The unorganized Indian Education System

Recommended: Changes to Indian Education System

Indian Education system needs improvement

As an education reformer, American philosopher and psychologist John Dewey was one of the 20th Century’s leading intellectuals preaching democracy and advocating its inclusion in education, in which both education and learning being socially inclusive developments. His ideas, if implemented, can reap huge benefits for Indian education system. A fully formed public opinion needed to exist in schools as well that enabled students to make decisions regarding both their own lives and their learning. Dewey argued that if emphasis was placed on children and their ability to both experience and interact with the curriculum, then the subject matter is not the only determining factor in the learning quality and quantity. Among his other influences, “Problem-based learning”, a commonly used concept, stems from learning through investigation. Moreover, he was a firm believer that the purpose of education should not be to provide students with a limited skill set for a particular job in the future. It should rather be concerned with equipping students with the abilities to be “reflective, autonomous, and ethical beings capable of … critical … discourse” (Dewey, 1902).

Additionally, considering teachers as highly regarded and trusted professionals who serve a public function was essential in a good-quality education system, although this has not yet caught on in the Indian education system. Essentially, Dewey promoted teaching as a profession and the direct impact it has upon moulding the mental, moral, and spiritual lives of children in their seminal years.

Modifications in Indian Education System

Cooperative Learning

Rarely seen in Indian education system, this pedagogical approach arranges classroom activities into academic and social learning experiences. Here, students work collectively to complete academic tasks and the pedagogy encourages children to utilise the collective knowledge and resources, this includes requesting fellow students for information, evaluating each other’s ideas, monitoring the work of others, and so on. Ross & Smyth (1995) suggest five elements central to thriving cooperation within classrooms: positive interdependence, individual and group accountability, personal interaction, teaching of interpersonal and small group interactive skills, and group processing. Highly qualified teachers have included several of these elements, which require higher-order thinking skills.

Multiple Intelligences

This focuses on the development of the whole child. Howard Gardener’s theory that the child is talented in more than one way has led to the rethinking of curricula in the schools of most countries. To balance the curriculum, emphasis is placed on blending the traditional academic subjects with arts, crafts, music, and physical education. The majority of children can succeed in environment where they feel that they have an opportunity to evolve holistically. Click here to read more about multiple intelligences theory and its impact on Indian education system.

Alternative Assessments for Classrooms

Ridding schools of their obsessions with standardised testing is an enormous challenge, one to which bureaucrats would never agree; standardised testing marginalises those who think differently and encourages a herd mentality. Alternative assessment formats, however, cannot function without a high level of trust placed on teachers. Local school and teacher monitoring of the pupils’ progress, as well as the teacher’s own assessments are needed for a child-centric approach that seeks to enrich the learning experience through interaction. Examples of these include portfolio, performance, self-assessment, and self-reflection evaluations. An understanding of these methods is fundamental during teacher training and the explanation to the children of the methods equally so. The correct implementation of the policy can lead to a strong Indian education system.

Colleague teaching

The notion of one colleague collaborating or exchanging ideas of the best teaching practices based upon experience seems reasonable but not possible in all academic environments because of the workload placed on teachers. This idea is essentially a private process where teachers collaborate in critically evaluating current practices, as well as develop and study new skills. The free exchange of ideas to resolve teaching issues is precisely what fosters overall development of teachers, just as cooperative learning improves the children.

Ultimately, the key is to implement the policies in an effective manner and the goal is the strengthening of the Indian education system.

Unfair Education system in India

Why students perform badly in CBSE exams

Poor performance in CBSE Exams

Common speak suggests that socio-economic backgrounds play a huge role in determining the academic performance of an individual in CBSE exams or for that matter in any exam. Yes, familial and parental support matters, but only to an extent. School systems that help students from impoverished backgrounds in improving their academic performance in Class 12 CBSE exams have ended their cycle of disadvantage and propelled those students to distinctly better careers and better lives. But how? Primarily through an increase in classroom contact time: beating the odds by enabling disadvantaged students to spend more time in mathematics and science classes brings them on par with advantaged students. Different countries have differing ways in guaranteeing that students attend class, one of which includes making science classes mandatory and another, more valuable, concerns the inclusion of mentoring programmes to improve performance of students in class 12 results.

Nonetheless, the biggest factor, by which disadvantaged students break their seemingly destined cycle of deprivation, is self-confidence. Just consider that 10% of the most disadvantaged students have better math skills than 10% of the most privileged students in the US and several EU countries.

More subjects and a wider curriculum leads to low scores in CBSE Exams

Recently, many school system have responded to the growing digitisation of the modern world by including ever more subjects in their curriculum. No longer does the curriculum focus on teaching subjects in great depth, but rather skims through multiple, often-unlinked topics at breath-taking pace. Unfortunately, students within such systems are either required to understand it all rapidly or memorise it; coupled with standardised testing, this does not improve education standards or learning outcomes.

In an ever-changing world where information can be accessed easily, where skills are either digitised or outsourced, and where jobs are changing with an alarming pace, the focus is on lifelong learning and continued professional development. Both require strong core skills and subject knowledge that has its roots in basic school curriculum. Since the modern world prizes us for what we do with our knowledge rather than what it is truly, more subjects really do not need inclusion in school curricula to encourage students to lift their performance in CBSE exams.

Take financial education as an example; reinforced by the fallout of the recent financial crisis, many education systems have turned to educating students on finances. Ironically, this has no impact on the students’ financial literacy; conversely, school systems that do not teach finance, but instead promote deeper mathematical skills, tend to perform best on the PISA financial literacy test. Financial literacy is, as defined by PISA, “[the] knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and risks, and the skills, motivation and confidence to apply such knowledge and understanding in order to make effective decisions across a range of financial contexts, to improve the financial well-being of individuals and society, and to enable participation in economic life”. Top performing education systems do not emphasise a “mile-wide, inch-deep” approach but are inclined towards teaching more rigorously a smaller number of subjects.

You need inherited intelligence to succeed

Many pedagogues and pedagogic psychologists equated academic performance with a priori – inherited intelligence – and not hard work. Ingrained in the psyche of most around the world, the need for good luck rather than hard work negatively affects academic performance in the CBSE exams. Feeling it ‘unfair’ on the student, teachers may not push students, whom they perceive as less able, and goad the student into performing to the average class level as an alternative. After all, who does not prefer that averages improve? This negatively influences the ability to achieve high standards in academic performance in the CBSE Exams. Not pushing less capable students becomes pronounced even more when they belong to the lower socio-economic backgrounds; consequently, the teacher, student, and parents do not have high expectations from their children and don’t expect them to outshine others in the CBSE exams. The best performing education systems believe that all students can achieve high standards and act on that belief by nurturing motivation.

The bottom line is that money alone is not an enabler of a country’s academic success unless it is used in recruiting highly qualified teachers; the significance of having a capable teachers, teaching well a narrow range of subject matter, fostering self-confidence in disadvantaged students, and providing all students with encouragement to persevere, cannot be understated. For this reason, do not expect much changes in the performance of your child in the CBSE exams.

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What is International Baccalaureate

Founded in 1968 by the International Baccalaureate Organization – a not for profit organization based out of Geneva, Switzerland. Although, the organization is based in Switzerland, however, it is an international governing body and isn’t associated to any particular country. IB is the short form for International Baccalaureate – an internationally recognized school system which is home to three educational programmes:

  • Primary Years Programme (KG to Class 5)
  • Middle Years Programme (Class 6 to Class 10)
  • Diploma Programme (Class 11 and Class 12).

Difference between International Baccalaureate and CBSE

When compared to the CBSE’s curriculum, the one adopted by the International Baccalaureate is more application oriented and practical. Also, the programme includes a wider continuum of subjects to warrant the holistic development of a child. The main aim of an International Baccalaureate examination system is to test a student’s knowledge and not their speed or mugging potential. The primary focus of the International Baccalaureate pedagogy is not on ‘what to learn’, rather on ‘how to learn’, therefore, till the time a student reaches Class X, they don’t have to appear in any examinations. Also, students are free to choose their own textbooks to study, a stark contrast from the policy adopted by the CBSE, where schools have monetized this practise. It is fair to conclude that the purpose of the International Baccalaureate is to produce global citizens. However, the biggest disadvantage attributed to an International Baccalaureate system is that the programme doesn’t use the local curriculum as a base. For instance, Hindi can only be offered as a second language in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme; which makes the curriculum more perplex than educational boards like CBSE and ICSE.

Why International Baccalaureate?

Over the years, the International Baccalaureate programme has earned universal status for severe valuation, which ultimately leads to students getting access to the top colleges and universities not only in India but around the world. In a very short span of time, International Baccalaureate has become the programme of choice for students in India who wish to continue their higher studies abroad. The curriculum trains students with tools like organisational skills, preparedness, self-confidence, research skills, and self-discipline. These skills help students build a strong character, which ultimately leads to success in higher education. Certain universities have even started specific scholarships for International Baccalaureate diploma holders. The ever increasing cut throat competition has made the university admissions around the world fiercely competitive by the day. Universities are progressively looking for other substantiation that a prospective student will succeed their university. Qualities like international outlook, quality curriculum, research abilities, and social service have become prerequisite and International Baccalaureate has played a substantial role in improving the student outlook.

The Programmes
1.      Primary Years Programme

Subjects taught in the PYP are:

  • Language
  • Social Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Science and Technology
  • Arts
  • Personal, Social and Physical education
2.      Middle Years Programme

Subjects taught in MYP are:

  • 1st Language
  • 2nd Language
  • History and Geography
  • Biology, Chemistry, and Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Arts
  • Physical Education
  • Computers

International Baccalaureate World Schools in India

The International Baccalaureate World Schools are the schools which are recognized by the International Baccalaureate Organization and follow the International Baccalaureate curriculum. In India, there are 18 International Baccalaureate World Schools in India located in over 11 cities.

Although the programmes offered at the International Baccalaureate Schools form an incessant sequence, however, each can be offered individually too. A student studying in a CBSE affiliated school can join the International Baccalaureate Programme for 10+2 level qualifications instead of the Class 12 CBSE, ICSE, or State Board exams. The meticulousness and exemplary standards of International Baccalaureate safeguard the fact that International Baccalaureate Diploma is recognized in colleges and universities around the world. Moreover, it is considered a strong university entry credential. The fact that over 70,000 students appeared for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in May 2015, is testimony to International Baccalaureate’s mounting popularity in India.

International Baccalaureate is rated at par with Class 12 CBSE, ICSE, NIOS, or State Boards by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU).


There is a pre-conceived connotation that the International Baccalaureate is only for the elite. The high programme fee of around ₨ 250,000 doesn’t do any good to the programme’s fate. The International Baccalaureate Organization, however, robustly maintains that the International Baccalaureate programme is not only for the elite. Mahatma Gandhi International School, an International Baccalaureate World School based in Ahmedabad, is a 200-student municipal school where slum children study together with expatriate children.

State of Education in Rural India

SOURCE: ASER

SOURCE: ASER

With an education budget as large as $16 billion, one would expect the Indian education system to really flourish. The ground reality, however, is in stark contrast to this; especially in the rural sector, where schools even after 60 years of independence are begging for reforms. Though, pro-education laws like the right to education and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan found their way to existence, the ground reality has not changed. Schools still lack basic amenities, students still lack trained teachers, teachers are still under-paid, and parents are still reluctant to send their children to schools. In stark contrast to this, the schools in cities are offering a plethora of add-on services like smart classes, state of the art laboratories, etc. to provide the latest education tools to the students. There have been voices emerging from all corners that the schools in the rural sector should also provide modern teaching facilities but the fact is when the schools lack amenities as basic as drinking water, how can one even contemplate about asking for more “modern tools”. Moreover, it is not that the children studying in rural schools should be taught different things but it would be wise to recognize that children in metropolitans have different skills and tools in comparison to their peers in cities.

State of education in rural areas

A study was conducted in schools in the rural areas where it was found that 32.5% of children belonging to class 5 could not read class 2 level texts; in 2010 the figure was 13.4%[i]. Although many studies have been conducted in the recent years on the plight of rural education but the recent study by the Annual Study of Education Report is dreadful to say the least. Now these are very shocking findings as the amount of money invested to improve the state of education in rural India has been considerably increased, however, at the ground level situation has become worse. Schools in rural areas have become grounds of mockery and teaching standards have never been so low. Additionally, the reasons for such a miserable performance aren’t limited to the poor teaching skills and are spread more deeply in the education system of India.

Lack of Infrastructure
SOURCE: National Planning Commission

SOURCE: National Planning Commission

In an effective ecosystem, which is paramount to the growth, infrastructure acts as the back bone of the education sector. However, in rural India – where requirements are as basic as availability of clean drinking water and separate toilets for boys and girls – the backbone of the system is found missing. Almost 35% of schools in rural India lack useable toilets for boys whereas the figure is 44% for girls. Clean Drinking water, considered a basic necessity for life is found missing in 25% of schools.[ii] For many, these will be just numbers, but in reality they should be a symbol of shame. The government talks about building smart cities, however, for some, availability of clean water is still a hope.

Then comes the other infrastructural needs like playground, laboratories, desks, computers, etc. As many as 68% of the government schools lack chairs and tables, compare them to the state of the art schools in cities boasting their air-conditioned classrooms. The fact is: furniture is not provided to schools in rural India as a matter of policy[iii].

Low Income of Families

Sometimes limited income/resources forbid parents from sending their children to schools. Children are forced to work at a young age to assist the family in earning. Although the constitution of India prohibits children below the age of 14 to work, however, in most areas the rule is flouted more out of necessity than as a sign of rebellion. Even teachers are not paid at par their counterparts teaching in the private schools. Low wages and humiliating infrastructural conditions impact the teaching ideology hence hampering the growth education in the rural areas.

Lack of transportation facilities

In metropolitan cities, schools in order to attract students and monetize their facilities, have started offering air-conditioned luxurious buses. In contrast, rural schools lack connectivity, for instance, in many villages of Kerala children have to travel in a boat to reach their schools; in other schools, children have to walk for miles before they can reach schools. For many girls, dreams of going to school end with the inaptness of the authorities to provide such basic facilities.

Under the constitution of India, education is a concurrent subject with sharing of equal responsibilities between the state and the central government, hence the failure to provide quality education lies with both. Although, last few years have seen the rise of the education-specific reforms, however there hasn’t been a considerable amount of change at the ground level. In schools better facilities will only come about with development of infrastructure, both within and around the schools.

[i] http://img.asercentre.org/docs/Publications/ASER%20Reports/ASER%202014/National%20PPTs/aser2014indiaenglish.pdf

[ii] http://img.asercentre.org/docs/Publications/ASER%20Reports/ASER%202014/National%20PPTs/aser2014indiaenglish.pdf

[iii] http://www.iitk.ac.in/3inetwork/html/reports/IIR2007/12-Rural%20Education.pdf