclusion of children belonging to different communities/castes and religions, and most importantly, gender equality. There is considerable variation in school size and pupil–teacher ratios—with some states reporting a large percentage of single teacher schools and small schools with enrolment of fewer than 50 students at the elementary level. This is not the case in secondary and higher secondary schools. If all children entering grade one wish to move on to higher secondary, there are not enough schools to accommodate them. While there are over 814,000 primary schools, the number of secondary schools falls sharply to 22,700 and higher secondary to just 12,400. The systemic barriers to access beyond the elementary level remains a big concern in many states of India. Equally, there are also sharp rural–urban differences—with rural and remote areas reporting skewed ratios of elementary to secondary and higher secondary schools. Children drop out in different states for a wide range of reasons; however, in the last 10 years, it is generally accepted that poor learning at the elementary stage is one of the most important reasons. Evidence from qualitative research studies reveals that the cumulative burden of poor learning is carried forward from grade one, leading to the inability of many children to cope with secondary education. Several scholars have argued that embedded inequality and exclusion are serious issues—which are most evident in learning outcomes. The issues of teacher availability, teacher preparation and certification, and the persistent problem of nonavailability of teachers—including the problem of teacher absence—are also explored. Notwithstanding these challenges, the net attendance rates have been going up steadily since the 1990s—with some improvement in rural–urban gaps. Many more teachers have also been recruited. The gender gap has been closing, albeit less effectively in some states. Many of the issues discussed in this article have been exacerbated during the Covid-19 lockdown. As this article covers the period before 2020, these have not been captured.

Subjects

  • Education, Change, and Development
  • Educational Politics and Policy
  • Educational Systems

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