Education is very important and everyone should have access to it. In the pre-independence era, there were many flaws like, girls were not given access to education. Vernacular languages were used as the medium of instruction.
The English Education Act was introduced under governor general William Bentick, in 1835. But, it didn’t bring about a drastic change. The growth of education wasn’t uniform and more attention was paid to the expansion of high schools.
Colleges were set up at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay (now, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai, respectively). The admission was restricted to Europeans.
When India got independence from British domination in 1947, the literacy rate stood at 12%, which was very low. So, there was a need for strong reforms that would boost the education sector.
In 1968, the National Policy on Education (NPE) was introduced. The main recommendations were universal primary education. It also recommended a new pattern of education, three-language formula, industrial education and adult education.
The National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) as well as the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) were established to maintain the standard of education.
In 1995, the midday meal scheme was started in schools, to provide nutritious food to children. One of the main motive of the scheme was to increase the enrollment of school-aged children from the disadvantaged sections of the society.
Also, primary education was made free and compulsory.
There were only 27 universities in 1950. This number rose to 254 by 2001. Also, earlier, the number of primary schools was just around 2.1 lakh. This had tripled to 6.40 lakh by 2001. As a result, the literacy rate increased from a mere 12% to 64.83% in 2001.
In 2009, the Right to Education (RTE) Act guaranteed free education for children between the ages of 6 and 14. The literacy rate in India was 74.04%, 82.14% among males and 65.46% among females, in 2010.
On January 22, 2015, beti bachao beti padhao (save the girl child, educate the girl child), a government scheme, was launched. The main objective of this scheme is to promote the education of girls and to make them independent, to fix the skewed child sex ratio.
The scheme was launched with an initial funding of ₹100 crore. It mainly targeted states where girls were not independent, or their parents did not support their education. These states included Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
This scheme was successful as in 53 out of 161 districts. The sex ratio declined in 2015-2017.
In 2018, there was an amendment to the RTE Act. According to the RTE Act (2009), no student could be detained up to class 8th. But as per this amendment, it gave power to the states to decide whether to continue the no-detention policy.
It also recommended a greater autonomy for higher educational institutions and an increase in the national annual outlay for education to 6%.
In 2020, the National Education Policy (NEP) was introduced which brought several reforms in education in India. The 10+2 model has been replaced by a 5+3+3+4 model. There is emphasis on one’s mother tongue and regional languages will be used as a medium of instruction, along with English and Hindi, till the 5th class.
Till the 2nd standard, there will be activity-based learning. There is more focus on vocational training and several other fields.
From the 6th-8th standards, students will explore different vocational activities like carpentry, metal work, pottery, electric work, gardening etc. Also, they will be given internship opportunities for learning vocational subjects, along with coding.
For those in the 9th-12th standard, there is an opportunity to choose different subjects, rather than diving into one of the three broad categories i.e., science, humanities and commerce.
Discussions are on for the implementation of this policy by 2022.
Bihar had the lowest literacy rate in 2001, 47%, and Kerala had the highest literacy rate, 90.9%. Among the union territories, Lakshadweep had the highest literacy rate, 86.7%, whereas Dadra and Nagar Haveli had the lowest, 57.6%.
So, I would conclude that there has been a lot of progress, but there is still a lot more to do.