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Promoting secondary education in India

Oct 20, 2009

Secondary Education in India: Universalizing Opportunity, World Bank’s latest report highlights the significance of secondary education in breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty and in determining the country’s economic growth. It recommends the use of innovative technologies and public-private partnership model for facilitating higher education in India.

Secondary Education in India: Universalizing Opportunity

Publisher: World Bank, October 2009

In today’s global knowledge economy, education plays a vital role in determining a country’s economic growth and its people’s standards of living.


Education also enables countries and their people to succeed in the 21st century world. In India, the maximum job growth in recent years has taken place in the skilled services and manufacturing sectors.

The country therefore needs to provide the 12 million young people who join the labour force every year with the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes and experiences to enable them to access these better-paying jobs.

India, however, does not compare favourably with its global competitors in terms of the overall educational attainments of its people. Even countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh which have lower per capita incomes than India have higher gross enrollment rates (GER) in secondary schools. India’s GER in secondary school is 40%, compared to 70% in East Asia and 82% in Latin America.

Nevertheless, with larger numbers of India’s children now finishing primary school, the demand for secondary schooling – Grades 9 to 12 – is growing. Over the next decade, the number of secondary school students is expected to increase from 40 to 60 million. An increasing share of these students will come from rural and lower income groups, who will be less able to afford private secondary education.

The challenge now for the Government of India (GoI) is to dramatically improve access, enrollment and quality in secondary education, simultaneously. The GoI’s recently launched centrally sponsored scheme for secondary education – Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) – offers a tremendous opportunity to set up a mass secondary education structure - that is responsive to the country’s socioeconomic needs and capabilities.

Some facts:

  • 40 million children were enrolled in secondary school in 2008. The majority of them were boys, children from the urban areas, and those who belonged to the wealthier segments of the population;
  • Enrollment varies greatly between states;
  • 75% of public funding for secondary schools comes from states. Less than 10% of this is for investment. While recurrent financing, mainly for teacher salaries, has been stable, the financing of new investments has declined;
  • 60% of the secondary school system is privately managed - through unaided and aided private schools;
  • Unfortunately, small scale standardised assessments of student achievement suggest that the quality of instruction and learning for the large majority of students is very low; and
  • The availability of ICTs is very limited, and teachers’ pre-service education suffers from poor standards.


  • Construct public schools;
  • Pilot innovative public-private partnership models;
  • Introduce double-shift teaching;
  • Expand use of open learning and new technologies;
  • Invest in curriculum revision
  • Invest in ICTs;
  • Develop and apply clear teacher performance standards, and decentralise teacher recruitment to district or school level;
  • Increase schools’ autonomy and parental involvement;
  • Reform Grant-in-Aid;
  • Provide financial and in-kind assistance for poor and disadvantaged students; and
  • Provide financial incentives and technical support for states.
Source : World Bank
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