India - Education
According to 2000 UNESCO estimates, 44.2% of India's population was illiterate (males, 31.4%; females, 57.9%). This figure represents a slow decline from the 59.2% illiteracy rate reported in 1981. In 1986, the National Education Policy (NPE) was adopted in order to bring about major reforms in the system, primarily universalization of primary education. In 1988, a national literacy mission was launched, following which states like Kerala and Pondicherry achieved 100% literacy. In 1992, the second program of action on education was introduced to reaffirm the 1986 policy with plans to achieve total literacy and free education for all children up to grade eight by the year 2000. As of 1995, public expenditure on education was 3.1% of GDP.
Since 1947, public educational facilities have been expanded as rapidly as possible. The main goal has been primary education for children in the 6–11 age group. An emphasis on "basic education"—learning in the context of the physical and cultural environment, including domestic and commercial productive activities—has met with some success. In addition to expansion of primary education, there has been marked increase in educational facilities in secondary schools, colleges, universities, and technical institutes. An intensive development of adult education is under way in both urban and rural areas.
Free and compulsory elementary education is a directive principle of the constitution. In 1997, there were 598,354 primary level schools with 1,789,733 teachers and 110,390,406 pupils. There were a total of 68,872,393 pupils, with 2,738,205 teachers, in secondary schools in that same year. The pupil-teacher ratio at the primary level was 43 to 1 in 1999.
India's system of higher education is still basically British in structure and approach. The university system is second in size only to that of the United States' with 150 universities and over 5,000 colleges and higher-level institutions. Educational standards are constantly improving and especially in the area of science and mathematics are as high as those found anywhere in the world. The older universities are in Calcutta, Mumbai (formerly Bombay), and Madras, all established in 1857; Allahabad, 1877; Banares Hindu (in Varanasi) and Mysore (now Karnataka), both in 1916; Hyderabad (Osmania University), in 1918; and Aligarh and Lucknow, both in 1921. Most universities have attached and affiliated undergraduate colleges, some of which are in distant towns. Christian missions in India have organized more than three dozen college-rank institutions and hundreds of primary, secondary, and vocational schools. In addition to universities there are some 3,500 arts and sciences colleges (excluding research institutes) and commercial colleges, as well as 1,500 other training schools and colleges. The autonomous University Grants Commission promotes university education and maintains standards in teaching and research. Many college students receive scholarships and stipends. In 1997, a total of 6,060,418 students were enrolled in institutions of higher learning.