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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Brief History of Education Systems in India.

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Gone are the days when considering education as business was unethical/incorrect. In the ancient to medieval Indian society, education was a prerogative of the highies and almighties of the society! Education was customized inline with the Varna Vyavastha of then Indian society. The rise and demise of the Bhakti Movement did infused a new line of thinking in the highly aristocratic Indian society. The Bhakti Movement though was short lived and often condemned by the gatekeepers of education of those times. But I think it was very significant movement for several reasons. One the teachings were in the form or short poems and bhajans in the local language. In the language spoken by masses in their day to day lives. The movement was for sure not about formal or scientific education, but perhaps it is/was the world's first (and may be the only) movement which emphasized on Common Sense and Rational thinking. Both these attributes made the Bhakti Movement an eternal movement which still has relevance in the 21st century Modern India.

Between now and the era of Bhakti Movement was the period of rise and fall of the British empire. Under the British regime schools and colleges imparting formal and scientific education were created but with the primary intent of catering to the administrative requirements of British empire. Whatever the intent might have been, in my opinion these schools and colleges made the formal, technical and scientific education available to the masses.The penetration was very low due to several reasons - lack of intent, lack of resources, the common mass was involved either in the independence movement and cared less about getting higher education.

Post independence Pandit Nehru accurately gauged the need of hour and the stress was rightly placed on three critical fronts - Primary education to create a broader base of people who can read and write; Higher education - institutes for higher education, technical education and management education were formed (such as the IITs, IIMs); Practical Education - several institutions imparting job oriented education (such as ITIs) were created in parallel to make the masses employable. For the next 30 years the results of these three pronged approach were complacently satisfactory. Slowly however since the overall education system was still not very dynamic and so lost the relevance and efficacy. On the one hand we faced the problem of brain drain of the highly skilled labors, engineers and doctors while on the other the practical and job oriented education system failed to cater the need of new industries.A deeper analysis revealed that at primary level we were still following the curriculum and text books which were designed in the pre-independence era.

One thing is very clear from the above analysis that the time frame for which a particular system and a curriculum and overall education ecosystem remained relevant shortened. We followed a Varna Vyavastha for thousands of years, followed by a couple of years of religious-socio-education centric Bhakti movement which lasted for couple of hundreds of years, then under the British empire we perhaps developed for the the first formal, more wide reaching and scientific education system and then a Nehruvian education system, which is what we are still following to a very large extent. Guided by some political motives and desire to get media footage the curriculum has been mildly revised in past 30 years at primary level and with the rapid emergence of private colleges backed by the political support and desire to make quick money overnight more than 500 colleges have mushroomed out of nowhere in the past 10 years.


  1. Nice blog.Please keep it up.

  2. Hi Sreelalitha, Let me know your views as well..


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