India is a country that is struggling with lack of cohesive policy development and political support for higher education. Traditionally higher education has taken a back seat to primary education and a country wide focus on literacy. Most recently India's government passed legislation that continues the focus on elementary students "Right to Education". However, the Indian government publicly recognizes the need to increase the availability of higher education.
At this time, India lacks the political and educational foundation to provide an easily accessible, comprehensive educational program that provides an amalgamate educational system spanning from pre-school, primary and secondary education, post-secondary opportunities and life long learning opportunities for the era of technology. The general feeling of educational supporters in India identify their educational programming as being outdated, rote and defined by a lack of practical learning experiences for the global economy. Of course, this isn't true for all higher education institutions of India.
India has a number of institutions that have been recognized, these include Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Management, Jawaharlal Nehru University, several Indian Institutes of Technology, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani Science and Technology school, NIIT which is the largest provider of information technology training, the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad and the India Institute of Medical Sciences has been globally recognized for their advances in medical research and treatment.
Education in India is highly valued for its contribution to an individual's social status and ability to obtain high ranking professional jobs. India's educational system has demonstrated tremendous gains in increasing pre-school and primary education attendance while expanding literacy to almost 60% of the population. In comparison, approximately 40% of the population is illiterate.
India's greatest challenges include the minimal provision of high school education to roughly 15% of students attending school. Attendance rates have significantly increased through their focus on primary education but they are still unable to establish the basic infrastructure for continued learning at the high school and post secondary level. Additionally, the availability of post-secondary high school opportunities has the capacity to meet only about 10% of the college age population.
Less than half of the population attends high school and more than half of the students drop out of school by the age of 14. Ten percent of the population has access to a college education and only one in four college graduates have the skills and knowledge to obtain gainful employment. The greatest numbers of school dropouts are girls, which results in a lower literacy rate for girls. Many educational institutions lack sanitary facilities, are underrepresented by female teachers and provide curriculum that is gender specific and portrays women as weak and helpless.
Teacher education, availability of teachers and availability of teaching jobs is significantly limited which results in a lack of qualified teachers at the college level. Research indicates that approximately 25% of teaching positions across the country are vacant and less than 60% of teachers at the college level hold a Masters or Doctorate degree. The shortage of teachers, the poor quality of education and the abundance of vacant teaching positions results in limited accessibility for the Indian population.
Remarkably, India's higher education system is the third largest in the world, following China and the United States. India's college system promotes a tremendous focus on science and technology with a strong program for distance learning. India has a large presence of unaffiliated private institutions that provide classes that lack recognition and accreditation. Public education provided by the government accounts for approximately 80% of educational services, while nearly 30% of Indian children are educated by private schools due to the poor quality of education provided by the government. Private schools are frequently not recognized and are operated illegally.
India's educational progress can be attributed to the many educational initiatives that have been implemented as an outreach program to rural and agricultural areas. The focus has been on making public education available to special populations and tribes, rural and semi-urban families and the provision of education to children between the ages of 6 to 14 years of age. Programs frequently target girls and at-risk children with disadvantaged social and financial backgrounds. Additional efforts include providing greater access to computers and technology in rural areas.