State of education in India: What you must know

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In India today, 4% of our children never start school. 58% don’t complete primary schools. And 90% don’t complete school

This statistic will get any country worried for their future. If our children do not get educated we are axing our future and pushing our country towards less development . For an emerging and developing country like India, development of  children holds the key to the progress of the nation itself- considering also that the average age of the nation is 28 years! Often when development economists compare India to China, the key determinant for China’s poverty alleviation has been their emphasis (and success) with education.


Indian illiteracy statistics

India has the highest number of illiterate adults

Images from SOS village data here

Here are some key statistics on the state of education in India:

  • 40% of India’s population is below the age of 18 years, which at 400 million is the world’s largest child population
  • Less than 50% of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.
  • Net primary enrollment ratio in 2001/02 : 83 .7% and children reaching grade 5 in 2000/01 : 59 .8 %
  • In India, only 53% of habitation has a primary school. Only 20% of habitation has a secondary school. A little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade 1 reach grade 8. Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
  • 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate

And it really isn’t enough to stop at these glaring numbers. The reasons need their due as well. The main reasons (apart from the important and oft mentioned lack of equal opportunities due to various social/ gender issues) often quoted by dropouts are:

  • The number of schools?: Number of Primary Schools in India : 0.664 million (2001-02), Number Upper Primary Schools in India : 0.219 million, Population in the age group of 6-14 years : 193 Million
  • Cost of education?: High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every 4 drop-outs as the reason they leave
  • Why study when we can work?: We recently read a very interesting article from a Tribal chief in Odisha which sort of hit home. Dropouts or school runaways do not see the need to study. Child labour is often seen as a “money will reach home” at least strategy. Unfortunately it is a circle, often the root of poverty lies in illiteracy while it also prevents children from reaching schools. Apart from all else, it also means the curriculum in rural areas needs to be tailored to local needs. And relate to opportunities that can open up after these children finish school.
  • Who will teach?: In nearly 60% of schools, there are less than two teachers to teach Classes I to V. Lack of quality teaching and infrastructure often leads to low incentives for attending school. Imagine going to a school with no toilets, for instance.
  • What is the quality of schools and teaching?: MIEF is aware that if students from rural and urban India are compared the difference between ‘levels’ is often 2-3 grades- which means an 8th standard student in often compares with an 11th standard student in rural India. This is definitely not encouraging. This also means even if we are able to push enrollment rates to 100% (they have definitely been going up), the quality will still need to be watched over. Because sending children to school with them not learning enough isn’t going to solve for anything. Quality is not just limited to schools but even colleges. We seem to be producing graduates who are unemployable (read study), across the country
  • Who is spending the money?: The private sector is actually contributing to just 11% of the education expenditure. Even with so many private institutes of late.

Our own story in the beginning of why MIEF was started is related very strongly to education, and thus we think this sector deserves as much attention as we can possibly provide for. It also allows us to be so grateful for our own opportunities. It makes us determined and excited to do more, join us- share your ideas!

Disclaimer: The sources for the figures are from multiple worldwide agencies as mentioned and are not provided by MIEF which does not hold any copyright or expertise on the actual numbers. MIEF is sharing all the data with its readers with a belief that the first step is being aware.

More reading: 7th All India Education Survey, 2002, Statistics on Indian girls, Indian children out of school , School children India- aggregated data, UNESCO data, SOS villages data


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