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### Evolution of Education and Skill Development: A Decade of Reform


The educational sector plays a crucial role in shaping the socio-economic development of a state. In the past, India boasted a knowledge system that not only ensured the effective transfer of comprehensive knowledge from one generation to the next but also its enhancement in line with the needs of the era, nation, and society. However, the seamless transition of this tradition to the modern-day was impeded by successive colonial interventions, resulting in notable gaps in the contemporary education systems. Recognizing the pressing need to address these gaps, the Modi government has introduced groundbreaking reforms aimed at improving the quality, accessibility, and skill orientation of education throughout India. This article delves into the trajectory of these reforms over the last decade, shedding light on their impact on primary and higher education, research, entrepreneurship, and skill development.

Evolution in Primary and Secondary Education

The Modi administration has rolled out a variety of initiatives to enhance the quality and accessibility of primary and secondary education. Particularly noteworthy is the launch of the PM eVidya channel during the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate remote learning for school students. Moreover, substantial budget allocations have been directed towards bolstering infrastructure, digital literacy, and teacher training programs in schools nationwide.

These initiatives in the primary and secondary education sectors underscore a commitment to driving transformative change in India’s educational landscape. By embracing digital technologies, improving infrastructure, investing in teacher training, and promoting inclusive education, these reforms signify a shift towards a more equitable, accessible, and quality-driven education system.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the government’s swift adoption of digital platforms like the PM eVidya channel, catering to nearly 25 crore school students across India, showcases a willingness to innovate and adapt to evolving circumstances. This digital transformation not only ensures educational continuity during crises but also unlocks new learning opportunities, transcending geographical boundaries and traditional constraints.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted that the education system weathered the pandemic due to digital connectivity, indicating a reduction in the digital divide. The government’s online-centric approach, aimed at bridging the digital gap as promised in the BJP’s 2014 manifesto, has been instrumental. Furthermore, the emphasis on infrastructure development in primary and secondary schools underscores a commitment to providing conducive learning environments for every child. By investing in modern facilities like classrooms, laboratories, libraries, and sanitation amenities, the government is laying the groundwork for holistic development and lifelong learning opportunities. Over the past decade, school enrollment has shown a consistent upward trend, with figures climbing from 96.7% in 2014 to 98.4% in 2022. Particularly noteworthy is the significant increase in female enrollment.

The percentage of girls aged 11 to 14 not enrolled in school decreased from 10% in 2006 to a mere 2% in 2022. During the question hour, Education Minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan highlighted a remarkable increase in enrollment rates among girls, with a notable 31% growth from 2014-15 to 2021-22. He also noted a substantial 50% increase in enrollment figures for girls belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC) and a 44% and 65% rise for Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Muslim girls, respectively, over the same period.

Central to the success of these reforms is the focus on empowering and building the capacity of teachers. Through targeted training programs and recruitment efforts, the government is equipping educators with the skills and knowledge essential for delivering high-quality instruction and fostering student engagement. Empowered teachers act as catalysts for change, nurturing the next generation of innovators, leaders, and change-makers. Prime Minister Modi’s launch of the Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching in December 2014 exemplifies a clear vision and purpose. This initiative, named after the esteemed founder of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, posthumously conferred the Bharat Ratna by the Modi government, reflects a commitment to enhancing education quality and honoring visionary educators.

Addressing the critical need to cultivate a skilled teaching workforce, Prime Minister Modi stressed the importance of producing proficient educators during the mission’s launch. The Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching is a comprehensive endeavor addressing various aspects of teaching, teacher preparation, professional development, curriculum design, assessment methodology, pedagogy research, and the development of effective teaching strategies.

By acknowledging the crucial role of teachers and the importance of quality education in national development, the Modi government’s initiative underscores its dedication to fostering excellence in the education sector. Through strategic measures aimed at empowering teachers and enhancing teaching methodologies, the mission aims to elevate education standards across the country, aligning with the government’s broader vision for educational reform and advancement.

At the core of the Modi government’s education reforms lies a vision of inclusive and equitable education for all. Initiatives such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) aim to bridge gaps in access and quality, ensuring that no child is left behind. By prioritizing the education of marginalized and disadvantaged groups, the government is laying the groundwork for a more inclusive society where every individual has the opportunity to realize their full potential. Education Minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan emphasized the government’s belief in preserving India’s essence within its languages, highlighting steps taken to facilitate education in native tongues. He pointed out that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) mandated the creation of teaching and learning materials in all 22 scheduled languages. Additionally, he mentioned that in states like Madhya Pradesh, education in fields such as medicine and law is now being delivered in Hindi. This initiative aims to promote linguistic diversity and ensure students have access to education in their mother tongue, fostering a deeper understanding and connection with their cultural heritage. Furthermore, the significant increase in budget allocations for primary and secondary education underscores the government’s unwavering commitment to investing in human capital development. This investment not only strengthens the education system but also fuels economic growth, innovation, and social progress, positioning India as a global leader in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.

On September 7, 2022, the Cabinet approved a new centrally sponsored scheme named PM SHRI (PM Schools for Rising India). This initiative aims to establish more than 14,500 schools across the country, focusing on strengthening select existing schools managed by various authorities such as the central government, state governments, union territory administrations, and local bodies. These PM SHRI schools are envisioned to serve as exemplars in implementing the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which emphasizes equitable, inclusive, and joyful learning environments. Over time, these schools are expected to emerge as leaders in their regions, providing high-quality education while accommodating the diverse backgrounds, multilingual needs, and varying academic abilities of students. The overarching goal is to empower students to become active participants in their own learning journey, aligning with the vision outlined in the NEP 2020.

By leveraging existing infrastructure and resources, the scheme seeks to elevate the standard of education across the country by nurturing well-rounded individuals equipped with the skills needed to thrive in the 21st century. Through the PM SHRI initiative, the government aims to address the evolving needs of the education sector and ensure that every child has access to quality education, regardless of their socio-economic background or geographical location.

In essence, the reforms in primary and secondary education under the Modi government represent a paradigm shift towards transformational change. By leveraging technology, enhancing infrastructure, empowering teachers, and promoting inclusivity, these reforms are reshaping the educational landscape of India, unlocking the potential of millions of young minds, and driving the nation towards a brighter, more prosperous future.

Analysis of Budget Allocations for the Education Sector (2014-2024)

Over the past decade, the Modi government has demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing education in India, as reflected in the significant increases in budgetary allocations for the education sector. Starting from Rs 68,728 crore in 2014, the allocation for the education sector reached its highest-ever level of Rs 1,12,898.97 crore in 2024. This notable rise in budgetary allocations reflects the government’s unwavering commitment to prioritizing education as a national development agenda. The government’s budgetary decisions have been directed towards improving both the quality and accessibility of education across the country. Initiatives such as the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), the establishment of new AIIMS, IITs, and IIMs, and the upgrade of secondary schools have aimed at enhancing the quality of higher education and expanding access to quality healthcare and education facilities.

Skill development has been a key focus area of the Modi government’s education agenda, with significant allocations towards initiatives such as the Skill India programme, the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, and the establishment of multi-skill development centres. These efforts are geared towards equipping the youth with the necessary skills to thrive in the rapidly evolving job market and contribute to India’s economic growth. The government’s budgetary allocations have also aimed at promoting inclusive education by addressing the needs of marginalized and disadvantaged groups. Initiatives such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), scholarships for SC/ST students, and the establishment of Ekalavya Model Residential Schools have been instrumental in improving access to quality education for underprivileged communities and bridging the gap in educational outcomes. Despite facing various challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainties, the government has maintained its commitment to education growth by increasing budgetary allocations and introducing diverse initiatives. The significant rise in allocations for education in the 2024 budget underscores the government’s determination to prioritize education as a catalyst for national development and progress.

Another transformative blueprint in education has been the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, introduced on July 29, 2020. Among its pivotal features are initiatives to ensure universal access to education from pre-primary to Grade 12, focusing on providing quality early childhood education for children aged 3-6 years. The policy advocates a new curricular and pedagogical structure of 5+3+3+4 years, aiming to break down rigid barriers between disciplines and streams. It prioritizes foundational literacy and numeracy through the establishment of a National Mission, and emphasizes multilingualism, promoting the use of the mother tongue or local language as the medium of instruction up to Grade 5. Assessment reforms include conducting board exams twice a year and establishing the PARAKH National Assessment Centre. NEP 2020 is committed to equitable and inclusive education, targeting socially and economically disadvantaged groups, and ensuring transparent teacher recruitment and performance evaluation processes. Infrastructure development, vocational education integration, and holistic learning approaches are other key components, with the overarching goal of achieving 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in preschool to secondary education by 2030, thereby fostering a more educated and empowered society.

A significant initiative in the realm of education is the Atal Tinkering Lab (ATL) program launched by AIM (Atal Innovation Mission), NITI Aayog. This programme introduces state-of-the-art spaces, known as Atal Tinkering Labs, within schools with the objective of nurturing curiosity and innovation among students from grades 6 to 12 nationwide. Equipped with 21st-century tools and technologies such as the Internet of Things, 3D printing, rapid prototyping tools, robotics, miniaturized electronics, and do-it-yourself kits, these labs serve as platforms to stimulate problem-solving and foster an innovative mindset among students. The programme aims to not only enhance the technological skills of students but also instill in them the ability to think critically and creatively. Since its inception, AIM has successfully established 10,000 Atal Tinkering Labs in schools across the country. By providing access to cutting-edge tools and encouraging hands-on experimentation, the ATL programme empowers students to explore, experiment, and innovate, thereby preparing them to tackle real-world challenges and contribute to India’s journey towards becoming a knowledge-driven economy.

Reforms in Higher Education

The focus in higher education is on expanding access and enhancing quality. This includes the establishment of new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs), and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), resulting in an exponential rise in the number of premier institutions in the country. Additionally, the government has undertaken measures such as scrapping the M.Phil. programme and introducing four-year bachelor courses to align higher education with industry requirements.

Significant reforms have been initiated in the higher education sector, aimed at expanding access and enhancing quality. Since 2014, remarkable strides have been made in establishing and upgrading premier institutions, thereby catalyzing an exponential rise in the number of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs), and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) across the country. Notably, six new IIT institutes have been established, and the Indian School of Mines (ISM), Dhanbad, has been upgraded to an IIT. The Lok Sabha passed the Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2016, facilitating the opening of seven new IITs in various states, further broadening access to quality technical education. Additionally, seven new IIMs have been established in the past six years, with six commencing their Post Graduate Programme in Management in 2015, and IIM Jammu, established in 2016, contributing to the enrichment of managerial talent across diverse regions.

In a significant development, 22 new universities have been established in the Northeast region, marking a milestone in the educational landscape of the area. Additionally, Ladakh has witnessed the establishment of its inaugural Central University, a significant step forward for the region’s higher education sector. Moreover, the establishment of the first-ever forensic university and a rail and transport university further underscores the government’s commitment to bolstering specialized education and research in crucial sectors. These initiatives aim to enhance educational opportunities, promote academic excellence, and contribute to the overall socio-economic development of the regions they serve.

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has been a cornerstone in driving comprehensive reforms in higher education, with the overarching goal of increasing the gross enrolment ratio (GER) to 50% by 2035. The University Grants Commission (UGC), as the apex institution entrusted with formulating and executing higher education policies, has spearheaded various initiatives to align India’s education system with global standards and foster a culture of innovation and excellence. The introduction of a choice-based credit system (CBCS) provides students with the flexibility to choose courses and earn credits, promoting student-centric learning and interdisciplinary studies. Furthermore, the institution of an Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) will digitally store academic credits earned from recognized higher education institutions (HEIs), facilitating seamless credit transfer and degree awarding based on accumulated credits.

In line with NEP 2020’s vision of exposing 50% of learners to vocational education by 2025, HEIs are now mandated to offer vocational courses in all bachelor programs. This initiative, coupled with partnerships with industry and NGOs, aims to equip students with practical skills in cutting-edge domains, thereby enhancing employability and fostering entrepreneurship. Additionally, renewed focus has been placed on open and distance learning, with the implementation of online courses and digital repositories, complementing traditional in-class methods. Furthermore, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are now eligible for credit-based recognition, providing learners with access to high-quality educational resources and expanding opportunities for lifelong learning and upskilling.

The holistic approach towards higher education reforms underscores the government’s commitment to nurturing a skilled workforce, fostering innovation, and promoting inclusive growth in alignment with the evolving needs of the 21st-century economy. By laying the groundwork for a robust higher education ecosystem, these reforms are poised to propel India towards becoming a global knowledge hub and a powerhouse of talent and innovation.

Focus on Research and Entrepreneurship

Research and innovation as key drivers of economic growth have been prioritized. The establishment of the National Research Foundation aims to promote interdisciplinary research and foster collaboration between academia and industry. Furthermore, initiatives such as the establishment of incubator centers have facilitated the creation of a conducive ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation in the education sector. In its 2014 manifesto, the government pledged to elevate the quality of academia and research, aiming to align Indian universities with global standards. As a result, research and innovation have emerged as central pillars driving economic growth and development. In addition, several initiatives, aimed at nurturing a vibrant research ecosystem in the country, have been implemented.

At the forefront of these efforts is the establishment of the National Research Foundation, a landmark initiative designed to promote interdisciplinary research and foster collaboration between academia and industry. This apex body will play a crucial role in directing scientific research across higher education institutions (HEIs) and public institutions, thereby cultivating a culture of innovation and creating synergistic partnerships between academia and government.

Aligning with the objectives of the National Education Policy (NEP), the University Grants Commission (UGC) is actively promoting research and innovation across disciplines, including the humanities and social sciences. Incentives are provided to HEIs to set up start-up incubation centers, technology development centers, and research facilities in frontier areas, fostering greater industry-academia linkages and driving innovation-led growth.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s budget announcement further underscores the government’s commitment to research and innovation. The unveiling of a corpus of Rs. 1 lakh crore, available at minimal or nil interest rates, aims to incentivize private sector investment in research and development, particularly in the sunrise sectors. This significant allocation reflects the government’s vision of harnessing the potential of India’s tech-savvy youth and fostering innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

Furthermore, the scheme to strengthen deep-tech technologies for defense purposes aligns with the government’s broader agenda of promoting self-reliance and indigenous innovation in critical sectors. This initiative not only reinforces India’s defense capabilities but also paves the way for technological breakthroughs with far-reaching implications for national security and strategic autonomy. The impact of these initiatives is already evident, with the emergence of a thriving startup ecosystem across regions. In Jammu & Kashmir, for instance, the conducive environment created by government policies has led to a surge in startup registrations, with the region securing top positions in the ‘Ranking of States on Support to Startup Ecosystems.’ Startups in diverse sectors such as e-commerce, horticulture, agriculture, tourism, and crafts have flourished, signaling the transformative potential of government-led interventions in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. The unwavering focus on research and innovation aims to leverage India’s demographic dividend and technological prowess to drive inclusive growth and prosperity and to propel India towards becoming a global leader in innovation and knowledge-driven economies.

Revitalizing the Indian Knowledge System

In a bid to preserve and promote India’s rich cultural heritage, the Modi government has taken steps to revitalize the Indian knowledge system. Efforts have been made to integrate traditional knowledge systems into mainstream education, ensuring that students gain a holistic understanding of India’s diverse cultural heritage. The Indian Knowledge System (IKS) cell, established in October 2020 under the Ministry of Education (MoE) at AICTE, New Delhi, represents a concerted effort by the Modi government to preserve, promote, and integrate India’s rich cultural heritage and traditional knowledge systems into the contemporary education framework. This innovative initiative seeks to foster interdisciplinary research, preserve and disseminate traditional knowledge, and actively engage in spreading India’s diverse heritage across various domains such as arts and literature, agriculture, basic sciences, engineering, technology, architecture, management, and economics.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a vocal advocate for an education system rooted in Indian values, emphasizing the importance of embracing India’s cultural legacy in shaping the country’s educational landscape. In commemorating the 200th birth anniversary of Arya Samaj founder Swami Dayan