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Is Indian education system really that bad?

In this blog post, we’ll discuss structural problems of Indian education system not technical problems.

As they say “Future is very hard to predict”. But in the case of a nation, its future can easily be predicted by the current state of its education system. That why we’ll be evaluating the current state of the Indian education system so that we can predict what the future has in store for India.

Just to be clear, in this post we will be discussing the current schooling system that was started by the British East India Company (EIC). In 1781, Governor-General of Bengal, Warren Hastings established Calcutta Madarasa for Islamic law studies. This was the first educational institution set by the British East India Company (EIC). But the real tone was set by T.B. Macaulay’s 1835 “Minute on Indian Education“.

We needed to make the distinction because India unlike most places in the world at the time had a vastly superior and widespread education system known as the Gurukul education system. Read our post about the Gurukul Education system if you want to know more about it. So the British had two things at hand i.e. dismantle the already functioning system and establish a day-boarding schooling system that is now widespread all over India.

The British did both work diligently and we see schools in every part of India now. So the current education system is some 200-odd years old. If you want to know “How current schooling system came to be?”, read our detailed post about it.

So the point of discussion is this education system that the British set up in India. Now, we’ll discuss what is wrong with the current education system and where is it lacking.

Problems of the Indian Education System

Factory Schooling

I like to call the current schooling system be a factory schooling system because it churns out products not learned humans. The current schooling system evolved in US after the American civil war (1861-1865) when the state took control of learning institutions.

This was the time of the industrial revolution and the modern countries were starting to take shape. So the world needed trained people who could work in factories and militaries needed people to hire. So the state had an incentive in providing compulsory education that can produce workers and military recruits.

The school system was modeled such that it can train people for military as well as factories. The school system had a stated aim of squeezing out imagination out of the masses. Bells, fixed periods, teacher’s authority, etc. were deliberately introduced.

We have written a detailed post about the history of evolution of current schooling system where we have discussed why and how it was developed.

Marks over Learning

In the current education system, the brilliance of a student is measured by how many marks he scores on the test rather than what he has learned by heart. Though the marks system has been changed recently in favor of grades. But the system essentially remains the same, A+ is better than B, etc. You get the point. It brings the hierarchical societal system of 17th century Europe (age of enlightenment) into education as grading.

The curriculum has been designed since the British colonial era and there have been no substantial efforts on the part of the country or government to re-evaluate it. Facts and Information instead of knowledge and wisdom are passed down to generations and generations of students.

One size fits all

The current schooling system treats every child of a particular age in the same way. Students are grouped based on their age rather than interest or learning potential. They are put on a conveyor belt which has a fixed time in going from one step to another.

Then the product is segregated based on their performance and sent to different users i.e. industry. This system doesn’t consider the individuality of a person and treats everyone the same way.

Does this system function beyond providing basic reading and writing skills for an average student? When was the last time you used your education to solve a real-life problem?

Critical Thinking Vs imitating

I can bet as a student you must have learned algebra and trigonometry. You may have got great marks but you didn’t understand it until your higher learning or maybe never. This certainly was the case with me.

I was a good student, and always topped my class. But only after becoming a teacher I understood the concepts of middle school. The current schooling system teaches students to imitate without understanding. So even if some teacher tells you to do a sum and you’re able to do it through imitation doesn’t help you much.

Imitating the steps to solve in question in mathematics or else, doesn’t make you a good student. It doesn’t help you with critical thinking or analytical abilities.

There is a difference between the critical thinking and the imitation process.

Most of the education imparted in current Indian schooling system is completely theoretical. It has minuscule practical component. Students learn by imitating the teacher without much understanding.

Lack of understanding of the process of learning

No research goes into researching better and more scientific teaching methodologies. Though modern technologies like Audio Visual aids, the internet, computing, etc. can be used as tools in modernizing the infrastructure. They can not replace the need for well-researched methods and training of teachers.

Methods like storytelling, experiential learning with the involvement of as many senses as it can, Group Discussion, Lecturing, learning through teaching, etc. can break the monotonicity of learning thereby helping in the retention of knowledge.

Out of touch with reality as well as society

The world around us is changing fast but the curriculum of schools haven’t changed much for that last 200 years.

Modern schooling evolved during the industrial revolution around 1800s. So it is natural to imagine it in the fashion of the industrial revolution. So it includes industrial revolution traits like efficiency, factory-type production, etc. But now we are not in the age of the industrial revolution. We have a new set of opportunities and challenges. But our education system has frozen in time.

This is true about most education systems of countries, not just India. The curriculum is also frozen in time. Education should be dynamic but if you fix the syllabus it needs updating frequently. There have been very few updates to the syllabus if any. The syllabus is obsolete and doesn’t teach students any skill that they can use in their real life or professional life.

The education system should be dynamic and in constant connection with society so that it can help in solving the problems of the day and not keep delving into the problems of the past.

Imparts Industrial age values

The current schooling system has its genesis in the Industrial revolution. A large body of technically trained people was required to staff the factories. So the need arose for a system to train people for factories as well as the military. Some of the values required:

  • Docile or Obedient workforce
  • Technically trained without critical thinking
  • Needed to be trained to accept the authority

These values were needed to staff the military as well as factories of the industrial age.

Follow instructions and don’t think much for yourself. It is against the creativity that we need for the current age.

Lack of autonomy

Everything is fixed. Timable, curriculum, even the methods of teaching are fixed. So there is no autonomy for the student as well as the teacher. The state controls almost everything though not directly. This has made the system obsolete. We are training the students with industrial age values and logic. It has lost touch with the reality.

The current schooling system lacks dynamism and autonomy, which is the key to keep something relevant at all times.

Inauthentic learning

Memorization of is considered the key to learning in current schooling. Students are taught to follow the algorithm of solving a problem. They just imitate without understanding. This doesn’t develop their critical thinking or anylitical abilities. On the other hand, it kills creativity.


We have discussed all the shortcomings of the current education system. That doesn’t mean it do not have anything good to offer. It surely offers many benefits too. But a free discussion only helps to improve the already functioning system.

Whether we employ the gurukul education system or the current schooling system. At the end of the day, our target is learning. We are looking to answer the “How can we provide the best learning experience to our little ones?” The ancient Indian gurukul system has many great things to offer which current schooling system can learn and improve upon.

The gurukul education system is the natural contender and is suited to Indian psyche more. the Gurukul system is much more practical because it allows individual creativity, practical learning, and holistic development and provides Experiential learning opportunities. Most of these things are just marketing gimmicks because they can’t be fully implemented in the current schooling system.

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