Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are learning about the School system in India in Jaisalmer, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Education in India is given less importance in some areas are that 80 percent of schools are managed by the government. Private schools are expensive and out of reach of the poor. More hands to earn remains the mentality amongst many families and therefore little kids are set out to fend for the family over going to school to garner an adequate education, in the most literal sense of the word.
Education in India is given less importance in some areas are that 80 percent of schools are managed by the government. Private schools are expensive and out of reach of the poor. More hands to earn remains the mentality amongst many families and therefore little kids are set out to fend for the family over going to school to garner an adequate education, in the most literal sense of the word.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on April 25, 2024

The school system in India

India, a land of diversity and contrasts, is home to one of the world's largest and most complex school systems. With a population exceeding 1.3 billion people, the education landscape in India is a labyrinth of institutions, policies and challenges that shape the futures of millions of young minds. With a specific focus on its presence within the broader context of India and we are getting a closer look at how the school system operates within the larger social, cultural and educational landscape of the country.

How many children in India are not attending school?

About 3.2 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 14 in rural India were not attending school. This translates to around 6 million children. It is important to note that this data specifically refers to rural areas and the numbers may vary for urban areas.

A gateway to opportunity
In India, the concept of education transcends mere academic learning – it is deeply intertwined with cultural values, societal expectations and aspirations for a better future. For children in India, school education serves as a gateway to opportunity, a means of social mobility and a foundation for personal and collective growth.

Firstly, school education in India plays a crucial role in shaping the individual identity of children. It provides them with not only knowledge but also a sense of belonging to their community and nation. From an early age, Indian children are introduced to diverse cultural traditions, languages and customs through their education. This exposure fosters an appreciation for India's rich heritage and promotes unity in diversity among its diverse population.

The primary vehicle for socioeconomic advancement in Indian society
Moreover, school education is viewed as the primary vehicle for socioeconomic advancement in Indian society. Families often make significant sacrifices to ensure their children receive a quality education, believing it will open doors to better opportunities and higher-paying jobs in the future. This emphasis on education as a means of upward mobility reflects the aspirations of millions of parents who dream of a brighter future for their children. However, the reality of school education in India is complex. While there has been significant progress in expanding access to schooling, particularly through government initiatives like the 'Right to Education Act', challenges persist in ensuring quality education for all. Rural areas, in particular, face issues such as inadequate infrastructure, teacher shortages and low enrollment rates, which hinder the educational experience for many children.

Furthermore, the Indian education system is often criticized for its emphasis on rote memorization and examination-based learning, rather than fostering critical thinking and creativity. This approach can stifle individuality and innovation, leaving many students ill-equipped to navigate the complexities of the modern world.

Despite these challenges, school education remains a powerful tool for social change in India. It has the potential to break the cycle of poverty, empower marginalized communities and promote gender equality. Initiatives aimed at improving the quality of education, such as teacher training programs, curriculum reforms and the integration of technology in classrooms, are essential steps toward realizing these goals.

"Schools in India serve as important hubs for socialization and community engagement. They provide children with opportunities to interact with peers from diverse backgrounds, fostering empathy, tolerance and cooperation. Moreover, schools often serve as catalysts for community development, hosting extracurricular activities, health camps and adult education programs that benefit not only students but also their families and neighborhoods"

Two main types of schools in India
As of the latest available data, the number of children not attending school in India has been decreasing over the years due to various initiatives and programs aimed at improving education access. However, there are still significant challenges, especially in remote and rural areas. At the heart of this system are two main types of schools, which are government schools and private schools.

Government schools, run by state and local authorities, are intended to provide free education to all children. However, the quality of education in these schools varies widely, often plagued by issues such as inadequate infrastructure, shortage of teachers and low student-teacher ratios. In contrast, private schools have proliferated in India, especially in urban areas, offering a wide range of educational options. These schools often boast modern facilities, smaller class sizes and a more rigorous curriculum. However, they come with a price tag that puts them out of reach for many families living in poverty.

Boards of education
Central to the Indian school system are the national and state boards of education, which set the curriculum, conduct examinations and oversee the functioning of schools. The 'Central Board of Secondary Education' also known as 'CBSE' and the 'Indian Certificate of Secondary Education' alsko known as 'ICSE' are two of the most prominent national boards, with their syllabi followed by schools across the country. Beyond these boards, each state in India also has its own board of education, often with its curriculum and examination system. This diversity in boards and curricula reflects the cultural and linguistic diversity of India but also poses challenges for students who may need to relocate to a different state.

"One of the defining features of the Indian school system is the emphasis on rote learning and memorization. This traditional approach to education, while effective in some ways, has faced criticism for stifling creativity and critical thinking skills. However, efforts are underway to introduce more holistic and experiential learning methods, with initiatives such as the 'National Education Policy 2020' aiming to revamp the system"

The Indian school experience
Extracurricular activities, such as sports, arts and cultural events, also play a vital role in the Indian school experience. Schools often compete fiercely in inter-school competitions, showcasing the diverse talents of students and fostering a sense of camaraderie and pride. Despite the challenges and complexities, the Indian school system remains a beacon of hope for millions of families across the country. Education is seen as the pathway to a better life, with parents making immense sacrifices to ensure their children have access to quality schooling and each level serves as a crucial stepping stone in a student's educational journey, culminating in board exams at the end of 'Class 10' and 'Class 12'.

Levels of the Indian school system:
• Primary education – classes 1-5
• Upper primary education – classes 6-8
• Secondary education – classes 9-10
• Higher secondary education – classes 11-12

See this video about the school system in India made by Priya Jain.

The photographer's own experience of the school system in India
"- In conclusion, school education holds immense significance for children in India and society at large. It shapes individual identities, facilitates socioeconomic mobility and fosters social cohesion. While challenges exist in ensuring quality education for all, ongoing efforts to improve the educational system are vital for realizing the full potential of India's youth and building a more equitable and prosperous society. As I've shown in my Pictures of India this country continues to evolve and grow, so too must its education system. Investments in infrastructure, teacher training and curriculum reform are essential to ensure that every child, regardless of background, has the opportunity to receive a world-class education", the Photographer says.

"- As we embark on a journey through the corridors of Indian education, exploring its challenges, triumphs and the hopes pinned on its young learners. It is a system as diverse and vibrant as the nation itself, constantly evolving to shape the minds and futures of generations to come.
This archive story provides an overview of the school system in India, touching on its structure, challenges and the aspirations it holds for the nation's youth. It aims to shed light on the complexities of education in India, highlighting the need for continuous improvement and investment in the future of its students", the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Boy in a village portraiture

Boy in a village portraiture

Read also:  Boy in a village portraiture

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of a couple of schoolchildren in Jaisalmer. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.