Authored by:

K. Akshitha Rao – Jnr. Associate Editor



Education is something that has always been a right for most, as it was meant to be and should be. However, there are many who dream about learning, going to school and can’t do so. In their eyes, education is a privilege. Various issues like poverty, child labour, lack of opportunities keep millions away from education every year. We can see these problems in our everyday life, as advertisements on TV or as children begging on the streets but we do not think much of it or rarely ever act on it. The government has come up with various policies and laws to ensure that this problem can be eradicated. Policies and laws (or “Steps taken”) have helped tremendously, albeit only to an extent. This problem is not one that is faced by our country alone but by multiple countries around the world. International organisations like the United Nations recognised these problems and have been working to overcome this situation for nearly 8 decades by making policies, partnering with other organisations, establishing subsidiary organisations, etc. However, not only does the current situation with COVID-19 and shutting down of educational institutions come with its own problems but does not bode well for these efforts either.

Keywords: Education, Out of School Children, Children, School, Literacy.


Education is the facilitation of learning or acquisition of skills, values, beliefs or even habits. There is no denying that education essentially forms the foundation of society. Even one’s ability to deal with problems in real life and the development of their personality is also heavily influenced by what and how they have learnt. Kofi Anan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations once said ' Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family'. These words reiterate how indispensable education really is, especially the education of the youth. Everything new a child learns today is an additional contribution by an adult in the future. However, the given data on the history of children’s education, quantitative and qualitative, are not very pleasing despite the fact that there have been various efforts made by multiple organisations, national and international, to improve this situation.

Importance of Education

Education is power. It is a never-ending process and the most effective tool to change someone’s life. It can be looked at as an investment, and in return, you get knowledge, employment opportunities, and often even lead to peace and development. Aside from the glaring evident importance education has for an individual, it also plays a very, if not one of the most, prominent role in the progress of a nation. It helps people become better citizens, helps them attain fundamental knowledge. Primary education can be looked at as a maturation space for a nation’s future leaders, thinkers, and pioneers. It provides them with the means to develop their communication and social skills along with their social and physical development and teaches them confidence and independence.

Education in India

In ancient times India followed the system of Gurukuls, where anyone who wished to learn went to a guru and beseeched to be taught by him. Should the teacher accept them as his student, they would stay at his home helping with the chores, and the guru would teach the child everything they wanted to learn – from Mathematics and Metaphysics to Sanskrit and Holy Scriptures. The modern education system was bought to India in the 1830s by Thomas Babington Macaulay. Subjects like English and Mathematics took prominence over subjects like Philosophy and Metaphysics. Education, as they deemed was confined to rooms.

The first educational board set up in India was in the state of Uttar Pradesh in 1921 which is ironic considering as of September 2020, UP has only 73% literacy percentage - less than the national average and only at fifth to the last position[1]. The Uttar Pradesh Board of High School and Intermediate Education has jurisdiction over Rajputana, Central India and Gwalior till 1929 when the Board of High School and Intermediate Education, Rajputana, was established. More states started establishing boards following this, but they were all amended and renamed as the Central Board of Secondary Education, now known as CBSE, with jurisdiction over schools in Delhi and other regions in 1952. The boards decided on things such as curriculum, textbooks and examination system for all schools affiliated to it. There are thousands of schools, from India and abroad, affiliated to this Board.

Issues faced and steps are taken

It has been a dream of the Republic of India to educate the majority of its children, and it was incorporated under the principles of state policy, right after Independence, that states will ensure free and compulsory education for children aged between 6-14 within ten years of commencement of the Constitution[2]. Many more steps to ensure their goal was taken in the following decade like the National Education Policy in 1986. However, there are many obstacles to this dream-like child marriage, child labour, poverty, domestic abuse, and child trafficking. Gender disparity is also a prominent concern as girls are actively denied education, at times in favour of boys, especially in rural areas. The male literacy rate in the country is much higher at 84.7% as compared to the female literacy rate of 70.3%. It is a matter of pride, though, that issues like untouchability have been overcome to the most extent. There, however, has been a considerable decrease in the percentage of children out of school in India, after the Right to Education Act[3] with drafting history to the 86 Amendment[4] where education was made a fundamental right. The number of children out of school went from 13.46 million in 2006 to 6 million in 2014. The Midday Meal scheme has also played a sizeable role in this. Even though this progress is welcome and celebrated, a hundred per cent literacy is still at the end of a long and steel road. According to the latest data, India has a literary rate of 77.7% with Kerala having the highest rate at 96.2% and Andhra Pradesh having the least at 66.4%.

Comparative Study and International Organisations

As per the World Education Index of 2019, India ranked 35th, which is an improvement from 2018 when it ranked 40th. However, it is at the bottom end of World literacy rate rankings, with countries like Andorra, Finland and Norway being at the top with 100%. The countries at the bottom are Niger, Guinea and South Sudan with 15%, 25% and 27% respectively. It can be noted that the bottom six countries of the list are all African and Afghanistan at 7 to last. Many of the reasons for lack of education there are the same as India – poverty, child labour, uneducated parents, etc. However, unlike India, most African nations are drowning in conflict. This statement also holds true for Afghanistan. These conflicts not only make it dangerous to attend school, but children are also forced to become child soldiers at times. These issues are severe and garnered worldwide attention.

The United Nations is also doing its part in helping these and other similar countries. In 1959, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Children which defines their right to education, among other things, and works to help children affected by armed conflict and lack of proper healthcare. The UN Global Contact has also joined with a number of partners to advance education all over the world. They have created a framework for businesses to help advance education in partnership with UNESCO, UNICEF, and UN Special Envoy for Global Education. The UN is expanding strategically to capture children at risk. In collaboration with the UNESCO, Institute for Statistics UNICEF launched the Out of School Children initiative aiming to reduce the number of children out of school in 2012. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also recognises the right to education as one of the fundamental human rights.

Current Situation

The current lockdown worldwide has to be the most significant disruption of educational systems ever in history. It has affected more than 190 countries, around 1.6 billion learners. 94% of the world’s student population has been affected by the number being higher in lower-income countries. This crisis is aggravating the already existing problems concerning education. The online education system is something children from lower-middle-class families will not be able to afford due to lack of laptops and smartphones. It is reducing the already sparse opportunities available to vulnerable children and youth. Competitive exams like NEET, CLAT or JEE, in India, are an addition to the pressure of a pandemic along with the same issue regarding the mode of examination and classes. There is also the economical impact to consider. The loss of jobs, stagnation of businesses also indirectly plays a considerable role, as parents may not be able to afford to send their children to school. Around an added 23.8 million children around the world may have to drop out of school, even if they have access, to begin with, due to this struggle in affordability.


[1] National Statistical Office, Statistical Services Act, 1980. [2] The Constitution of India, 1957 [3] Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 [4] 86 Amendment (2002), Constitution of India, 1957

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Legit Originals: Volume 1, Issue 2(October 2020)

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