Is North Indian School Education Really Inferior?

It is a common belief that North Indian school education—such as in the Hindi heartland—lags behind that in South Indian states. There are lots of myths and active myth making around that.

One of the reasons is literacy rate. South Indian states have higher literacy rates compared to North Indian states and this information is widely available and often analyzed and quoted  by government, academia, policy think tanks and media. In the absence of any other available data on quality of education, many conveniently take literacy rate as being synonymous with quality. And it just fuels an already existing prejudice that extends beyond quality of education to even include, at times, intellectual capability. All of us are just too familiar with jokes and one-liners conforming to this prejudice.

The results of the latest round of National Achievement Survey (NAS) conducted by National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) for class VII, released earlier this year, most definitely busts that myth.

The survey, designed to provide a kind of health check to the school education system, is one of the largest national level educational assessment surveys anywhere in the world. This round, conducted in 2012, for example, used tests and questionnaires to gather information from 188,647 students in 6,722 schools across 33 states and union territories (UTs). Class VIII survey measures students’ ability in four areas: science, maths, language and social science.

In all these subjects,the state scores of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are  significantly below the overall national score in all subjects. On the other hand, the best performance is by Uttar Pradesh, whose score is significantly above national score in three of the four subjects. States like Madhya Pradesh and Punjab too do not do badly.

Absolute scores, though “shocking” to many, only tell half the story. When juxtaposed with the literacy rates, they explain why the North Indian states are so underrated.

In this chart, we have plotted literacy rates vis-a-vis the NAS scores. The Y-axis shows literacy rates. The X-axis shows arithmetic mean of all the four subject scores (reading comprehension, maths, science and social science)

The chart explains how North Indian states are underrated when it comes to quality of education

The chart explains how North Indian states are underrated when it comes to quality of education

The chart shows literacy rate versus NAS scores for 32 states and UTs (Assam data was not available). For 21 states/UTs (inside the ellipse), the literacy rates and test scores are fairly proportional. There are four states with high (more than 80%) literacy but low (less than 240) mean score. The three large states are TN, Puducherry and Delhi.

There are seven states with low (less than 70%) literacy but high (more than 245) mean score. Two of them are very small UTs. The rest are all from the Hindi speaking belt: UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, MP and Rajasthan.  These are often considered as laggards when it comes to school education.

But as the chart shows clearly, their low literacy rate could be the reason behind the perception. In other words, these five states are the most underrated when it comes to quality of their school education.

We just hope that the policy decisions are not taken based on those perceptions!


And you thought an MBA degree is so exclusive?

Imagine how many young men and women think enrolling for an MBA degree in some university or college means they have arrived in life; they are now part of an exclusive club.

The data from the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) by the Department of Higher Education busts that myth. Getting into an MBA is no more as exclusive as it is thought out to be.

In 2010-11, the latest year for which all enrollment data is available, as much as 5.6 lakh students enrolled for MBA programs—that is 22% of all enrollments in post graduate degree programs. It is next only to the widely available Master of Arts (MA) program, which accounted for 35% of all enrollments. With just 2.3 lakh enrollments M. Sc is a distant third.

In short, the educational institutions imparting MBA education have leveraged the myth that an MBA education is a sureshot way to land in with a lucrative job.

Ironically, MBA is the only male bastion that remains among top degree programs. Out of the top five degrees (MA, MBA, MSc, MCA and MCom), it is only in MBA that males completely dominate. While in M.Sc, women account for slightly less than half (49.8%) of all enrollments, in all other three degrees they outnumber men.

Apart from degree (MBA, M.Sc, MA…)-based classification, the AISHE data also gives discipline wise classification of PG enrollments and Ph. D enrollments, which throws some light on where the interests are.  Of course, social science and management topped, with as much as 46.5% of all enrollments being in these two disciplines. The analysis of data throws some interesting facts.

  • The ratio of PhD enrollments to post graduate enrollments is the highest (as much as 89%) in Marine Science/Oceanography, followed by 34% in Gandhian studies. In most other disciplines, the figure is less than 20%. While the ratio per se  is not exactly meaningful, as the number of Ph. D enrollment in a year can more meaningfully be related to PG enrollments a few years back, it nevertheless is an indicator of where things are going.
  • The sex ratio in PhD programs is more than one only in three areas, where female enrollments outnumbered male enrollments. Two of them throw no surprise: Home Science and Women Studies. Linguistics is the only  other area where females outnumbered males in Ph. D enrollments.
  • While social sciences and management lead in number of PG enrollments, it is Science (29.3%) and Engineering & Technology (19.7%) that led in Ph. D enrollments.

Here are the top disciplines when it comes to PG enrollments.

PG enrollments

And here are the top disciplines in terms of Ph. D enrollments


The datasets used for this analysis were taken from, India’s open data portal.