Overview of school education in India

Under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, all children between the ages of six and 14 years have the right to elementary education (class 1-8) in a neighbourhood school.  Amongst several provisions focused on elementary education, the Act provides for the no-detention provision till class 8 i.e., until the completion of elementary education.  The RTE (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha on August 11, 2017.  The Bill revisits the no-detention provision.  In this context, we present some data on school education (class 1-12).

Enrolment near universal; attendance falls with higher levels of school education

Note:  Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is the student enrolment as a proportion of the corresponding eligible age group in a given year.

* provisional figures

Note:  Attendance is the ratio of the number of persons in the official age group attending a particular class-group to the total number persons in the age-group.

  • Consequent to the enactment of RTE, enrolment for elementary education (class 1-8) has crossed 100% and is now at 96.9% as of 2014-15.  The above-100% enrolment rate in 2007-08 till 2010-11 indicates that students enrolled included the non-age appropriate enrolments.
  • Between 2008-09 and 2014-15, the proportion of students enrolled in class 1-8 in government schools declined from 71% to 62%, implying an increasing preference for private schools.
  • The attendance for both boys and girls falls as the level of education rises in school education.  There is hardly any difference between the attendance of boys and girls.

Dropouts highest in secondary education, particularly in class 10

  • The dropout rate peaks at the secondary level (class 9-10) at 17% as compared to 4% in elementary school (class 1-8) and 2% in upper secondary school (class 11-12). 
  • This is also reflected in the transition rates in school education where the lowest transition rate is at the secondary level (class 10 to 11) at 69%.   A transition rate below 100% indicates that the students are held back or have dropped out of school. 
  • Under the RTE Act, a child cannot be expelled or detained until the completion of elementary education (until class 8).  This may explain the differential trends between the enrolment, dropout, and transition rates for elementary education and secondary education.

Females dropout to pursue domestic activities; males to do economic activities 

* Other reasons include unfamiliar language/medium of instruction, inadequate number of teachers, and unfriendly atmosphere at school.

  • According to NSSO data (71st round) on reasons for dropping out (for the age group 5-29 years), the key reasons for females dropping out is to engage in domestic activities (30%), lack of interest in education (16%), and marriage (14%). 
  • On the other hand, the key reasons for males dropping out is to engage in economic activities (31%), lack of interest in education (24%), and financial constraints (24%).

Learning outcomes, on an average, have gone down in 2015 as compared to 2012

                      Performance of states in class 5 in 'reading comprehension' in 2012 and 2015

                            Performance of states in class 5 in 'mathematics' in 2012 and 2015

Note:  1. The National Achievement Survey (NAS) is carried out by National Council of Educational Research and Training every three years to ascertain the learning achievement of students during elementary education in government and government-aided schools.

2. Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Telangana, Lakshadweep, and Dadra & Nagar Haveli did not participate in NAS, 2012.

3. The scores range between 0 and 400.  They are scaled for consistency and comparability across states by adjusting for difficulty of tests and ability of students.

  • In 2015, Class 5 students in 34 states/ UTs were able to correctly answer 45% of reading comprehension items, and 46% of the mathematics items in the National Achievement Survey.  Performance of students in 2015 was poorer than in 2012.
  • For reading comprehension, 19 states have scores in 2015 that are lower than the scores in 2012.  Only in two UTs, the average achievement scores in 2015 were significantly above those of 2012. 
  • For mathematics, 20 states have scores in 2015 that are lower than 2012.  Only in 3 states/UTs, the average achievement scores in 2015 were significantly above those of 2012.

Sources:  School Education in India: Flash Statistics, 2015-16, District Information System for Education; Key Indicators of Social Consumption in India: Education, National Sample Survey (71st Round); Education Statistics at a Glance, 2016, Ministry of Human Resource Development; National Achievement Survey, 2012 and 2015, National Council of Educational Research and Training; PRS.


DISCLAIMER: This document is being furnished to you for your information.  You may choose to reproduce or redistribute this report for non-commercial purposes in part or in full to any other person with due acknowledgement of PRS Legislative Research (“PRS”).  The opinions expressed herein are entirely those of the author(s).  PRS makes every effort to use reliable and comprehensive information, but PRS does not represent that the contents of the report are accurate or complete.  PRS is an independent, not-for-profit group.  This document has been prepared without regard to the objectives or opinions of those who may receive it.