The Education System in India is rife with pros and cons. Unfortunately, it's always the cons about the education system in India that people discuss while conveniently forgetting the pros.
India-bashing or criticizing everything Indian is a national pastime of our compatriots. Everything in India is compared over everything abroad, which is singularly disgusting.
Especially since most people that criticize India have never left shores of this country and been abroad to actually experience what happens in foreign countries.
The Indian education system is a hot topic among India bashers. Why? Because we Indians are a judgmental lot, more inclined to appreciating anything ‘phoren’ while denigrating something local.
A Classic Example
Are you aware that hundreds of American youngsters join the military simply because they (or parents) can’t afford higher education? The US military pays for their education after these voluntary recruits meet certain criteria.
Thankfully, Indian teenagers don’t have to resort to such drastic measures to pay for higher education.
Not to mention, the USA got independence from British rulers on July 4, 1776, while India got rid of the colonial yolk on August 15, 1947. And this is just one major difference between India and USA. There are countless others.
Hence, it’s ludicrous to compare any systems of these two countries. Or for that matter, comparing the Indian education system vis-à-vis any foreign counterpart.
Down to Brass-Tacks
Now let’s get something clear: every education system on Planet Earth is rife with drawbacks. The Indian education system is no exception. And every education system in the world has its advantages.
The Indian education system also has its unique advantages. So let’s get down to brass tacks and find what’s great about the Indian education system.
To understand the pros and cons, we first need to view the history of the Indian educational system.
Brief History of Education System in India
Let’s get this straight: There existed no country known as India before August 15, 1947. The British ruled fully or partially over some 584 princely states spread across the Indian subcontinent.
This land was loosely referred to as India. It was only during the partition of the subcontinent that a separate country known as India was first mentioned and eventually formed.
The Indian subcontinent has a long history of education. The Indian subcontinent was home to several advanced civilizations.
However, the ancient Indian education system was fairly informal in the sense, there was a heavy reliance on ‘gurukuls’ that teachers adept in some skill would operate. Hence, the ancient Indian education system wasn’t organized.
British East India Company and later British rulers of the Indian subcontinent were the first to introduce formal education after they regularized schools operated by foreign missionaries.
The British also deserves credit for opening the first centers of higher learning- colleges and universities- in India.
And in all fairness, British rulers did not do away with completely with traditional subjects that were taught at ‘gurukuls.’ Instead, they blended them into the education system.
The reason was simple: The Indian subcontinent consists of diverse cultures and traditions. Governing such a vast geographical area would require knowledge of local subjects and systems.
The British get the blame for introducing an educational system that aimed at churning out ‘Brown Sahibs’ and ‘Babus’ – a popular jargon in colonial India for lower grade government officials of the British Raj.
That’s not entirely true. British rulers began taking steps towards educating Indian women as early as 1882 despite severe opposition from the Indian society.
Their objective was to eliminate illiteracy from India and rule over a large colony where people were educated to some degree.
Their legacy continues till date. Post-independence, the Indian government began reforming various features of the education system in India.
This vast history is one of the main reasons for pros and cons that exist in the education system of India.
Pros of Education System in India
The education system of India continues to draw flak from all quarters. Including foreign media. Yet, there are several major good points about the education system of India we often neglect or deliberately overlook.
Let’s examine some of these pros of the education system of India.
Reservation for Underprivileged
The education system in India is the only example in the world for reservation of seats at schools, colleges, and universities. The system dates back to 1902 when social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy found that Indians from certain castes did not have access to education.
The first clause for reservation of seats for students from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and economically weaker sections of the society was incorporated in the Government of India Act 1909.
The reservation system continues till date. It is helping thousands of students from the so-called ‘lower castes’ to get quality education and raise their economic and social status.
Credit for continuing the reservation system also goes to Bharat Ratna Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Father of the Constitution of India.
Private schools have to reserve 25 percent of their seats for students from underprivileged sections of the society, following an April 2012 verdict by the Supreme Court of India.
Right to Education
Education is upheld as a Fundamental Right following The Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act inserted in Article 21-A of the Constitution of India in 2002.
Hence, free and compulsory education is provided to all children between six and 14 year age by the Central and state governments and Union Territory Administrations.
Such school students are also provided free midday meals at schools by the government and their local administrative bodies including municipalities and village panchayats.
The midday meal program aims at student health. Hence fresh, nutritious meals are served to students free of cost during their break.
Free University Education for Girls
Additionally, free education for girls up to university level is under implementation in various Indian states and Union Territories.
While some states and UTs are already providing free education at universities for girls, others are at various stages of implementing this system.
The objective is to bridge the gender education gap and empower Indian women. It also aims at financial empowerment of Indian women.
An ambitious project to encourage young women to study engineering is ongoing under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Human Resources Development and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
The program, known as ‘Udaan’ also provides free pre-loaded tabs to girls aspiring to study engineering. Free classroom and online tutorials are also given by the government.
Indian culture and tradition lay great emphasis on charity. As a result, there are countless scholarships across India. In fact, every Indian school will have at least two scholarships that are available to economically poor, underprivileged and meritorious students.
In June 2019, the Indian government announced 50 million scholarships for girl students from minority communities in India. These include the one million Begum Hazrat Mahal scholarships for girl students from economically weaker sections of the minority community.
This initiative is the single-largest state-sponsored educational scholarship program in the world. No other country has a similar scholarship program on this scale.
Individuals, families, religious organizations, charity groups, social and sports clubs across India sponsor various kinds of scholarships for school, college and university students.
While some cover the entire cost of studies, others cover specific elements such as fees and study material, among others.
The universality of the Indian Education System
Surely you’ve read news about Indians contributing to major space projects of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of USA, developing software for giant corporations such as Microsoft and Google. Most of these techies, as they are now known, studied in India.
In fact, a lot of top software developers, engineers and scientists completed their higher education in India and were selected by American and other foreign firms on merit. Some pursued higher education abroad too.
It’s indeed saddening that we Indians who pride at contributions made by our compatriots to Silicon Valley, shamelessly criticize the very educational system that created these techies.
That these brains couldn’t find exciting career opportunities in India and migrated abroad is a different story altogether.
But their migration clearly points to the versatility of the education system of India. Why did American or other foreign countries hire Indians? The answer is simple: foreign education systems miserably failed to churn out such talented graduates.
Millions of Indians are working at top positions in countries of the Middle East and have never studied at a foreign college or university. Yet, they excel at their jobs due to skills and knowledge they got from the education system of India.
Focus on Adult Education
In its bid to eradicate illiteracy while providing opportunities for those who have crossed school and college age, India also has an adult education program. This is a fairly unique feature of the education system in India.
Over the last few years, illiteracy rates in India are showing a significant drop due to adult education programs. A major feature of adult education in India is that courses are given in native language too.
This encourages women and men past schooling age to attend school. Further, adult education courses are conducted in rural areas and usually early mornings or in evenings to enable working adults to attend.
Adult education is helping rural India to adopt modern technologies and assimilate with the outside world.
Cons of Education System in India
But these facts don’t imply that all’s well with the education system of India. There are flipsides too. And major ones at that. But it’s highly debatable whether the education system of India has inherent flaws or there are snags in its implementation.
Here are some cons of the education system of India. You can decide who’s at fault.
Indian Education System Kills Students
I’ll repeat: the education system of India kills students. Actually. A shocking 12 percent of Indian students between the ages of four and 12 suffer from some form of psychiatric disorder.
Another 20 percent students show clear signs of mental sickness, of which about two to five percent suffer from severe conditions such as bipolar disorder, behavioral disability, learning disabilities, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
At least one student attempts suicide every hour in India. Why? Due to stress that the Indian education system causes. Young minds are unable to cope with this educational stress and pressure from parents to “excel” at studies.
Schools don’t have trained counsellors while parents aren’t willing to accept their child has a psychiatric problem. Also, taking psychiatric treatment in India continues to remain taboo due to the myth that it’s meant for mentally deranged or stark mad people.
Neglects Innate Skills
Unfortunately for millions of students, the education system of India pathetically lacks processes to identify their innate skills. To explain better, every child is born with a unique skill.
That’s why some become excellent singers, others are amazing sportspersons while yet others are writers or scientists. These successful people share one thing in common: they simply followed their innate skills.
While they did attend school and college, such students gave wings to what they like best. And by following their passion, they are successful.
The education system of India not only lacks a framework or procedures to identify innate skills or a child, but it is also well geared to actually obscure and kill these talents.
The system forces students to study subjects they aren’t even remotely interested in. And score high marks too.
In my humble yet honest opinion, encumbering a student to study what they don’t want to is tantamount to child abuse.
Absence of Counsellors
Till date, the majority of Indian schools lack counsellors. At some schools, teachers are expected to double up as counsellors. The result is disastrous. It puts students at severe disadvantages.
Generally, all students will have a variety of questions and face different situations in the outer world, including at home. Students are unwilling to ask their parents or teachers due to fear of reprisal or mockery.
The education system of India expects parents to counsel their children. In most cases, this doesn’t work. A parent might not be qualified to counsel a child on a certain issue. Or the child could be wary of asking about something to the parent.
In such situations, a counsellor plays a valuable role. Yet, most Indian schools do not have one.
Consequently, it’s usually parents that pick up a course or profession for their child. Parents decide a career on two basic criteria: prestige and income. And usually, children don’t go against the wishes of their parents even if that means lifelong suffering.
Heavy Emphasis on Scores/ Marks
The current education system of India lays extra heavy emphasis on scores rather than education itself. Those who score low suffer from all sides. They don’t get admissions for higher education and face ridicule. This is evident from the thousands of coaching classes that flourish across India.
In a bid to score high, a student usually memorizes things rather than learning them. And once an exam is over, the student is blank about the subject to a great extent.
Parents eager that their children should net high scores are willing to cough up high fees demanded by coaching classes.
And in this bid to score high, students are forced to neglect recreation while making time to attend coaching classes. Furthermore, most coaching classes also focus on scores rather than actual learning.
This grind between school and coaching kills creativity, diminishes innate skills and makes studies a boring race instead of an opportunity to learn. In most cases, the only recreation a student gets is watching videos or playing games on the smartphone.
Outdoor activity and sports, especially in higher classes, come to a near standstill.
Encourages Flock Mentality
The education system of India encourages flock mentality- first among parents and then among their children. Since it is parents that decide the career of a child, they tend to follow the flock and opt for traditional favorites.
Invariably, the most favored courses remain engineering, medicine, and management. Parents pay more heed to prestige than skills and trends. They want to join that growing flock which claims their child is a doctor, engineer of MBA.
So, for flock-followers, here’s some bad news. Researches across India prove, only 47 percent of engineers are employable. What about the remaining 53 percent of engineering graduates?
Similarly, about 93 percent of MBA degree holders are unemployable because they graduate from substandard business schools and lack skills. About 55 percent of medicine graduates can’t find proper jobs or get underpaid work or cannot open own clinics.
The reason: thanks to the flock mentality, parents admit their children to colleges and universities with dubious credentials. A reluctant child is unwilling to study the course at an institute whose standards are highly questionable.
And this occurs despite paying high amounts of money as donations, fees, and other charges. Left with no choice, a student is forced to follow the flock.
Liberal Licensing & Unqualified Faculty
The Central and state governments, in their hurry to increase the number of educational facilities, have in the past granted licenses to private investors to open schools, colleges, and universities. However, there are no quality checks on these institutions.
Hence, their teaching methods never get questioned. Also, these educational institutes hire almost anyone, without testing their teaching skills.
As a result, students are unable to learn properly because a teacher is unable to teach properly. And coaching classes are ever ready to capitalize on this situation.
While the Indian law enforces strict standards on educational institutes of all types, most errant institutes enjoy impunity.
Former Vice President of India, Dr. Hamid Ansari had aptly said that most private educational institutes are “degree-granting portals,” while lashing at the plight of India’s education system.
Yet, Indian parents, eager to get that prestigious degree for their child, continue to patronize these institutions, even at the cost of taking an education loan.
The former vice president had decried the state of India’s education system and the manner in which Indians are forced to take education loans.
To Blame or Applaud?
Now that you know the pros and cons of the education system of India, it would be easy to find who’s to blame for the plight and who deserves accolades.
Honestly, I find nothing drastically wrong with the education system of India. It has its own share of pros and its own fair portion of cons.
But I find everything wrong in its implementation. And I blame parents looking for prestige, sly investors wanting to squeeze these parents and overall apathy on part of the Central and state government authorities for this plight of the education system of India.
A closer look at the pros and cons of the education system of India will reveal one startling fact. That despite all sorts of challenges, it continues to flourish and churn out some of the exceptional brains of the world.
At the same time, it fails miserably in providing ample training and direction for students to develop and benefit from their inborn skills.
India spends about six percent of its GDP on providing education. Hence, a lot more can be achieved if all stakeholders take concerted action.
The Indian education system is also more geared at helping students earn money rather than creating an excellent career or profession of their choice. There are no quick-fix solutions.
It would need efforts from all- parents, students, investors and the government to bring about a sea change in the education system of India. A change that would see pros on the rise and cons of the decline.