Education in India

Mauryan Period

  • growth of urban centres and trade
  • guilds of the merchants began to play an active role in providing education
  • centres of technical education
  • knowledge of mining, metallurgy, carpentry, weaving and dyeing
  • gave patronage to astronomy
  • Medical knowledge began to be systemised as Ayurveda
  • ‘Charaka’ became famous for medicine and ‘Sushruta’ for surgery
  • curricula in the Ramayana for the princes was Dhanurveda,
    Nitishastra, Siksha (lore) of elephants and chariots, Alekhya and Lekhya (Painting and writing), Langhana (jumping) and Tairana (swimming)

Gupta Period

  • Jain and Buddhist systems of education assumed a different
  • Oral Method of Learning and later shifted to literary texts
  • Buddhist monasteries for education
  • Fa-Hien also spent several years in the monastery at Pataliputra, studying Buddhist religious books
  • centres of learning- Vanarasi, Mathura, Ujjain and Nasik
  • Nalanda University- Vedanta, philosophy, study of the Puranas, epics, grammar, logic, astronomy, philosophy, medicine
  • Jains used Sanskrit literature like ‘Adipurana’and ‘Yashatilaka’for educational purposes
  • to make education more popular, the medium was changed to Prakrit and other regional languages like Tamil, Kannada

Post Gupta Period

  • Harsha encouraged education at all levels; education was given in temples and monastries and higher education in universities of Taxila, Ujjain, Gaya and Nalanda
  • In Nalanda, Hiuen Tsang spent several years studying
    Buddhists sculptures. Shilabhadra, a renowned scholar was its head.
  • In the seventh and eighth centuries, ‘ghatikas’,or colleges attached to the temples emerged as new centres of learning.
  • The ‘ghatikas’,provided Brahmanical education. The medium of instruction was Sanskrit.
  • Entry to these temple colleges was open only to the upper castes or ‘dvijas’ (twice born)


  • Ashoka, the Mauryan king used ‘Prakrit’ in his edicts
  • Pali was one of the early variants of Prakrit.
  • Buddhist canonical writings are in Prakrit and Pali, though some Sanskrit literature was also in circulation. Another language ‘Apabhramsha’ was used by Jain writers in Gujarat and Rajasthan for the composition of poetry.
  • Hiuen Tsang a famous Chinese traveller records Nalanda University as a post graduate university for advanced study and research.
  • King Balaputradeva constructed a temple for the students of Java who came to study at Nalanda.

Medieval Period

  • With the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, Islamic system of education was introduced
  • tradition of education developed under the Abbasids of Baghdad
  • Amir Khusrau
  • contemporary historians like Minhajus-Siraj, Ziauddin Barani and Afif
  • The institutions that provided school education were known as ‘makhtabs’, while those of higher learning were called ‘madrasas’.
  • The ‘makhtabs’ were generally run by public donations while ‘Madrasas’ were maintained by the rulers and nobles.
  • The famous ‘madrasas’ were the Muizzi, the Nasiri and the Firuzi madrasas in Delhi, Mohammed Gawani’s madrasa in Bidar and Abul Fazl’s madrasa in Fatehpur Sikri.
  • The Sirat-i-figuz Shahi gives a list of 14 subjects that were taught in the Madarsas like Jurisprudence or Dirat which was a method of recitation, punctuation and vocalization of the text Quran etc.
  • main feature of the Muslim educational system- traditional in spirit and theological in content
    • curriculum was broadly divided into two categories: the traditional
      (Manqulat) and the rational (Maqulat) sciences
    • Traditional subjects dominated education from the time
      of Iltutmish (1211-36) till the reign of Sikander Lodi (1489-1517).
  • Akbar gave grants to educational institutions. He started a College near Jama Masjid. At that time, education was not a state subject.
  • no provision for women’s education
  • rise of Urdu as a language
  • Babar wrote his own biography known as Tazuk-i-Babari
  • Humayun introduced the study of mathematics, astronomy and geography in the ‘madrasas’in Delhi
  • Akbar added subjects like accountancy, public administration, geometry and built a workshop
    • Akbar patronised many scholars such as Abul Fazal, Faizi, Raja Todar Mal, Birbal and Rahim

Eighteenth Century: The Beginning of Modern Period

  • old famous centres of higher learning like those at Taxila, Nalanda, Vikramshila near Bhagalpur, at Jagaddal in North Bengal,
    Vallabhi at Kathiawar and Kanchi in the South had disappeared
  • beginning of oriental scholarship was made by Warren Hastings in 1781 when he started the Calcutta Madrasa.
  • in 1792, Jonathan Duncan, a Resident of Varanasi started a Sanskrit college to educate native Hindus to assist the Europeans

Nineteenth Century

  • East India Company’s Charter Act of 1813 enabled the Company to set aside one lakh rupees for “the revival and improvement of literature
  • A debate ensued between the Orientalists and the Anglicists which was finally settled by Macaulay’s Minutes and Bentinck’s Resolutïon of 1835.
  • William Bentinck adopted English as the official language of the government.
  • Lord Hardinge in 1844, decided to grant employment to Indians who had received English education.
  • Wood’s Despatch of 1854 underlined the objective of educational policy which suggested that Universities should be set up in Bombay (modern Mumbai), Madras (modern Chennai) and Calcutta (modern Kolkata)
  • emphasized the development of private enterprise, a
    system of grants-in-aid, training teachers in the schools, women’s education and so on
  • In 1857, the Universities of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta were established.
  • The Universities of Punjab and Allahabad were established in 1882 and 1887 respectively

Beginning of 20th Century

  • In 1901, Lord Curzon convened the conference of Directors of Public Instruction
  • In 1904, the Indian Universities Act was passed
  • Under the Colonial Rule, mass education was neglected and the attempt was to create an urban educated elite
  • Literacy and education were more widespread in towns
    than in villages

Impact of English Education

  • The British encouraged the teaching of English language as they needed people to work in the administrative offices either as clerks or babus
  • Christian missionaries who came to India started opening schools where English was taught
  • Use of English by Indians provided one langauge that cut across the entire country and became a common link for them

Education in Post-Independence India

  • In 1966, the Report of the Education Commission (1964-
    66) (popularly known as Kothari Commission) referred to education as the only instrument of peaceful social change
  • Constitutional Amendment of 1976 included education in the concurrent list

Elementary Education

  • Class I to VIII
  • National Policy on Education 1986
  • Article 45 provided for the State to introduce compulsory and free education for children upto the age of fourteen
  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Now Samagra Shiksha)

Secondary Education

  • classes 9th to 12th
  • age group 14-18
  • Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan
  • First Education Policy adopted in 1968
  • Industrial Training Institutes (ITI’s)
  • National Skill Development Mission and Training

Higher Education

  • part of a university
  • Number of students in the age group of 18-20 years enrolled for higher education is low
  • gross enrolment ratio increased

Adult Education

  • age group of 15-35 years
  • National Literacy Mission (NLM)
  • literacy rate after independence in 1951 of 7+ population was 18.3% which increased in 2011 to 74.0 percent. The male literacy rate is 82.14% and female is 65.46%

Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET)

  • Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIM)

National Education Policy

  • National Education Policy of 1968 marked a significant step in the history of education in post-independence India
  • National Policy of Education (1986)
    • ‘National Literacy Mission’ (NLM) has been started for imparting literacy amongst the 15-35 age group
  • Navodaya Vidyalayas

Open and Distance Learning System

  • Indira Gandhi National Open University

Recent Developments in Education

  • Samagra Shiksha
  • 86th Constitutional amendment, making education a fundamental right was passed by Parliament in 2002
  • Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act-2010
  • Rastriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA)

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