A Brief Story of Education in India

Written by Sulagna Roy

The country named, India, has a rich and advanced Education System. It is believed that in the ancient days, the education was imparted orally by the sages and the scholars and the information was passed on from one generation to the other. If we look in the pages of history, we have so many reference of the orally imparted education.

Indigenous education was widespread in India. With a school for every temple, mosque or village in most regions of the country. The subjects taught included Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics, Medical Science and Religion. The schools were attended by students’ representative of all classes of society.


Later, the Gurukul system of education came into existence. The Gurukuls were the traditional Hindu residential schools of learning which were typically in the teacher’s house or a monastery. Even though the education was free, the students from well-to-do families paid the Gurudakshina which was a voluntary contribution after the completion of their studies. At the Gurukuls, the teacher imparted knowledge on various aspects of the religion, the scriptures, the philosophy, the literature, the warfare, the statecraft, the medicine astrology and the history. This system is referred as the oldest and the most effective system of education.

After the first millennium Gurukul, came more specialized universities like Nalanda, Takshashila University, Ujjain, & Vikramshila where subjects like  Art, Architecture, Painting, Logic, mathematics, Grammar, Philosophy, Astronomy, Literature, Buddhism, Hinduism, Arthashastra (Economics & Politics), Law, and Medicine were taught.

Each university specialized in a particular field of study. Takshila specialized in the study of medicine, while Ujjain laid emphasis on astronomy. Nalanda, being the biggest centre, handled all branches of knowledge, and housed up to 10,000 students at its peak. (Nalanda University has been restarted after a century.)

The present system of education was introduced and founded by the British in the 20th century, by the recommendations of Macaulay. It has western style and content. The British government did not recognize the traditional structures and so they have declined. It is said that even Gandhi described the traditional educational system as a beautiful tree which was destroyed during the British rule.

After gaining independence from British in 1947, the education became the responsibility of the states and the Central Government. They coordinated the technical and higher education by specifying the standards. Indian education system is divided into different levels: Pre-primary, Primary, Elementary, Secondary, Undergraduate and Postgraduate. Education has been made free for all children of age 6 to 14 years under Right of Children for Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. Indian Higher Education System is 3rd largest in the world after China and USA. According to Census of 2011, National Literacy Rate is around 74%.

In the recent times there are many reforms are taking place in the field of education. Our education system is focusing on practical thinking rather than theoretical learning. To change the system of students only mug up before the exams and write without actually understanding the topic. CBSE in its biggest reforms introduced CCE pattern.

We certainly hope that the hurdles in the path of developing a good education system will be overcome and we will get some good reforms very soon.



About the author

Sulagna Roy

Sulagna's life is inspired by the famous word of Robert Frost:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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