India has had a democratic government of its own since 1947, when it got independence from British Rule (and when the greater India was divided between India and Pakistan, and later in 1971 Pakistan being divided between Bangladesh and Pakistan). Its planned mixed economy (with co-existence of public and private sectors) is in order since 1951 when the first Five Year Plan was prepared and implemented; and its present educational structure is an outcome of continuous experiments of scholarship and perseverance since the ancient times.
As a developing democracy, its GNP per capita stands at US $329 (1996-7) and GDP per capita is US $358 (1997-8), and during the last decade due largely to economic liberalisation the disparity between rich and poor has increased, and the public control on the production and distribution system has been reduced considerably. Out of a total population of about 966 million, about 40 per cent (386 million) live below the poverty line, and about 60 per cent (580 million) belong to the disadvantaged group (scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, rural poor, urban poor, women in villages and small towns, and handicapped) (Gandhe 1998); and while the Constitution recognises fifteen major languages, as many as 1,652 dialects and languages are spoken. The government spends about 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence; the expenditure on education stands at 3.4 per cent of the GNP (about 21 per cent of the total budget). Since education is in the concurrent list (of both central and state governments), the state governments on an average spend about 22 per cent of their budget on education annually (Mukhopadhyay 1994). Six per cent of the GNP for education recommended by the Kothari Education Commission in 1966 and promised by the last two central governments has not yet come into force, nor seems to be so in the near future.
The structure of education is such that a student enters grade 1 at the age of 6 and continues until grade 12 without any diversification, after which varieties of specialised areas of study begin. The 10+2+3 system of education (ten years of secondary, two years of higher secondary and three years