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Indian Education System

The Indian education system has made great strides in recent years to ensure that educational opportunities are available to all segments of society. 2009 Right to Education Act makes schooling free and compulsory for all children from the ages of 6 to 14. Admission in schools whether public or private is highly competitive in India. There is a strong focus on examinations from an early age.


The Indian education system is structured as follows:

  • Pre-school: Education at this level is not compulsory. The Montessori system is especially popular at the pre-school level
  • Private playschools: Catering for children between the ages of 18 months and three
  • Kindergarten: This is divided into lower kindergarten (for three- to four-year-olds) and upper kindergarten (for four- to five-year-olds)
  • Primary school: First to fifth standard/class/grade (for six- to ten-year-olds)
  • Middle school: Fifth to eighth standard/class/grade (for 11- to 14-year-olds)
  • Secondary school: Ninth and tenth standard/class/grade (for 14- to 16-year-olds)
  • Higher secondary or pre-university: 11th and 12th standard/class/grade (for 16- to 17-year-olds). This is when students choose an academic area on which to focus
  • Undergraduate: A BA or BSc is a three-year degree. Specialised courses such as medicine and engineering can be longer
  • Postgraduate: 2 year course

Types of Schools in India

  • Public/government schools: Most schools in India are funded and run by the government. However, the public education system faces serious challenges like poor infrastructure, insufficient funding and inadequate staff.

  • Private schools: Since many government schools do not provide quality education, Indian parents aspire to send their children to a private school. Infact private schools are also popular among the economically weaker section of the society as the schools are required to keep a certain percentage of seats reserved for EWS category.

  • International schools: There are international schools in all major cities. They are attended by expat and Indian children.

  • National open schools: These schools provide education up to the higher secondary level for children who dropped out of school and have been unable to complete formal education.

  • Special-needs schools: These schools provide non-formal education and vocational training to children with disabilities.

Timeline: History of India’s Education System

India is one of the important ancient nations to have rich legacy and literary pursuits. Traditionally, only the highest caste – the Brahmins – were taught to read and write. Given below is a brief timeline of India’s education history:

Charter of 1813 - The increasing efforts of the missionaries with regard to English education led to dissatisfaction among the populace thus, this matter was raised in British Parliament. This resulted in the enactment of the Charter of 1813 which threw light on the policy of education in India and accepted the responsibility of government for spreading education.

Wood’s Despatch of 1854 – Woods’s Despatch helped to provide education a definite structure, base and shape.

1952 Secondary Education Commission - The recommendations of Dr S. Radhakrishnan from the University Education Commission 1948 were reinforced by the appointment of this commission in September 1952 with Dr L.S. Mudiliar as Chairman.

1964–66 Kothari Commission – The key objectives of the Commission are:

  • To have at least one good quality senior secondary school in every block. 
  • To have a pace setting role 
  • To try out innovative curriculum and pedagogy 
  • To be a model in infrastructure, curriculum, evaluation and school governance

2008–09 National MeansCum-Merit Scholarship Scheme (NMMSS) - Launched in May 2008, the scheme provides one hundred thousand scholarships of Rs.6000 per annum (Rs.500 per month) per student to selected students each year for study in Classes 9 to 12. 

2009 Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) - The RMSA programme was launched in March 2009 and targeted to achieve a Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 75 per cent at secondary stage (Classes 9 to 10) within 5 years, universal access by 2017 (i.e. by the end of 12th Five Year Plan) and universal retention by 2020.

2009 Right to Education Act - The Act provides all children in the age group of 6–14 years the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school.

2009–10 Scheme of Inclusive Education for Disabled at Secondary Stage (IEDSS) -  This was launched in 2009-10 and replaced the earlier IEDC Scheme. It provides assistance for the inclusive education of the disabled children in classes 9-12. 

Education Boards in India

Other than the state boards, in India the schools are affiliated to:

Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)
The Central Board of Secondary Education (abbreviated as CBSE) is a Board of Education for public and private schools, under the Union Government of India. CBSE affiliates all Kendriya Vidyalayas, all Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, private schools and most of the schools approved by central government of India. Read More...

Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) 
Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) which was established in 1958 is a national level, private, Board of School education in India that conducts the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education and the Indian School Certificate examinations for Class X and Class XII respectively. Read More...

National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) 
Formerly known as National Open School (NOS), the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) was established in November,1989 as an autonomous organisation by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India. Read More...

International Baccalaureate (IB)
It offers four educational programmes: the IB Diploma Programme and the IB Career-related Programme for students aged 16 to 19, the IB Middle Years Programme, designed for students aged 11 to 16, and the IB Primary Years Programme for children aged 3 to 12. To teach these programmes, schools need to be authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization. Read More...

Higher Education in India

India currently has 799 universities and 39,071 colleges. Universities in India are monitored by an apex body, indirectly controlled by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and funded jointly by the state governments. The University Grants Commission of India (UGC India) is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government under Ministry of Human Resource Development, and is responsible for coordination and maintenance of standards of higher education.  The Government has launched Rashtriya Uchchattar Shiksha Abhiyan to provide funding to State higher and technical institutions. A total of 316 state public universities and 13,024 colleges will be covered under it. 

The first degree, the Bachelor's degrees, is obtained after three years. The next degree which one can obtain is the Master's  degree which is usually of two years duration. The research degrees (M.Phil and Ph.D) take variable time depending upon the individual student.

The M.Phil. program, is of one and-half year duration while the PhD program is a  research study for 2 years and can take several years.  One can also acquire D.Sc. and D.Litt. which are awarded by some universities after PhD.

In addition to the degree programs, a number of diploma and certificate programs are also available in the universities. Their range includes anything from poetics to computers. Some of them offer undergraduate diploma programs and others postgraduate programs. The duration varies from one year to three years.

Technical Education in India

There are institutes of international repute like IITs and IIMs. Several other institutes of fundamental research such as the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Harish-Chandra Research Institute (HRI),  Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS),  are also known for their research in basic sciences and mathematics. However, India has failed to produce world class universities both in the private sector or the public sector. India's National Policy on Education (NPE) approved an apex body for regulation and development of higher technical education. This resulted in the formation of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)
in 1987. At the federal level, the Indian Institutes of Technology, the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, the National Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Information Technology are deemed of national importance.

Distance Learning in India

Distance education in India is also hugely  popular in India. In distance education teachers and students are usually not present in the same city or region. Open and Distance Learning system of the country consists of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), State Open Universities (SOUs), Institutions and Universities offering varied courses in almost all streams and includes Correspondence Course Institutes (CCIs) in conventional dual mode universities. Distance education favours children who’ve had to drop out of school or college and who wants to continue education while working. 

Educational Apex  Bodies in India

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