Indian society had a glorious tradition and known for many valuable and path breaking contributions in the field of education. Vedic to ancient system of education was remarkably effective in addressing the needs of the society and nation. Dr. A.S. Altekar, an eminent historian from the Banaras Hindu University, in his study noted that infusion of piety, formation of character, personality development, inculcation of civic and social duties, promotion of social harmony and the preservation and spread of national culture were the aims of ancient education.


The education was a man making endeavour focusing on each and every individual. It was a constructive and artistic process rather than a destructive and mechanical one. India was famous for her seats of higher

learning. The universities like Takshasila, Nalanda, Ujjain, Vikramashila, Vallabha, Odanthapuri, Mythili were drawing students from across the world. The small village schools, Pathanalayas, gurukulas and other advanced seats of higher learning helped in universalizing and spreading the education up to village level.


There is a school of historians which believed that 18th century was a ‘dark age’ for India due to the decline of Moghul empire leading to degeneration of society and culture. This myth was perpetuated in a calculated manner to legitimize colonial intervention. Recent researches and British records show that the education was wide spread even during the 18th century and almost every village of our country had a school. Elaborating on the extent of indigenous education system in Bengal presidency, Willian Adams’ report (1835-38) declared that there were about 1 lakh schools in the province i.e. one village school for an average of 73 children. Prior to that, Governor Thomas Munroe of Madras presidency in 1823 reported that there were 1,24,498 schools. In the Punjab province, the then Director of Public Instruction William Leitner, observed that almost every village had a school. The number of schools in each presidency was more than double of those in England at the time.


There was child centred, activity based, teacher-run, society nurtured, spiritually linked, culturally rooted, character building and socially oriented education. Such educated people could produce wealth and take us to the highest level of economic prosperity contributing much to economy, because of their skills, science, technology and knowledge. The estimates suggest that even at the height of Moghul Empire, India remained prosperous with high living standards. As late as the year 1600 the Indian per capita GDP was higher by about 50% than that of the Britain. The trend reversed over the years and by 1870, lead came down to 15%. Being a land of prosperity, peace, wealth, and richness, India was a victim of numerous invasions and aggressions. Lists of invaders and their loots have been recorded by many historians.


The East India Company, in order to establish a flourishing trade and strengthen their Government in India thought that education is the powerful medium which they should attack. Hence formal education was anglicized by 1773, breaking the existing educational organization in India. After establishment of three universities at Madras, Calcutta and Bombay the process was complete and the roots of English education became firm and grew in strength in little time. Colonial intervention in education was at its peak and Anglicist- Evangelists took advantage. Macaulay system was adopted which primarily aimed at educating upper classes of society depriving the same to masses. Government support was withdrawn which lead to decline in village school system in India along with indigenous seminaries and colleges.

In 1931 Gandhi ji spoke at length in London describing how the educational organization in India was destroyed and literacy rate came down under British rule. This was vehemently opposed to by Philip Hartog, an educationalist who earlier submitted a report to the British Government, and wanted it to be proved. Gandhi ji assigned this job to his close associates Prof. K.T. Shah and Daulatram Gupta, who extensively verified British gazette reports and related information from the government records and confirmed the point.



The leaders of the nationalist movement were quite resistant to colonial education and anglicising the education. They even debated and discussed the ill effects across the country the ill effects and promoted national  educational institutions across the country. The pioneer of the nationalist education movement was Rajnarayana Basu (maternal grandfather of Aurobindo Ghosh) and Devendranath Tagore (father of Ravindranath Thakur), who started Rashtreeya Samskruthi Prasarana Sabha in Bengal and mustered support across the country. Bala Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Aurobindo Ghosh extended support. Many savants like Vivekananda, Niveditha, Dayananda Saraswathi, Abdul Kalam Azad, Mahatma Gandhi, Maliviya, Vinoba Bhave, Kaka Kalelkar, Guruji (M.S. Golwalkar) and more freedom fighters also joined the movement. The aim was to secure India-centric national education to the people without their getting uprooted from our great culture. Tagore’s Shantiniketan (general), Sriniketan (rural) and Viswabharathi (higher education) and Mahatma Gandhi ji’s basic education experiment of Gujarat Vidyapeeth and many

such activities followed across the country.


Since education forms one of the core components of the programme of national reconstruction and the colonialization had lead to intrusion of western institution much thought was given after 1947. Inspite of better efforts of the leaders of national movement, in the post-independent India, the end of colonial rule did not impact much change in the system. Thus, the University Education Commission (Radhakrishnan Commission, 1948-49), the Secondary Education Commission (Mudaliar commission, 1952-53) and later a comprehensive review of education system by Education Commission (Kothari Commission, 1964-65), were to essentially keep the system intact with minor course corrections rather than efforts to righting a

faulted system. Hence right-thinking educationists thought that National Policy on Education was necessary whose cardinal principle is to consider education as an unique investment for the present with assured dividends for the future, and the natural choice was to indianise or in other words nationalize the education.

NPE – 1968:

The first NPE 1968 was formulated, basing on the Kothari Commission’s report aimed at national progress. Apart from universalisation of education, providing quality teachers, stress on moral education, sense of social responsibility, introduction of work experience, encouraging Science education and research, vocationalisation of secondary education, three language formula along with encouraging Sanskrit language are important policy recommendations. This called for educational spending up to 6% of the National Income.

NPE – 1986 and revised policy in 1992:

This endorsed national system of education in which all students should have access to quality education without any discrimination. This envisaged a common educational structure and national curriculum frame

work with a common core. Appreciating India’s common cultural heritage protection of environment, removal of social barriers and inculcation of scientific temper are the salient features. An important outcome of this exercise was the 42nd constitutional amendment in 1976, which moved education to the concurrent list and consequently sharing of responsibilities between the Central and State Governments A child centred approach in education was stressed upon.

NPE – 2005 and thereafter:

Deviating a little from the past and the same ideals being repeated but in the changed context – the education was to be based on a common minimum programme. The government reviewed different policies of education through National Knowledge Commission in 2006 and Yashpal committee report 2009, but with not much desired results. The aim of education should be to create human capital rooted in a value base with which pride in India would invariably be associated.


After independence the quantity has improved but not the quality. In about 6.5 lakh villages there are about 15,18,769 schools in the country with an enrolment of 26 crores (2014-15). Even in higher education with more than 799 universities, 39071 colleges and 11923 standalone institutions, the enrolment was little over 3.46 crore students. Our literacy rate was 12% at the time of independence. During these 7 decades of our governance, it has gone up to 74% in 2011. There are more than 80 lakh teachers in elementary schools, 20 lakh in secondary and higher secondary schools along with 21 lakhs in Higher education. Even though the expenditure on education was recommended at 6% of GDP, it hovered round 3.5%. Even in the recently announced budget it was 3.48% of the total annual expenditure although the allotment appears big with 85010 crores.


Even after seven decades of freedom, Indianisation of education remains a nightmare. Bharateeya philosophical, psychological and sociological foundations of education are still missing in the present setup.

Everybody has been feeling that the system is faulty and the outcome is unsatisfactory but the leaders are scarcely willing to accept challenges. In this background, moral and spiritual education, development of life skills and personality development has become a big question mark. People’s concern has been that the child is not getting integrated with the nation, society and nature.

N.P.E. – 2016 WITH A HOPE:

Expectations from the present National Policy of Education (2016) are many. Realizing that the failure of the earlier policies was at the level of implementation due to deficiencies in training the man-power and the tardiness of teachers in accepting change, the NPE-2016 rightly lays stress on teacher education. The NEP-2016 headed by T.S.R. Subrahmanyam and a new committee headed by Padma Vibhushan K. Kasturi Rangan was appointed to prepare the final draft.

The task is gigantic as 65% of the population is under the age of 35 years which needs improvement in knowledge quality and skills. The use of modern tools such as Information and Communications Technology can help make the task achievable, but a large role will be played by social attitude and acceptance.

Besides teacher training, some of the neglected areas which are to be strengthened are:

  1. Pre-school education is also to be taken care and NCERT should formulate curriculum along with proper controls and funding mechanism.
  2. Vocational education must be given an extra push as it provides skills to gain employment and contribute for the development.
  3. No – detention policy is to be reviewed at upper primary stage and there should not be promotion until a student has minimum level of learning.
  4. Three language formula which were recommended by NPE – 1968 may be continued without dilution.
  5. It is desirable to have primary school education up to standard V in mother tongue or regional language as per educationalists and psychologists’ advice.
  6. Academic counsellors may be encouraged at schools to address the wide range of student’s problems.
  7. NCERT may be strengthened so as to play a crucial role in not only reforming but integrating the school education.
  8. Higher education may be revamped to prevent colleges from becoming educational markets and all the courses linked to research innovation and development.
  9. A standard non-political standing education commission may be constituted to study emerging challenges, evaluate and evolve policies and action programme for implementation by the H.R.D. ministry.
  10. As existing in some states, an All India Education Service may be created at the national level on the lines of UPSC for better educational management and administration as it deals with more than 1.25 crore employees.

Lastly the education should completely be relieved and rescued from colonial and western mind-set. It is hoped that this policy would be Indo centric with all built in mechanism to face the present global challenges.

Vidya Bharati has already given its detailed suggestions and recommendations after holding nation-wide discussion, debates, seminars and workshops and it is hoped that a national policy, curriculum framework, syllabus and new worthy text books are all published at the earliest.

Thus, our education system needs not a mere reformation but a summary transformation and that the NPE would provide the expected, instantaneous initiative.

(Author has Retired Principal and National President of Vidya Bharati)


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