Two Challanges for India's Education System

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India’s education system turns out millions of
graduates each year, many skilled in IT and
engineering. This manpower advantage underpins
India’s recent economic advances, but masks deepseated problems within India’s education system. While India’s demographics are generally perceived to give it
an edge over other countries’ economies (India will
have a youthful population when other countries have
ageing populations), if this advantage is restricted to a
small, highly educated elite, the domestic political
ramifications could be severe.
With 35 per cent of the population under the age
of 15, India’s education system faces numerous
challenges. Successive governments have pledged to
increase spending on education to 6 per cent of GDP,
but actual spending has hovered around 4 per cent for
the last few years. While, at the top end, India’s
business schools, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs),
Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and universities
produce globally competitive graduates, primary and
secondary schools, particularly in rural areas, struggle
to find staff.
Indian governments have seen education as a
crucial development tool. The first part of this paper
provides a historical perspective on the development
of the education system in India, highlighting the
changing emphases within government policy. Since
Independence, the education policies of successive
governments have built on the substantial legacies of
the Nehruvian period, targeting the core themes of
plurality and secularism, with a focus on excellence in
higher education, and inclusiveness at all levels. In
reaching these goals, the issue of funding has become
problematic; governments have promised to increase
state spending while realizing the economic potential
of bringing in private-sector financial support.
The second part of this paper examines how recent
governments have responded to these challenges,
which have remained largely unchanged since...
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