In his Union Budget 2012 speech, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee allocated Rs 74,056 crore for education via the Ministry of Human Resource Development, as compared to Rs 63,363 crore in Budget 2011.

While fund allocations to Education have been rising in recent years, the literacy gap is not narrowing as fast as it should. IndiaSpend’s Danielle Collaco looks at the infrastructure challenges that plague the Indian education landscape, particularly the 30% of India that go to school.


Education in India comes under the purview of the Ministry Of Human Resource Development. The education system in India is governed by two departments; namely the Department of School Education and Literacy, which received Rs 48,781 crore in Union Budget 2012, looks after Primary School Education and Literacy.

The other department that comes under the HRD Ministry is the Department of Higher Education, which was allocated Rs 25,275 crore looks after secondary and post secondary education. The Department of School Education and Literacy aims at universal access and enrollment, universal retention of children up to 14 years of age in school and improving the quality of education.

School Going Children Form 29.7% of Population

India’s population touched 1.21 billion people in 2011. This figure constitutes more than 40% of the world’s population, making India the second most populated country in the world. Approximately 29.7 percent of India’s population comprises of school going children.

Break-up Of India's Population

Age GroupPercentage of India’s Population belonging to this group
65 years and above5.5%

Source: Census 2011

Literacy is the first part of education and it has been considered a pre-requisite for development. The creation of a literate population is extremely crucial for building a nation. The government has realized the importance of literacy and has set a target of achieving 80% literacy in the Eleventh Plan (2007-2012). According to the 2011 Census, 74% (778 million) of the population above the age of 7 is literate, while 26% (272 million) of the population is illiterate.

*Over 1.3 Million Schools In India

According to the report on Elementary Education (2009-10) by the District Information System for Education, 13,03,812 schools are recognised. There are 10,48,046 government schools and 2,54,178 private schools. The government schools constitute 80.37% of the total schools, while the private schools make up 19.49% of the total schools.

Number Of Schools In India

Type Of SchoolsNumber Of Schools (in Lakhs)Percentage of Total Schools
Government Schools10.480.37%
Private Schools2.519.49%

Source: Elementary Education In India: DISE Report 2009-10

According to the DISE Report, Uttar Pradesh has the most number of government schools, followed by Madhya Pradesh. Meanwhile, Kerala, the state with the highest literacy rate has 5,095 government schools and 7,327 private schools.

No Of Government & Private Schools In A Few States

StateNo Of Govt Schools (in Lakhs)Percentage Of Govt Share To Total SchoolsNo Of Pvt Schools (in Lakhs)Percentage of Pvt Share to the Total schools
Madhya Pradesh1.1 82.620.2317.38
Uttar Pradesh1.475.370.4824.61
West Bengal0.7787.160.1112.83

Source: Elementary Education In India: DISE Report 2009-10

In Budget 2012-13, the government has stated its intentions of setting up 6,000 new schools with an estimated budget of Rs 1,080 crore.

Educational Infrastructure Issues

The average number of classrooms in Primary schools was 3.2 in 2009-10, an improvement from 3.1 in the previous year. There was an average of 3.7 classrooms in all government schools and about 7.8 classrooms in all private schools.

However, the quality of the existing classrooms remains a concern. Badly ventilated classrooms, poor sanitation, leaking roofs and lack of materials were significant barriers to effective learning in many schools. (IndiaHuman Development Report 2011)

The Student-Class ratio has however improved from the previous year. About 32 students were seated in each class during 2009-10, which is much better than the 35 students who were put per class from 2008-09.

There were also 274 districts in the country where the Student Class ratio was Higher than 30. About 10.59% of all the primary schools were Single teacher schools with 15 or more students. 12% of all primary schools have a Student-Teacher Ratio that is more than 60, which means that a single teacher has to teach a class of 60 students.

In 2009-10, only 39.98% of all the schools in the country had electricity connections. This is a slight improvement from the previous year, where 35.56% of the schools had electricity connections. Even though there are signs of improvement, this means that there are still around 60% of the schools in the country that aren’t electrified.

Around 16.65% of all the schools in India had computers. About 6.47% of all primary schools had computers and 33.37% of all Upper Primary Schools had computers. However, only 74.14% of all these schools had functional computers and about 13.65% of all Upper Primary schools had computer aided Learning facility.

Over 5.8 Million Teachers In The Country

In 2009-10 there were 5.8 million teachers in India. Of these, 3.9 million teachers worked in Government schools. So during 2009-10, government teachers constituted about 68.01% of all the teachers in the country. Each Government school had an average of 3.8 teachers; Aided schools had an average of 7.2 teachers per school while unaided schools had an average of 7.3 teachers per school.

There are 2 broad categories of teachers; the regular teachers and the para teachers. Regular teachers are permanent teachers who are not appointed on a contractual basis.Parateacher are appointed on a contractual basis, mostly by the school governing bodies.

There aren’t any real strict professional qualifications needed for the post of a para teacher and as a result, the quality of the education imparted takes a major hit. During the years 2009 to 2010, almost 11% of the teachers were contractual teachers or para teachers.

Teacher Related Problems

The ideal student ratio as stated by the HRD Ministry is supposed to be 30. The DISE Report states that in 2009-10, the student teacher ratio in primary schools was 33 and 31 at the upper primary level. There were 304 districts that had a student teacher ratio that was more than 30.

Teacher absenteeism is another problem that plagues the Indian education sector. Compared to other countries, the problem of teacher absenteeism is more acute inIndia. During 2009, 25 percent of the teachers were missing during surprise visits (India Human Development Report 2011). The proportion of absent teachers was much lower for other developing countries as you can see from the table below.

Teacher Absentee Rate: India's International Standing

CountryTeacher Absentee Rate

Source: Indian Human Development Report 2011

Sanitation Leaves A Lot To Be Desired

Things certainly seem to be improving when it comes to drinking water facilities at schools. About 93 percent of all the 1.3 million schools in the country have drinking water facilities, while the figure was 88 percent in the previous year. During 2009-10, 91.5 percent of all primary schools had drinking water facilities.

However, the same good news doesn’t extend to the level of sanitation in schools for the year 2009-10. About 54% of all schools have a common toilet, of these, only about 64% are functional toilets. During 2008-09, 67% of all the schools had common toilets. Thirty one percent of all schools have boys’ toilets, off these, around 89% are functional. However, only a little over half of all the schools in India have toilet facilities for girls (59%) and of these about 75% are functional.

Here’s a look at the progress of the construction of school buildings, classrooms, drinking water facilities and toilets till the 31st of December 2009.

Provision of civil works till 31.12.2009 (Primary and Upper Primary Schools)

Progress Of Work Completed In Schools

Work Completed (In lakhs)Work In Progress (in lakhs)Total (in lakhs)
School Buildings2.050.372.42
Additional Classrooms8.711.6210.33
Drinking Water Facilities1.820.051.88

Source: MHRD Annual Report 2009-10

Government Schemes For Children

The Ministry of Human resources has come up with a few programmes that world be beneficial to children; namely the Mid-Day Meal Scheme and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

The government has set aside Rs 11,937 crore for the Mid Day Meal Scheme during 2012-13. This is the world’s largest school feeding programme, reaching out to almost 120 million children in over 1.2 million schools across the country. Around 87 percent of all the schools in India during 2009-10 were provided with the Mid-day Meal Scheme.

School children are supposed to receive cooked meals for lunch free of cost on all working days. The main objective of this scheme is to protect children from hunger, increase school enrollment and attendance and bring about social empowerment of women through employment for this scheme.

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been allocated Rs 25,555 crore for 2012-13. This is a national programme that was launched in 2001 to achieve universal primary education by the year 2007 and universal elementary education by the year 2010.

It aims at providing basic education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years, while trying to bridge the social, regional and gender gaps that exist in the country. Universal enrolment is one of the specific objectives of the SSA.

Challenges Faced By Education

One of the most important factors to achieving Universal Elementary Education is making sure that students remain in school. The retention rate at the primary level during 2009-10 was 74%. The survival rate (ratio of Grade V to Grade I in 2009-10) improved to 78% in 2009-10. The Gross Completion rate at primary level was 97.58%.

In 2008-09, the average drop-out rate in Primary school was 9.1%. About 3.8% of students in primary school repeated their classes and 2.7% students in Upper Primary schools repeated their classes. About 83.5% of the students graduated from Primary Schools to Upper Primary Schools.

Funding Education:

Investment in education has an impact on all types of human development outcomes. Cross country studies have shown that countries that spend more on primary education as a proportion of per capita income, attained higher achievements in education. High achieving countries spent relatively more on basic education as compared to higher education.

The Government has spent Rs 41,521 crore so far, during 2011-12. Out of this, Rs 29,006.25 crore has been spent on elementary education and Rs 8,263.99 crore has been spent on Secondary education.

Education falls under the concurrent list and is therefore looked after by both the centre and the state. The Centre shares the funding for centrally sponsored schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Mid Day Meal Scheme. The central government plays a major role in the plan expenditure (which is broadly on development) and the state government takes care of the non plan expenditure (broadly maintenance which would include salaries).

Centre: State Sharing Pattern

There currently is a 75:25 sharing between the Centre and the state for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Earlier, during the 9th plan Period (1997-2002) there was 85:15 sharing between the Centre and the State. The cost burden was then revised to 85:25 in the 10th Plan and was supposed to gradually taper down to a 50:50 sharing. However in view of persistent demand from the States and the urgency in filling up the infrastructure gap in the educationally fragile States, the funding pattern between Centre and States/UTs for SSA Phase II has been modified to 65:35 for the first two years of the Eleventh Plan, 60:40 for the third year, 55:45 for the fourth year, and 50:50 thereafter.

The Centre-State sharing for the Mid Day Meal scheme is 75:25 for most states and 90:10 for North Eastern States.

Various Expenditure Heads

About Rs 10,380 crore have been spent so far on the Mid Day Meal Scheme during 2011-12. Approximately Rs 21000 crore has been spent on the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan during 2012-13. The government has spent Rs 150 crore on the Scheme for providing quality education in Madrassas. The expenditure on the National Council of Educational Research and Training so far has been Rs 220.74 crore.

Break-up Of Expenditure

Expenditure HeadsRevised 2011-12 Expenditure (Figures In Rs Cr)
Strengthening of Teachers Training Institutions376.5
Mid Day Meal Scheme10,380
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA)21,000
Schemes financed from Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh (PSK)18,334
The Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrassas150
The Scheme for Infrastructure Development in Minority Institutions50
National Council of Educational Research and Training220.74
Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan2,235
Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti1,621.9

Source: Union Budget 2012

As you can see from the table, about Rs 2,235 crore has been spent on Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan. These are central government schools that basically cater to the needs of children of defence personnel. They follow the CBSE and NCERT syllabus. The expenditure on Navodayas was Rs 1621.9 crore. Navodayas are exclusive schools for talented children excelling in subjects like science and mathematics to dancing and singing. These are co-ed residential schools that are fully financed by the Government of India and run by an autonomous organisation. While education is free in the schools, including boarding and lodging, uniforms and textbooks, a nominal fee of Rs 200 per month is collected from children from Class 9 to Class 12. Children belonging to SC/ST, girls and those from families whose income is below the poverty line are exempted from payment of fees.

Long Way To Go

While the educational scenario has improved in the past decade, a lot still has to be done. For one, the expenditure on Education per year should at least be 6 percent of our GDP. The increased funding can be used to electrify the remaining 60 percent of schools that don’t have electricity. The government can try to make the sanitary conditions better for the children. Girls from the 7th to the 8th grade tend to drop out of school because of non-functional toilets. The efforts of the government to combat the lack of functional toilets in schools just might help reduce the drop-out rates further.

Children have the right to have at least one qualified teacher for every 30 students. As mentioned earlier, the national average is 33, but sadly this isn’t the case all over the country.Biharhas a Student Teacher Ratio of 57, Jharkhand has a Student Teacher Ratio of 45 and Uttar Pradesh has a student teacher ratio of 47.

Strict norms have to be set in place when hiring contractual teachers since they also play a role in shaping the young minds of our future.

However, there is hope for the Indian Education sector, and it comes in the form of the Right To Education Act. According to UNICEF Reports, there were an estimated eight million 6 to 14 year old children that were out of school in 2009. The Right To Education Act aims to bridge this education gap by providing all children in this age group with free and compulsory education. Few countries in the world have such a provision to ensure free education to all children to develop them to their fullest potential.

The state of India’s Education has made quite a bit of progress over the past few decades. However, even with these commendable efforts, one in four children drop out of school before reaching the 5th Grade. According to UNICEF Reports, learning assessments show that the children who do remain in school are not learning the basics of literacy and numeracy or additional skills that are necessary for their overall development.

As we pointed out earlier, states with a higher number of private schools did tend to have a higher literacy rate. Increased private participation could bridge the literacy gap and improve the quality of education imparted.