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Educational attainment in India, 1950-2000

India is well on the way to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by the year 2015. In spite of rapid population growth during the last 50 years, India has managed to expand its education system to reach an ever larger part of the population.

The increase in educational attainment since 1950 can be traced with data from a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) that was conducted in India in 2000. This nationally representative household survey collected data on the education of all household members aged 5 years or older. The data indicates whether a person attended school, at which level, and for how many years. By grouping all household members by year of birth we can calculate the percentage of a cohort that has attended - but not necessarily completed - a certain level of education. The graph below plots these values for all persons born between 1950 and 2000, disaggregated by sex and area of residence.

Educational attainment by year of birth, India 1950-2000
Chart with educational attainment (primary, secondary or higher) by year of birth, India 1950-2000
Data source: India 2000 MICS.

For each cohort two values are shown:
  • the percentage who attended primary school or higher (blue area)
  • the percentage who attended secondary school or higher (red area)
Until the 1970s, attendance rates for the population as a whole remained stable. About 55% of the population born between 1950 and 1970 attended primary school or higher. For persons born around 1990, this value has increased to roughly 80%.

School attendance rates were historically highest among urban males. Already in the 1950s, 90% of this group attended school at the primary level or higher. In contrast, the most disadvantaged group are women living in rural India. In the 1950s, only 25% of this group attended at least primary school. Women born since the 1970s are much more likely to benefit from education. The percentage of rural women who attended primary school or higher has increased from about 30% in the 1960s to about 70% in the 1990s.

Secondary school attendance rates have increased at a similar pace but at a lower lever. Most children who attend primary school continue their education at the secondary level. In 2000, the primary school net attendance rate in India overall was estimated to be 75% for boys and 69% for girls. The secondary school net attendance rate was estimated to be 54% for boys and 46% for girls. There has been much progress toward gender equality over the last 50 years but women and girls are still disadvantaged in Indian society.

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Friedrich Huebler, 10 October 2005 (edited 12 October 2008), Creative Commons License
Permanent URL: http://huebler.blogspot.com/2005/10/educational-attainment-in-india-1950.html

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