Responsibility of the Centre, States and Local Bodies for Education
Government of India
Ministry of Human Resource Development

Sector Overview


Education in Post-Independence India: Some Milestones

Stages of Education in India

Responsibility of the Centre, States and Local Bodies for Education

Policy Framework

Size of the Indian Education System

Important Achievements


Quantitative Expansion


Capacity Building



Standard-setting Institutions



Premier Institutions






Education in Post-Independence India: Some Milestones


India achieves Independence


University Education Commission constituted; gives Report


India becomes a Republic.  Free and compulsory education enshrined as one of the Directive Principles of State Policy in the new Constitution


  • Decennial Census yields a Literacy Rate (5+) of 18.3% (overall), 8.9% (female)

  • First Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) established at Kharagpur


Secondary Education Commission constituted; gives Report


  • University Grants Commission (UGC) established by Act of Parliament

  • Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur) Act passed by Parliament

  • Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru delivers the first convocation address at the first IIT (Kharagpur)

1958 Second IIT established at Mumbai
1959 Third and Fourth IITs established at Kanpur and Chennai, respectively


  • NCERT established

  • Institutes of Technology Act passed by Parliament to provide a common legal framework for all IITs

  • First two Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) set up at Ahmedabad and Kolkata

1963 Fifth IIT established at Delhi


Education Commission constituted; gives Report


First National Policy on Education (NPE) adopted, in the light of the recommendations of the Education Commission

1963 Third IIM established at Banglore


Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme launched to provide for holistic development of children up to the age of six years


Constitution amended to change “Education” from being a “State” subject to a “Concurrent” one

1984 Fourth IIM established at Lucknow


Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) established by an Act of Parliament


New National Policy on Education (NPE) adopted 


  • Many large centrally-assisted schemes like “Operation Blackboard”, “Educational Technology”,    “Vocationalisation of Secondary Education”, etc., launched in pursuance of NPE, 1986

  • All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) vested with statutory status by an Act of Parliament

  • National Literacy Mission launched


NPE, 1986, revised, based on a review by the Acharya Ramamurti Committee


National Council of Teacher Education (NCTE) vested with statutory status by an Act of Parliament


  •     District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) launched to universalize primary education in selected districts  

  •     National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) established by UGC (with headquarters at Bangalore ) to assess and accredit institutions of higher education  

  •     National Board of Accreditation (NAB) established by AICTE to periodically evaluate technical institutions and programmes

  •     Sixth IIT established at Guwahati


Centrally-assisted Mid-Day Meal scheme launched in government and semi-government primary schools all over the country, with central assistance by way of free foodgrains

1996 Fifth IIM established at Kozhikode
1998 Sixth IIM established at Indore


  •    Decennial Census yields Literacy rate (7+) of 65.4% (overall), 53.7% (female)

  •     Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) launched to universalize elementary education of good quality all over the country

  •    University of Roorkee converted into (the seventh) IIT


Constitution amended to make Free and Compulsory Education, a Fundamental Right (yet to be brought into force)


17 Regional Colleges of Engineering converted into National Institutes of Technology, fully funded by the Central Government


  •     Education Cess levied for raising additional finance needed to fulfill Government’s commitment to universalize quality basic education

  •     Mid-Day Meal scheme revised to provide central assistance to meet cooking cost as well

  •     EDUSAT, a satellite dedicated to education, launched

2005 National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions established by Act of Parliament


Two Indian Institutes of Science Education & Research (IISERs) established at Kolkata and Pune, respectively





Stages of Education in India

                           Stages of Education in India , and   an indication regarding corresponding age group of students for each stage, are shown in the table below:

S. No Stage Classes / Duration 
(with exceptions, if any)
Corresponding Age Group of Students (Indicative)
1. School Stages I-XII 6 - 18 Years
  1.1 Elementary I-VIII (I-VII a few States) 6 - 14 Years
    1.1.1 Primary I - V 
(I - IV in a few States)
6 - 11 Years


1.1.2 Upper Primary VI - VIII 
(V - VII in a few States)
11 - 14 Years


  1.2 Secondary IX - XII (VIII - XII in a few States) 14 - 18 Years
    1.2.1 High School IX - X (VIII - X in a few States) 
(I - IV in a few States)
14 - 16  Years


1.1.2 Higher / Senior Sec. School XI - XII 16 - 18 Years


2. Higher / University Education   18 - 24 Years *
  2.1 Non-Professional (e.g. Humanities / Pure Sciences / Commerce) Degree Cources    
    2.1.1 Undergraduate 3 Years  
    2.1.2 Post-graduate 2 Years  


Professional Degree / Diploma Courses Depends on the nature of the course  

*18 - 24 years is usually taken as the age group of students corresponding to university / tertiary education









Responsibility of the Centre, States and Local Bodies for Education

             Allocation of responsibility for various subjects to different tier of government is ultimately laid down in the Constitution.  From 1950, when the Constitution came into force, till 1976, Education was essentially a State subject, with role of Central Government being limited to 

Running Central Universities , Central institutions of training and research, and institutions of national importance,  and 

Coordination and determination of standards in institutions for higher, scientific and technical education and research.

The Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976, shifted Education, in general, from the “State List” to the “Concurrent List”, thus giving both Central and State Governments jurisdiction over it, concurrently.  The concept of concurrency was fleshed out in para 3.13 (“A Meaningful Partnership”) of the National Policy on Education, 1986, which reads as follows:- 

3.13 The Constitutional Amendment of 1976, which includes Education in the Concurrent List, was a far-reaching step whose implications--substantive, financial and administrative--require a new sharing of responsibility between the Union Government and the States in respect of this vital area of national life. While the role and responsibility of the States in regard to education will remain essentially unchanged, the Union Government would accept a larger responsibility to reinforce the national and integrative character of education, to maintain quality and standards (including those of the teaching profession at all levels), to study and monitor the educational requirements of the country as a whole in regard to manpower for development, to cater to the needs of research and advanced study, to look after the international aspects of education, culture and Human Resource Development and, in general, to promote excellence at all levels of the educational pyramid throughout the country. Concurrency signifies a parternership, which is at once meaningful and challenging; the National Policy will be oriented towards giving effect to it in letter and spirit.

By the 72nd and 73rd Amendments to the Constitution, bodies of local self-government – Panchayati Raj bodies for rural and Municipal bodies for urban areas, respectively – were accorded Constitutional status, in 1993.  Assignment of functions  to these bodies is to be determined by laws enacted by individual State legislatures.  However, the Eleventh and Twelfth Schedules of the Constitution provide illustrative lists of items which may,  by law, be devolved on these local bodies.  The Eleventh Schedule lists Education upto the Secondary level, Vocational Education, and Adult and Non-Formal Education, among others, for devolution to Panchayati Raj bodies.


Policy Framework

The Constitution

                       The Constitution of India is the ultimate document which guides State policy in all sectors, including Education.  Details of provisions contained in the Constitution, which have a bearing on Education, have been listed on this website under the caption “Constitutional Provisions”.  Their more important features are:

Provision of free and compulsory education to all children upto the age of fourteen years

Education, in general, is the concurrent responsibility of the Union and the States.

However, (a) coordination and determination of standards in higher and technical education, and (b) institutions declared by Parliament by law to be institutions of national importance, are the responsibility of the Union .

Local authorities (Panchayats and Municipalities) are to be assigned a suitable role in education (especially School, Adult and Non-Formal Education) through individual State legislations.

 State Governments and Local Authorities are expected to provide facilities for instruction in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education

Important Legislations 

                            Next to the Constitution, State Policy is articulated through legislations.  Some of the important Central legislations having a bearing on the subjects allotted to the Department of  Higher Education are:

The University Grants Commission Act, 1956

The All India Council for Technical Education Act, 1987

The National Council for Minority Educational Institutions Act, 2004

The Copyright Act, 1957

The Apprentices Act, 1961

National Policies on Education 

                            There have so far been mainly two comprehensive statements of the National Policy on Education, viz. those of 1968 and 1986.  The former contained decisions of the Central Government on the recommendations of the National Commission on Education, 1964-66.  The latter was a result of the renewed priority assigned to Education by the government of the Late Shri Rajiv Gandhi, who was Prime Minister during 1984-89.  The 1986 policy was reviewed by a Committee constituted in 1990 under the chairmanship of Acharya Ramamurti.  On the basis of the recommendations of this Committee, certain provisions of the 1986 policy were modified in 1992.  Thus, in all, the following three comprehensive national policy statements exist on Education:

National Policy on Education, 1968

National Policy on Education, 1986

National Policy on Education, 1986, as modified in 1992

Policy Decisions on individual issues taken from time to time 

Besides the above comprehensive policy statements, policy decisions on individual issues are taken from time to time, as needed - in the form of Resolutions, Schemes, Guidelines, Orders, etc.



Size of the Indian Education System

                     In keeping with its billion-plus population and high proportion of the young, India has a large formal Education System. Its target group (children and young persons in the 6-24 years age group) numbered around 411 million in 2003, or about 40% of the country's population.
Following are some indicators of the size of India's Education System (figures pertain to 2003-04, unless otherwise stated):

Target Population
(6-24 years age group)
(Estimate for 2003)

411 million


Total Enrolments
in all Educational Institutions 
(School to University)

224 million

Number of Educational Institutions




1.18 million


Colleges (2004-05)



(as on 31.03.05)

(229 Universities
 + 96 Deemed Universities
 +13 Institutions of National Importance)


Number of Teachers

6.2 million


(The above figures of enrolment, etc. do not include the non-formal system which aims to educate adult illiterates, above the age of 15 years.)

Important Achievements

Quantitative Expansion

                     The following comparative figures show the remarkable growth of Indian Education since India became a republic in 1950:

S. No


Figure in

Figure in 2003-04
(Unless otherwise stated)

1 Literacy Rate 18.3% 64.8% (2001)
2 Female Literacy Rate 8.9% 53.7%
3 Schools  0.23 million 1.18 million
4 General Colleges  370 9427
5 Professional Colleges  208 2751
6 Universities  27 304
7 Gross Enrolment Ratio in Elementary Education 32.1% 84.8%
8 Gender Parity Index at Elementary level  0.38 0.93
9 Public Expenditure on Education as % of GDP 1.5% 3.76%





Capacity Building : Standard–setting Institutions at the National level

                     Following two are the main organizations which have been established at the National Level for setting norms and standards and seeing to their observance in the field of higher and technical education.

S. No


Institution Established for Quality Standards at National level


1 Universities & General Colleges University Grants Commission (UGC) Statutory body
National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)  --
2 Technical & Management Education All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE)  Statutory body
National Board of Accreditation (NAB)  --

Capacity Building : Premier Institutions

                     Over the decades, the Department has also established or substantially funded a number of premier institutions, which have come to acquire a reputation for excellence.  Some of these are: 

  7 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) 
  6 Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) 
  Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore
  19 Central Universities
  Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad
  3 Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs)

20 National Institutes of Technology (NITs)

The above list does not include premier institutions in the field of Medical, Agricultural and Legal Education, which are looked after by other Ministries of the Government of India.


                     Generally, all Centrally–funded educational institutions reserve seats for students belonging to disadvantaged groups as follows:


Scheduled Castes (SCs)



Scheduled Tribes (STs)





Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalays, which are pace-setting schools established by the Central Government in over 500 districts of the country, have, in addition to the above, reservations for the following categories also:





Rural Children


Besides, reservation of seats as above, following other facilities are also generally available to students belonging to SCs and STs:


Post-Matric Scholarships



Coaching to prepare for Entrance Examinations


Post – admission Remedial Coaching



Challenges before Indian Education

                            Some of the main challenges before the Education System in India pertain to:

Participation & Equity,
Management, and

While availability of elementary schools within a reasonable distance from habitations is now fairly universal, same cannot yet be said in regard to Secondary Schools and Colleges.  Pockets still exist in many remote parts of the country where the nearest Secondary School or College is much too far for everyone to be able to attend.


Besides the physical availability of institutions, other barriers to access – e.g. socio-economic,linguistic–academic, physical barriers for the disabled, etc. – also need to be removed.  

Participation & Equity-

Gross Enrolment Ratios for the elementary, secondary and tertiary stages of education in 2003-04 were 85%, 39% and 9%, respectively.  These participation rates are undoubtedly low, and need to be raised very substantially, for India to become a knowledge society / economy.


A linked challenge is one of equity.  Participation rates in Education are poor largely because students from disadvantaged groups continue to find it difficult to pursue it.  Even when they manage to participate, students suffering from disadvantages of gender, socio-economic status, physical disability, etc. tend to have access to education of considerably lower quality than the others, while the education system needs to provide them access to the best possible education so that they are able to catch up with the rest.


The challenge of quality in Indian education has many dimensions, e.g.


Providing adequate physical facilities and infrastructure,


Making available adequate teachers of requisite quality,


Effectiveness of teaching-learning processes,


Attainment levels of students, etc


Besides the need to improve quality of our educational institutions in general, it is also imperative that an increasing number of them attain world-class standards and are internationally recognized for their quality.


Education in India needs to be more skill-oriented – both in terms of life-skills as well as livelihood skills.  In sheer numerical terms, India has the manpower to substantially meet the needs of a world hungry for skilled workers, provided its education system can convert those numbers into a skilled work-force with the needed diversity of skills.


Management of Indian education needs to build in greater decentralization, accountability, and professionalism, so that it is able to deliver good quality education to all, and ensure optimal utilization of available resources.


India ’s stated national policy - ever since 1968 - has been to raise public expenditure on Education to the level of 6% of GDP.  On the other hand, in 2004-05, outlay of Central and State Governments for Education amounted to about 3.5% of GDP.    Thus, the gap in allocations for Education is still substantial, and needs to be urgently bridged

Department of Higher Education
CED Documentation is for your personal reference and study only