The Indian education system is facing serious challenges especially at the elementary education level. These include universal access to an infrastructure of comparable quality, improving retention, efficiency and effectiveness of the schools. While in the recent years, there has been a considerable emphasis on decentralised management and involvement of community in micro planning; the outcome is quite mixed one. This is partly due to the inadequate planning and lack of managerial and professional competencies at various levels. At the national level, broad perspective on various sub-sectors is developed.
The management, professional and financial support is provided to the state governments and the districts for implementation of various reform programs in the form of centrally sponsored schemes. Among other things, their successful implementation is contingent upon the availability of timely, comprehensive and up-to-date educational statistics on key performance indicators. Past few years have also witnessed a significant expansion of the alternative modes of education including the proliferation of unrecognised schools even at the primary stage. Between 1986 and 1993, the enrollment in private aided schools (primary classes) increased at a compound growth rate of 9.5% per Annam.
The corresponding increase in government/local body schools was merely 1.4% per annum. As a result, the share of enrollment of private unaided schools in primary classes increased from 5.1% in 1986 and 8.6% in 1993. The pyramid of coverage of private education is narrow at the bottom and wide at the apex. Due to the lack of serious policy imperatives, the elementary education system shows the signs of a dual system – one set of schools meant for the poor and those who are unable to pay for quality education, the other catering to the requirements for quality education involving high user costs.
The former is especially government supported and the latter is in the form of private initiatives. Despite the positive impact of private schools, the government policy for their regulation/control is not clearly spelt out. Historically, successive phases of regulation and deregulation of private sector were attempted with mixed outcomes. Recently conducted achievements studies reinforce the perpetuation of differential access to quality schooling and persistence of gender and social gaps in the levels of achievement. Another major problem facing the elementary education system is the quality teachers and quality education materials. There has been significant rise in teacher absentism, bad behaviours of teachers, lack of teaching skills of teachers, etc which further aggravate the problem of school drop-outs and low performance of school education.