The Progress of School Education in India

The Progress of School Education in India

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An ESRC Research Group

The progress of school education in India


Geeta Gandhi Kingdon

Global Poverty Research Group Website:

The support of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is gratefully acknowledged. The work was part of the programme of the ESRC Global Poverty Research Group.

The progress of school education in India by Geeta Gandhi Kingdon March 2007 Abstract This paper provides an overview of school education in India. Firstly, it places India’s educational achievements in international perspective, especially against countries with which it is now increasingly compared such as BRIC economies in general and China in particular. India does well relative to Pakistan and Bangladesh but lags seriously behind China and the other BRIC countries, especially in secondary school participation and youth literacy rates. Secondly, the paper examines schooling access in terms of enrolment and school attendance rates, and schooling quality in terms of literacy rates, learning achievement levels, school resources and teacher inputs. The substantial silver lining in the cloud of Indian education is that its primary enrolment rates are now close to universal. However, despite progress, attendance and retention rates are not close to universal, secondary enrolment rates are low, learning achievement levels are seriously low and teacher absenteeism is high, signalling poor quality of schooling. Thirdly, the paper examines the role of private schooling in India. While more modest in rural areas, the recent growth of private schooling in urban areas has been nothing short of massive, raising questions about growing inequality in educational opportunity. Evidence suggests that private schools are both more effective in imparting learning and do so at a fraction of the unit cost of government schools, their cost advantage being because they can pay market wages while government school teachers’ bureaucratically set...

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