Role of Government of India in Education

This document was written by J.P. Naik in the year 1963 is still a must read by any one interested in educational affairs in India.




1.One of the major educational controversies today refers to the role of the Government of
India in education. Prima facie education is a State subject. Entry 11 of the List II of the
Seventh Schedule to the Constitution lays down that “education including universities, subject
to the provisions of Entries 63, 64, 65 and 66 of List I and Entry 25 of List IIT” should be a
State subject. But there are some other provisions in the Constitution itself which contradict the
almost absolute delegation of authority suggested by this entry in the State list; and what is
even more significant, the Central Government has since shown an unprecedented activity and
interest in the field of education ever since the attainment of independence. In 1947, it
appointed a University Commission and has since been engaged in evolving common policies in
Higher education such as the introduction of the three-year degree course. This was followed by
a Secondary Education Commission which tried to introduce a number of uniform trends in a
field where the Centre has had hardly any constitutional authority. No Commission was
appointed in the field of Primary education. But the scheme of Basic education was declared to
have gone beyond the stage of experimentation and was also adopted as the national pattern at
the Elementary stage. The interest of the Central Government in Technical education and
scientific research has been too obvious to need any illustration. Besides, an innumerable number
of Committees and Reports have tried to iron out an all-India thought, policy and programme
in almost every sector of education. Of still greater importance is the revival of the Central
grants for education which had been discontinued in 1918-1919. In the period of post-war
reconstruction as well as in the first and second Plans, substantial grants were given to the States
towards the implementation of a large variety of educational programmes. With the adoption of
the technique of Five Year Plans and the creation of the Planning Commission, the real
authority to determine policies, priorities and programmes has now passed on from the States
to the Centre in most sectors of development; and as a corollary to this major shift in all
developmental activity, it is alleged that the, educational progress in the States is now more
dependent upon the financial allocations and priorities decided at the Centre by the Planning
Commission and the Ministry of Education than upon any decision taken by the States at their
own level. In short, the trend to centralisation in policy-making in all fields of education has
been the most dominating note of this period and it has had hardly any parallel in our
educational history except for the brief spell under Lord Curzon.

  1. The reactions at the Centre and in the States to these developments have been extremely
    divergent. On the one hand, the State Governments have grown more and more critical and
    resentful of this policy. They claim that Education is essentially their preserve; that they
    understand their educational needs much better than the Centre itself; and that the attempt of
    the Centre to cut into their sphere has generally done more harm than good to the cause of
    education. They also plead that Central grants should be placed at the disposal of the States
    without any strings attached and they are extremely critical of the manner in which their
    proposals are scrutinised, modified or amended by the Centre while grants are being sanctioned.
    On the other hand, the Centre also is not happy about the situation. It has assumed the role of
    dominant partner without having any constitutional authority to compel the States to
    conform to its dictates and without even having a machinery to report on the implementation
    of its programmes through the State Governments. Its main complaint is that its genuine
    desire to help the States is misunderstood as interference; that the reasonable minimum
    safeguards which are and should be adopted in all financial sanctions are misinterpreted as
    ‘indirect pressures’ or as ‘leading strings’; that the States do not appreciate the larger
    interests of education underlying the policies and programmes proposed by it; that the States
    do not often implement the sanctioned schemes in the manner in which they ought to be
    implemented; and that it often finds itself helpless to enforce the directives given by it. During
    the last ten years, therefore, education has developed practically into a ‘joint responsibility’
    of the Central and State Governments. But unfortunately, neither partner is satisfied with the

present position and each one of them has a number of charges to make against the other. It
would be no exaggeration to say that it is this conflict and contradiction in the present position
which is at the root of most of our administrative difficulties and it is for the solution of these
troubles that the role of the Government of India in education has to be properly defined as early
as possible.

  1. In order to pose correctly the complex problems involved in this issue and to arrive at some
    tentative solutions, it is necessary to consider the problem from three different points of view.
    The first approach would be historical and it would show how the role of the Government of
    India in education has varied from time to time and why; the second would start with the
    analysis of the relevant constitutional provisions and explain what the Constitution expects the
    Government of India to do in education; and the third would compare and contrast the role of
    the Government of India in education with that of some other federal governments in the world.
    It is only in the light of the findings of these three specific studies that it may finally be possible
    to draw up some kind of a picture of the role of the Government in education as it ought to be.

*The view expressed here are the personal views of the writer.-Editor.


Historical Survey

  1. From 1773 to 1833.—The Government of India may be said to have been born with the
    Regulating Act of 1773 which designated the Governor in Council of Bengal as the
    Governor-General in Council of Bengal and gave him a limited authority over the Governors of
    Bombay and Madras. This authority was substantially increased by the Pitt’s India Act of

  2. But prior to 1833, education in India had made but little progress (it has, in fact, been
    accepted as a State responsibility only as late as in 1813) and the Governor-General of
    Bengal did little to control or direct the educational policies of the other parts of India. At this
    time, therefore, ‘education’ may be said to have been a ‘provincial’ matter, subject only to
    the distant coordinating authority of the Court of Directors in England.

  3. From 1833 to 1870. —The Charter Act of 1833 introduced a unitary system of
    Government. Under this arrangement, all revenues were raised in the name of the Central
    Government and all expenditure needed its approval. The Provincial Governments could not
    spend even one rupee or create a post, however small, without the approval of the
    Government of India which also was the only law-making body for the country as a whole.
    In other words, all executive, financial and legislative authority was exclusively vested in the
    Central Government and the Provinces merely acted as its agents.

  4. As may easily be imagined, education thus became a purely ‘Central’ subject in 1833 and
    the entire authority in education and responsibility for it came to be vested in the Government
    of India. This excessively centralised system, which became more and more inconvenient as
    education began to expand and the territories of the Company began to grow, remained in
    force till 1870. As administrative difficulties began to grow, some small powers were
    delegated to Provincial Governments from time to time and their proposals, as those of the
    ‘authority on the spot’, carried great weight. But the character of the system remained
    unaltered throughout the period and education continued to be a Central subject in every
    sense of the term.

  5. From 1870 to 1921.—In 1870, however, Lord Mayo introduced a system of administrative
    decentralization under which the Provincial Governments were made responsible for all
    Expenditure on certain services—inclusive of education—and were given, for that purpose, a
    fixed grant-in-aid and certain sources of revenue. Education thus became a ‘provincial
    subject’ for purposes of day-to-day administration. But it has to be remembered that the Central
    Government still retained large powers of control over it. For instance, both the Central and
    Provincial Legislatures had concurrent powers to legislate on all educational matters. It was
    because of this concurrent legislative jurisdiction, that the Government of India could pass the
    Indian Universities Act in 1904 and could also legislate for the establishment of new
    universities. Of the new universities established during this period of British India, only
    one—Lucknow—was established by an Act of the U.P. Legislature. All others— Punjab
    (1882), Allahabad (1887), Banaras (1915), Patna (1917), Aligarh (1920) and Dacca (1920) were
    established by the Central Legislature. It was for the same reason that Gokhale could then
    introduce his Bill for compulsory Primary education in India in the Central legislature,
    although it failed to pass. In administrative matters, the sanction of the Government of India
    was needed to the creation of all new posts above a given salary and in 1897, the Indian Edu-
    cational Service was created and placed in charge of all the important posts in the Provincial

Education Departments. In financial matters, the powers reserved to the Central Government
were very wide. Its approval was required to all expenditure above a given figure and to the
over-all budget of the Provinces. These large powers of control and supervision were justified
on the ground that the Provincial Governments were responsible to the British Parliament
through the Government of India. But whatever the cause, the net result of these powers was to
make education not so much a ‘provincial subject’ as a ‘concurrent subject’ with two
reservations: (1) the authority delegated to the Provincial Governments was fairly large; and
(2) the interest shown by the Government of India in education was very uneven and
depended mostly upon the personalities of the Governor-Generals—a Ripon or a Curzon
could make education look almost like a ‘Central subject’ while, at other times, it became
almost a ‘provincial subject’.

  1. It must also be noted that the interest and authority of the Government of India was not
    restricted to any particular field, although it naturally showed very great interest in
    University education. It appointed the Indian Universities Commission of 1917-19. As stated
    earlier it passed the Indian Universities Act in 1904 and also incorporated most of the new
    universities created in this field. It sanctioned large grants-in-aid for the improvement of
    Secondary and Primary education and for the introduction of science teaching. It also
    reviewed and laid down policies in such matters as the education of girls, or Anglo-Indians
    and the establishment of schools of art. The Indian Education Commission of 1882 and the
    Government Resolutions on Educational Policy issued in 1904 and 1913 covered almost
    every aspect of education. In short, the view taken in this period was that education is a
    subject of national importance and that the Government of India must hold itself responsible
    for the formulation of over-all educational policy; and this view was particularly
    strengthened in the period between 1900 and 1921 because educational developments were
    intimately connected with the growth of nation; consciousness and the struggle for
    Independence. The main function of a federal government in education—to decide national
    policies in education—was thus clearly understood and accepted during this period.

  2. The need of expert technical advice in education at the Government of India level was also
    felt during this period and the post of a Director-General of Education—who was to be an
    educationist and not a civilian and whose duty it was to advise the Government of India on
    educational matters—was created by Lord Curzon and at the present time, when the very
    need of an advisory educational service at the Centre is being challenged in certain quarters,
    it may be well to recall Lord Curzon’s defence of the creation of this post :

“My last topic is the desirability of creating a Director General of Education in India. Upon this point I will
give my opinions for what they may be worth. To understand the case we must first realise what the existing
system and its consequences are. Education is at present a sub-heading of the work of the Home Department,
already greatly overstrained. When questions of supreme educational interests are referred to us for decision,
we have no expert to guide us, no staff trained to the business, nothing but the precedents recorded in our
files to fall back upon. In every other department of scientific knowledge—sanitation, hygiene, forestry,
mineralogy, horse-breeding, explosives—the Government possesses expert advisers. In education, the most
complex and most momentous of all we have none. We have to rely upon the opinions of officers who are
constantly changing, and who may very likely never have had any experience of education in their lives. Let
me point to another anamoly. Under the system of decentralisation that has necessarily and, on the whole,
rightly be pursued, we have little idea of what is happening in the provinces, until, once every five years, a
gentleman comes round, writes for the Government of India the Quinquennial Review, makes all sorts
discoveries of which we know nothing and discloses shortcomings which in hot haste we then proceed to
redress. How and why this systemless system has been allowed to survive for all these years it passes my wit to
determine. Now that we realise it, let us put an end to it for ever. I do not desire Imperial Education
Department, packed with pedagogues, and crysted with officialism. I do not advocate a Minister or
Member of Council for Education. I do not want anything that will turn the Universities into a Department

of the State, or fetter the Colleges or Schools with bureaucratic handcuffs. But I do want some one at
headquarters who will prevent the Government of India from going wrong, and who will help us to secure that
community of principle and of aim without which go drifting about like a deserted bulk on chopping seas. I
go further, and say that the appointment of such an officer, provided, that he be himself an expert and an
enthusiast, will check the perils of narrowness and pedantry, while his custody of the leading principles of
Indian Education will prevent those vagaries of policy and sharp revulsions of action which distract our
administration without reforming it. He would not issue orders to the local governments; but he would be to
advise the Government of India. Exactly the same want was felt in America, where decentralisation and
devotion are even more keenly cherished, and had been carried to greater lengths, than here; and it was met
by the creation of a Central Bureau of Education in 1867, which has since then done invaluable work in
coordinating the heterogeneous application of common principles. It is for consideration whether such an
official in India as I have suggested should, from time to time, summon a representative Committee or
Conference, so as to keep in touch with the local jurisdictions, and to harmonise our policy as a whole.”

  1. The creation of this post, and the further creation of a separate Education Department in the
    Government of India in 1910 and the establishment of a Central Bureau of Education in 1915 made it
    possible to develop some other federal functions in education. For example, it is the duty of
    Government of India to collect educational data from the Provinces and to publish periodical reviews
    on the progress of education in the country - the Clearing House function. The Indian Education
    Commission (1882) recommended that the Central Government should bring out Quinquennial
    Reviews on the progress of education in India. Consequently, the first Quinquennial Review on the
    progress of education in India was published in 1886-87 and subsequent reviews were brought out in
    1891-92, 1896-97, 1901-02, 1905-06, 1911-12, 1916-17 and 1921-22. Annual reviews of education
    were also published from 1913-14 onwards in all years in which the Quinquennial Reviews were not

  2. Similarly, it is the duty of a Federal Government to carry out studies in educational
    problems (as part of its responsibility to provide leadership in educational thought) from time to
    time and to publish their findings. In particular, it is the responsibility of a Federal
    Government to study such educational developments in other countries as are likely to be of
    help in developing education at home. That both these responsibilities were understood,
    accepted and even fulfilled with a great competence in certain areas, can be seen from the
    publications issued by the Government of India during this period. Moreover, ‘the Government
    of India also published reports on important events of the period. In short, the research and
    publications function of the Federal Government was fully accepted and established during the
    period under review.

  3. The coordinating function of a Federal Government was also recognised during this period.
    A reference to that has already been made in the speech of Lord Curzon quoted above. It was
    he who convened the first Conference of the Directors of Public Instruction in India at Simla
    in 1901. Then started a regular practice of convening such Conferences for taking a periodical
    review of educational developments. An Educational Conference was held at Allahabad in
    1911 and another Conference of the Directors of Public Instruction was held in 1917. With the
    passage of time, the need for such coordination was felt all the more keenly and a Central
    Advisory Board of Education was organized in 1920 with a view to assisting the Provincial
    Governments with expert advice.

“ Lord Curzon in India, Vol. II, pp. 54-6.

  1. Another function of a Federal Government to be recognised during this period was grant
    of financial assistance for educational development in the Provinces. Reference has already been
    made to the financial decentralisation introduced by Lord Mayo in 1870. That system
    continued to be in force up to 1876-77 when a system of ‘shared revenues’ was introduced.
    Under this system, certain revenues were exclusively designated as ‘Central’, certain others
    were designated as exclusively ‘Provincial’; and the remainder were designated as ‘Divided’
    and their receipts were shared between the Central and Provincial Governments according to
    an agreed contract which remained in force for a period of five years at a time. Thus the
    quinquennial contracts were revised in 1882-83, 1886-87, 1891-92 and 1896-97. In 1904, they
    were declared to be quasi-permanent, i.e., not liable to be changed except in a grave emergency,
    and in 1912, they were declared as permanent. It will thus be seen that, under these financial
    arrangements, the entire expenditure on education was to be borne by the Provincial
    Governments within the resources allocated to them.

  2. As may be easily imagined, these arrangements made the Provincial revenue fairly
    inelastic and they were unable to keep pace with the rapidly growing commitments of an
    expanding educational system. The Government of India, therefore, started the practice of giving
    grants-in-aid to Provincial Governments for educational development over and above the
    agreed contract arrangements. Thus the fifth important function of the Federal Government,
    viz., financial assistance, also came to be accepted during this period. Fortunately, the period
    between 1900 and 1921 was a period of boom in world finances and the Government of India
    had large surpluses in its budgets. It was, therefore, comparatively easy to allocate a share of
    these surpluses to the Provincial Governments for expenditure on education. The magnitude of
    these grants was fairly large and it may also be stated that most of them were specific purpose
    grants, i.e. the Government of India decided the developmental policies to be adopted and
    earmarked the grants given for the implementation of specified approved policies. Only a few
    of these were general grants which were at the disposal of the Provincial Government were they
    free to spend in any manner they liked.

  3. From 1921 to 1947——Between 1870 and 1921, therefore, the day-to-day administration of
    education was delegated to the Provincial Governments and the Government of India continued
    to function as a Federal Government with five distinct functions, which came to be recognised,
    viz., the functions of (1) policy-making, (2) clearing house of information, (3) research and
    publications, (4) coordination and (5) financial assistance.

  4. With the coming into force of the Government of India Act, 1919, however, the position
    changed completely. The basic idea underlying this Act was that the Government of India
    should continue to be responsible to the Secretary of State for India that the functions of the
    Provincial Governments should be divided into two parts— the reserved part being
    responsible to the Government of India and the transfer being under the control of elected
    Ministers responsible to the Provincial Legislatures. As a corollary to this decision, it was also
    agreed that the Government of India have very little or no control over the transferred
    departments because the Ministers could not be simultaneously responsible to the Government
    of India as well as to their elected legislatures. These were basic political decisions and it was
    rather unfortunate that the division of authority in education between the Government of
    India and the Provincial Governments had to be made on these political considerations and no
    fundamental educational issues involved. One would have preferred that problems such as the
    following should have been raised and discussed on this occasion:

(1) To what extent is education a national problem?

(2) What should be the role of a Federal Government in education? and

(3) What should be the relationship between the Government of India and provincial
Governments in educational matters?

But, unfortunately, all such basic problems were ignored and the only questions discussed from a
political angle were the following: —

(1) Should education be a transferred subject or not? and

(2) What should be the control which Government of India should have over education?

  1. The Montagu-Chelmsford Report suggested that the ‘guiding principle should be to include
    in the transferred list those departments which afford most opportunity for local knowledge and
    social service, those in which Indians have shown themselves to be keenly interested, those in
    which mistakes which may occur, though serious, would not be irremediable, and those which
    stand most in need of development.’” In pursuance of this principle, it was but natural to
    expect that education would be classed as a transferred subject, although one does not feel very
    happy to be told that mistakes in education are not really very important. It was, therefore,
    decided that, excepting for the following few reservations, education should be a Provincial
    subject and transferred to the control of the Indian Ministers:

(1) The Banaras Hindu University and such other new universities as may be declared to be
all-India by the Governor-General-in-Council were excluded on the ground that these
institutions were of an all-India character and had better be dealt with by the
Government of India itself;

(2) Colleges for Indian chiefs and educational institutions maintained by the Governor-
General-in-Council for the benefit of members of His Majesty’s Forces or other public
servants, or their children were also excluded on the ground that these institutions
ought to be under the direct control of the Government of India; and

(3) The education of Anglo-Indians and Europeans was treated as a provincial but a
reserved subject.

The authority to legislate on the following subjects was reserved for the Central legislature,
mainly with a view to enabling the Government of India to take suitable action on the report of
the Calcutta University Commission: —

(a) Questions regarding the establishment, constitution and functions of new universities;

(b) Questions affecting the jurisdiction of any university outside its province; and

(c) Questions regarding the Calcutta University and the reorganization of Secondary
education in Bengal (for a period of five years only after the introduction of the

As a corollary to this decision, it was also decided that the Government of India should have no
control over education in the Provinces.

  1. Thus came about what the Hartog Committee has rightly described as the ‘divorce’ of the
    Government of India from education. As could easily be imagined, the results were far from
    happy. The Central interest in education disappeared almost completely after 1921; and when
    the need for retrenchment arose in 1923, the first victims were (1) the Education Department
    of the Government of India which lost its independent existence and was amalgamated with
    other departments, (2) the Central Advisory Board of Education which was dissolved, and (3)

” Montagu-Chelmsford Report, Para. 238.

the Central Bureau of Education which was closed down. The Central grants to the Provinces for
educational development also disappeared, even the few powers of legislation reserved under
the Act of 1919 were not exercised, and the Government of India did little beyond the clearing
house function of publishing the annual and quinquennial reviews of the progress of
education in India.

  1. The Hartog Committee strongly criticised this unhappy position and said:

“We are of opinion that the divorce of the Government of India from education has been unfortunate; and,
holding as we do, that education is essentially a national service, we are of opinion that steps should be taken to
consider anew the relation of the Central Government with this subject. We have suggested that the Government
of India should serve as a centre of educational experience of the different provinces. But we regard the duties of
the Central Government as going beyond that. We cannot accept the view that it should be entirely relieved of all
responsibility for the attainment of universal primary education. It may be that some of the provinces, in spite of all
efforts, will be unable to provide the funds necessary for that purpose, and the Government of India should,
therefore, be constitutionally enabled to make good such financial deficiencies in the interests of India as a

It is also interesting to know that, for some time after 1921, there was an outburst of strong provincial
feelings and the divorce of the Government of India from education was even welcomed in some
quarters. But it did not take the Provincial Governments long to realise that this was a mistake and that
something had to be done to create a national agency and machinery for the development of education. It
was, therefore, possible to revise the earlier decision and the Government of India revived the Central
Advisory Board of Education in 1935; the Central Bureau of Education was also revived, on a
recommendation made by the Central Advisory Board of Education, in 1937; and finally the old
Education Department was also revived as a Ministry of Education in 1946. The decisions of 1921
were, therefore, very largely undone by 1947.

  1. Between 1935 and 1947, therefore, the role of the Government of India in education was again
    broadened and the several functions which had fallen into disuse between 1923 to 1935 were again
    resumed. For example, the coordinating function was resumed with great vigour and the Central
    Advisory Board of Education addressed itself to the study and discussion of almost every field of
    educational activity and finally prepared, and presented to the nation, a plan for the educational
    development in India during the next 40 years (1944). The publication function was also resumed and the
    reconstituted Central Bureau brought out a large number of publications on different aspects of the
    educational problem in India. The clearing house function was continued and its extent and efficiency were
    improved. The only functions developed in the earlier period and not resumed now were two—research
    and financial assistance. In spite of these limitations, however, the larger and more significant role
    that was now being played by the Government of India was appreciated all over the country; and the
    general feeling was that this role needed to be further strengthened and extended.

  2. This brief historical survey of the role of the Government of India in education will show that it has
    passed through a number of stages. Prior to 1833, it had hardly any role to play; between 1833 and 1870,
    education was virtually a Central subject; between 1870 and 1921, the day-to-day administration was
    vested in Provincial Governments, but the Government of India discharged five distinct functions, viz.,
    the functions of policy-making, clearinghouse of information, research and publications, coordination
    and financial assistance; between 1921 and 1935, the wheels of the clock were tured back and there was an
    almost total divorce between education and the Central Government; but fortunately, more progressive
    policies were adopted after 1935 and the Government of India began to play, once again, a larger and a
    more fruitful role in education.

" Report, p. 346.


The Role of the Government of India under the Constitution and in Actual Practice

  1. Soon after the attainment of Independence, the problem of the role of the Government of India in
    education came up for discussion again when the Constitution was being framed. The thinking of the
    framers of the Constitution on this subject seems to have been influenced by two main considerations:
    (1) The general model adopted in the U.S.A.; and (2) The recommendations of the Hartog Committee.
    As in the U.S.A., therefore, a fundamental decision was taken to treat education as a State subject and
    also to vest the residuary powers in education in the State Governments by making a specific enumeration
    of powers reserved to the Government of India in this field. Entry 11 of List II of the Seventh Schedule
    to the Constitution, therefore, lays down that “education including universities, subject to the
    provisions of Entries 63, 64, 65 and 66 of List I and Entry 25 of List III” should be a State
    subject; and the entries which give authority to the Government of India in education were
    worded as follows:

List I—Union List

  1. The institutions known at the commencement of this Constitution as the Banaras Hindu University,
    the Aligarh Muslim University and the Delhi University, and any other institution declared by Parliament
    by law to be an institution of national importance.

  2. Institutions for scientific and technical education financed by the Government of India wholly or in
    part and declared by Parliament by law to be institutions of national importance.

  3. Union agencies and institutions for—

(a) professional, vocational or technical training, including the training of police officers; or
(b) the promotion of special studies or research; or

(c) scientific or technical assistance in the investigation or detection of crime.

  1. Co-ordination and determination of standards in institutions for Higher education or research and
    scientific and technical institutions.

List 111—Concurrent List

Vocational and technical training of labour.

  1. In respect of Primary education, however, the Constitution has made an exception on the
    lines recommended by the Hartog Committee. The intimate relationship between the provision
    of a minimum of free and compulsory education for all children and the successful working of
    a democracy which the Constitution decided to create, is obvious. The Constitution,
    therefore, makes the following provision as a directive principle of State policy under Part

“45. The State shall endeavour to provide within a period of ten years from the commencement of this
Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years.”

The expression ‘State’ which occurs in this article is defined in Article 12 to include “the
Government and Parliament of India and the Government and the Legislature of each of the
States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the
Government of India.” The Federal Government is, therefore, under a constitutional
obligation to participate in the programme of providing free and compulsory education for
all children until they complete the age of 14 years.

  1. Similarly, the Constitution also makes it an obligatory responsibility of the Government
    of India to promote the educational interest of the weaker sections of the people and makes
    the following provision:

“46. The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker
sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall
protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”

The expression “weaker sections of the people”, as used in this article, is general and is not
restricted to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes only. For example, it will
obviously include women and consequently the development of the education of girls and
women becomes a special responsibility of the Government of India. In the same way, the
expression also means people living in those areas where economic and cultural development
lags behind. This article, therefore, makes it a responsibility of the Government of India to
bring about an equalisation of educational opportunities in all parts of the country and, to that
end, to give special assistance to the backward areas or States.

  1. There is yet another provision in the Constitution which has an indirect but significant
    bearing upon the role of Government of India in education. Entry in the List II is “Economic
    and Social Planning” and this implies that the Government of India has a consititutional
    responsibility for the economic and social development of the country as a whole. Now, it is a
    well-known sociological principle that economic and social development is intimately
    connected with education and it is in this sense that the White Paper on Education in the
    United Kingdom said : “Upon the education given to the children of this country, the future
    of this country depends.” It is function of the schools to define the objectives of a national
    economic and social planning although they can, and should, to some extent, direct and influence
    their definition. But once the objectives of economic and social planning are decided upon by
    the powers that be, education has a very important role to play in assisting the nation to
    realise these objectives. For instance, the schools will never be able to decide whether democracy
    should or should not be a national way of life, whether socialism should or should not be
    accepted or whether rapid industrialisation should or should not be resorted to. But if the
    nation were to decide to accept these goals, education will help very greatly in creating and
    stabilising a social order based on these values by developing the necessary aptitudes, skills and
    interests in the rising generation. As Brubacher has observed, “schools can complete and
    consolidate a change decided elsewhere—whether by bullets or by ballots.” The implication is
    obvious: an authority like the Government of India which is responsible for the economic and
    social planning of the country, cannot divest itself of a major responsibility in determining
    corresponding educational policies to realise its economic and social objectives. In spite of the
    limited direct authority which the Constitution gives to the Government of India, therefore,
    practices have actually grown up, as a part of the formulation and implementation of the Five
    Year Plans of the country, under which the major educational policies are being decided;
    more at the Centre than in the States and the distribution of resources to education in general for
    the different sectors of education in particular, is becoming more a matter for a decision at the
    Central level than at the State levels.

  2. On a very close examination of all the provisions of the Constitution which have a
    bearing on education, one cannot help the feeling that there is an element of basic
    contradiction in the role which the Constitution attempts to assign to the Goverment of India in
    education. On the one hand, the Constitution takes the simple stand that education, with all
    residuary powers, is a state subject except for a few special aspects specified within the
    Constitution itself. But the real trouble starts when the enumeration of these ‘exceptions’

begins. For instance, free and compulsory education is made an obvious exception on account
of its cost and significance and Centre is given a specific responsibility for it (Art 45).
Similarly, the responsibility of the Centre to equalise educational opportunities between
different areas or different sections of society had also to be recognised and duly provided
for (Art. 46). Then the responsibility of the Centre to safeguard the cultural interests of the
minority and to see that they have adequate facilities to receive at least primary education
through their own mother-tongue (Art. 350 A) as well as the special responsibility of the Centre
to develop the national language (Art. 351) had also to be provided for. The need for
controlled development of Higher education made it necessary to authorize the Centre to
coordinate and determine standards in universities and scientific, technical, or research
institutions (Entry 66 of List I) and, on account of such factors as high cost, difficulty of
securing suitable personnel, the need to obtain foreign assistance, etc. Scientific research,
technical education, and the higher types of professional and vocational education had also to
be assigned to the Centre (Entries 64 and 65 of List I). Certain educational problems which have
a large significance at present such as securing of foreign assistance (in men, materials or
money) for education, training of Indians abroad, relationship with international organisations
like UNESCO, participation in bilateral or multi-lateral programmes of educational assistance
like the Commonwealth Cooperation Scheme or the T. C. M. had also to be left to the Centre
under Entries 10 and 12 of List I. Finally, a very powerful means of central control was created
when ‘Economic and Social Planning’ was made a concurrent responsibility (Entry 20 of List
III). These exceptions are so large that they circumscribe the State authority for education
very materially and make education look more like a ‘joint’ responsibility than like a State
preserve. But this is not all. It has to be remembered that the Constitution was out to create a
‘strong’ Centre. It has, therefore, rested most of the important resources in the Government of
India and the result is that no State has adequate resources of its own to develop education—the
costliest of welfare services. Consequently the Centre, which controls the purse-strings,
necessarily has the most dominating voice in the overall determination of policies, priorities and
programmes. From this point of view, therefore, education begins to look, not only as a joint
responsibility, but almost like a ‘partnership’ in which the Government of India plays the role
of the ‘Big Brother’. This implied constitutional role of the Government of India in education,
therefore, is directly opposed to the explicit role as stated in Entry 11 of List II; and it is this
basic contradiction inherent in the Constitutional provisions that leads to most of the
controversies on the subject.

  1. The situation is further complicated by another consideration. The role of a federal
    government in education is determined, not so much by the provisions of the Constitution as
    by conventions and practices evolved through historical developments. Perhaps the finest
    example of this is the Constitution of the U. S. A. itself. As is well-known, the tradition of
    local control in education is extremely strong in the U. S. A. and both in history and in law,
    education is specifically a State subject. The country has consequently developed a highly
    decentralized system of educational administration and it is worthy of note that the federal
    constitution does not even contain a reference to ‘schools’ or ‘education’. All these factors
    should tend to make the role of the U. S. federal government in education extremely weak.
    But the facts are that federal aid to education is older than the federal constitution; and the
    present functions and responsibilities of the U. S. federal government in education are far
    heavier and more important than in several other countries where even the Constitution
    makes the federal government responsible for education in some way or the other. Today the
    U. S. Federal Government conducts a U. S. Office of Education which serves as a clearing
    house of ideas and information. It is also directly responsible for a number of educational
    programmes such as education for national defence (inclusive of the programme of the
    schooling of the veterans of the second World War), cooperation with other nations in a

world-wide educational endeavour, in education in union territories and the education of the
children of federal employees residing in government reservations, in dependencies and at
foreign stations. Almost “every branch of the federal government conducts several
educational activities… Congress has its Committees on education in both the House and the
Senate. The Supreme Court renders its interpretations in the form of decisions, as in the
Dartmouth College Case, the MacCollum and Zorach decisions on public schools and
religious instruction, the opinions on segregations in schools and colleges, and the
interpretations on loyalty legislation affecting educators. Independent federal establishments
that furnish educational service include the library of the Congress and its Copyright Office,
the Government Printing Office, the Pan-American Union, the Smithsonian Institution, the
National Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the National Academy of Sciences, the
Commission of Fine Arts, the Atomic Energy Commission and the National Science
Foundation. Much educational research is conducted in the Nation’s Capital and sponsored
by the Congress of the United States”.” In times of national crises, such as the depression of
the 1930’s, the federal government assisted a number of emergency programmes such as the
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), National Youth Administration (NYA) Works Progress
Administration (WPA), and other agencies. It has also assumed certain responsibilities for the
education of backward groups like the Red Indians or Negroes. But above all, it has made large
funds available for educational development without any idea of imposing federal control in
education. As stated above, this tradition of federal financial assistance’ without ‘federal control’
is very old and goes back to 1785 while the Constitution itself was ratified in 1788. The first
grants to education were in terms of land, but very soon money grants were also introduced.
The purposes for which federal grants were or are being given include: (1) agricultural
education through the development of land-grant colleges with experimental farms and
extension services attached; (2) vocational education in Secondary schools; (3) vocational
training in distributed occupations; (4) vocational rehabilitation of the handicapped; (5)
vocational guidance and placement; etc. A\ll this, it must be said, is being done when the
Constitution does not refer to education at all and the legal basis of all this huge and
significant activity is the ‘general welfare’ clause in the Constitution.” Hardly any other
proof is needed to show that it is the historical background, and not the explicit provisions of the
Constitution, that ordinarily determine the actual role of a federal government in education.

  1. Assuming this thesis for the sake of argument, the relevant question is: what have been
    the developments in Indian education since the adoption of the Constitution and how have
    they affected the constitutional roles of the Government of India and the State Governments in
    defining and implementing educational policies? In this context, attention may be specially
    invited to three significant developments. The first is the growing desire to evolve a national
    system of education for the country as a whole. This desire found an expression as early as 1906
    when the Surat Congress passed a resolution on national education. It was given a great fillip
    by Mahatma Gandhi in his Non Cooperation Movement of 1921. But at this time, the idea

" De Young : Introduction to American Public Education, pp. 32-33.

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure
domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote general welfare, and secure the blessings
of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of

“In the Australian Constitution also, Education is left to the States, there being no express power of the
Commonwealth in this respect, in the Constitution. The Commonwealth has, however, assumed control over
education under its powers of grant-in-aid, and under its powers over Defence, Trade and Commerce—Nicholas,
Australian Constitution, p. 49.

was mainly restricted to few non-official agencies. When the popular Ministries came to power
in 1937, the movement also assumed an official form and an attempt was now made to reorient
all educational institutions to the concept of national education. This desire naturally became
even stronger when popular Governments came to power both in the Centre and the States.
Such a desire obviously implies the assumption of a leading role in the formulation and
implementation of educational programmes by the Government of India. The same
implication has been further strengthened by the growing realization of the fact that education
has a national significance, that it would be almost fatal to the future of the nation to treat it as
purely local, that a group of States each of whom is sovereign to decide its own educational
policies may even do more harm than good to national solidarity, and that a Central agency to
coordinate and develop a national system of education is inevitable in the present conditions
when education is generally backward in all parts of the country and very unevenly developed
in its different parts. It is this realisation of the national significance of education and the
growing desire to create a national system of education that have led to the unprecedented
activity of the Government of India in education during the last ten years and, to that extent,
diminished the constitutional responsibility of the States for education.

  1. A second development of the period which has also helped to give the Government of India
    a dominant voice in the formulation of educational policies is the revival of central grants for
    education to which a reference has already been made. This revival was of course inevitable in
    the financial and administrative set-up created by the constitution which vests all the best
    resources in the Centre and makes the States responsible for all the expensive social services.
    If the surplus resources at the Centre could have been passed to the needy States with little or
    no controls, the responsibility of the States for the development of education would have been
    strengthened. But this did not happen. The attempts of the Centre in policy-making often got
    mixed up with its attempts at financial assistance and thus arose the charge that Central
    grants are being used as levers to secure acceptance of Central educational policies. That this
    charge is largely unfounded will be shown later; but one result of the large Central grants for
    education has to be admitted: they created a situation in which a very large part of the funds
    needed for educational development came from the Centre through grant-in-aid. Consequently,
    the States have tended to lose their spirit of self-reliance and self-confidence and are developing
    a habit of looking up to Delhi for almost everything.

  2. The third development of this period which undermined the responsibility of the States for
    education and this was a development which has done the greatest damage in this sector—came
    from outside the educational field, viz., the adoption of centralized planning and the creation of
    the Planning Commission. In the new technique of planning that has now been adopted, more
    and more decisions tend to be taken at the Centre than in the States. The decision on national
    targets, the fixation of priorities, the allocation of resources to different sectors of development
    or even to different programmes within the same sector of development, the allocation of
    resources to different States, the fixation of the Central assistance to each State—these and
    such other problems are mainly decided by the Planning Commission and all these affect
    educational policies so largely that a State Government is very often required, not to prepare an
    educational plan, but to fill in the blanks or details of a structure whose broad irrevocable
    outline has already been decided elsewhere. Even the Ministry of Education finds itself in the
    same weak predicament as the States vis-a-vis the Planning Commission. It is these
    developments that have contributed most to the trend to centralization in education during the
    last ten years and it is because of them that the responsibility of States for education has been
    most weakened.

  3. It will thus be seen that the inherent contradiction in the constitutional position has been

still further accentuated by the developments of the last ten years and the role of the Centre
has now become far more important in actual practice than in the cold print of the
Constitution. It must also be remembered that these developments are not necessarily
deplored. They are, in fact, welcomed in several quarters and today, a strong section of
opinion in the country favours a proposal to amend the Constitution and to make education a
concurrent subject. The lack of adequate leadership which is sometimes conspicuous at the
State level and the frequently noticed distortion of State educational policies under
immediately political or parochial pressures also tend to emphasize and strengthen this view-
point. This equivocal position has given rise to a bitter controversy regarding the correct role
of the federal government in education; and as suggested in the opening paragraphs, this
problem will have to be satisfactorily solved at an early date.

The Role of the Federal Government in Education—A Comparative Study

( Australia, Canada, the U. S. A. and the U. S. S. R.)

  1. The main object of this paper is to discuss the role of the Government of India in
    education as it ought to be. But before taking up this issue, it would be of advantage to make a
    brief comparative study of the role of the federal government in education in four selected
    countries—Australia, Canada, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.

  2. Australia.—Of all the countries mentioned above, Australia is an example of the weakest
    role that a federal government can ever play in education. The reasons for this peculiar
    situation are purely historical. The States of Australia were founded and grew as independent
    colonies and it was only as late as in 1901 that the federal government was created. By this time,
    every State had developed its own educational system and such a strong local sentiment and
    tradition for education had been created that the people did not think it necessary to invest the
    federal government with any authority in education. Nay, there was even a feeling that federal
    control and intervention in education would do great harm; and this explains why the
    Australian Constitution makes no reference to education and why the federal government
    took no steps for educational development for several years after its formation. The Australian
    Council for Educational Research began as a voluntary enterprise with a grant from the
    Carnegie Foundation; and the first attempts to form a federal agency in education were restricted
    to periodical meetings of the Directors and Ministers of Education of all the States for the
    discussion of common problems. In 1943, a Universities Commission was established and its
    functions were defined as follows: (a) to arrange for the training of ex-soldiers in universities
    or similar institutions; (b) to assist students studying in universities or similar institutions; (c)
    to advise the Minister with respect to such matters relating to university training and associated
    matters as are referred to it by the Minister for advice; and (d) to assist other persons, in
    prescribed cases or classes of cases, to obtain training in universities or similar institutions. It is
    easy to see that this Universities Commission is quite different from the Indian University Grants
    Commission. In 1945, the Commonwealth Office of Education was established and its functions
    were listed as follows: (a) to advise the Minister on matters relating to education; (b) to establish
    and maintain liaison on matters relating to education, with other countries and with the States;
    (c) to arrange consultation between Commonwealth authorities concerned with matters
    relating to education; (d) to undertake research relating to education; (e) to provide statistics
    and information relating to education required by any Commonwealth authority; (f) to advise the
    Minister concerning the grant of financial assistance to the States and the other authorities for
    educational purposes; and (g) such other functions in relation to education as are assigned to it
    by the Minister.

In spite of the general attitude to keep the federal government out of education as far as
possible, certain educational functions had to be taken up. For instance, responsibilities for
scientific and industrial research had to be assumed by the federal government and the
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was set up with the object of
placing “at the service of producers throughout Australia, both in primary and secondary
industries, the highest ability and the most advanced knowledge in order to reduce the cost
and increase the volume of production”. As a further development of the same trend, the
National Australian University was established at Canberra in 1948. It has been empowered to
establish research schools, including a School of Medical Research, a Research School of
Physical Science, a Research School of Social Science, and a Research School of Pacific
Studies. The University is exclusively engaged in research and the benefit of its work extends to

the whole of Australia and all the countries and Island of the Pacific. Similarly, the federal
government has had to assume responsibility for the education of the Maoris. It has also
established one model pre-school centre in each State capital and has taken upon itself the
responsibility to organise a National Fitness programme.

Some explanation is needed about the power of the federal government to give financial
assistance. In the first place, the federal government in Australia has the sole power to levy
major taxes and the proceeds are distributed to the States on some general principles which have
no relationship with the scale of State expenditures. These financial allocations cannot,
therefore, be described as ‘grants’ or ‘assistance’ in the proper sense of the term. But off and
on, the federal government does give grants for some educational purposes from its own
resources. For example, grants were given for the establishment of a School for Aeronautical
Engineering in the University of Melbourne and a School of Public Health and Tropical
Medicine in the University of Sydney. As an aid to the National Fitness programme, the State
Grants (Milk for School Children) Act was passed in 1950 and provision was made for supply
of milk to children under 13. The scheme is to be administered by the States and the
expenditure is to be reimbursed by the federal government.

  1. Canada. The role of the Canadian Federal Government in education is similar to that in
    Australia with two major differences: (1) the problem of linguistic and religious minorities is
    acute in Canada and needs special safeguards, and (2) it is more influenced by the
    developments in the U.S.A.

As is well-known, the present Dominion of Canada arose out of a fusion of British and French
colonies. The French-speaking people who are mostly Roman Catholics are a minority in the
Dominion as a whole but a majority in certain parts such as Quebec and the position of the
English-speaking people, who are mostly Protestants, is just the opposite of this. Special
safeguards for the interests of minorities had, therefore, to be provided in the federal
constitution—the British North America Act of 1867—which lays down that the educational
rights enjoyed by the religious minorities prior to their entry into the Dominion shall not be
abrogated and, in cases of dispute, provides appeals to the Governor-General-in-Council and to
the Privy Council in London. Safeguarding the educational rights of minorities is thus an
essential federal responsibility in Canada.

The federal government in Canada is also constitutionally responsible for the education in the
territories, for the education of Red Indians and Eskimos, and for training for national defence.
As in Australia, scientific and other research has become a federal responsibility and the
“National Research Council, in conjunction with the national research laboratories in Ottawa,
maintains laboratories, offers scholarships to research students, and pays grants-in-aid for
investigations conducted at the University level by Provincial Departments of Education”.” As
in the U.S.A., Canada also has made large land and money grants for education and assists
programmes of vocational and technical education in schools. There is, however, no Federal
Ministry or Department of Education, not even an Office of Education as in the U.S.A. or
Australia. There is a Dominion Bureau of Statistics which publishes, as one of its multifarious
duties, an Annual Survey of Education in Canada. There is also a Canadian Education
Association which collects and publishes research studies and generally functions as a clearing
house for information and ideas. Recently, the federal government has given financial assistance
for increasing staff salaries in universities and it also bears the expenditure on school
broadcasts. All things considered, therefore, the general opinion is “that the part played in
education by the Dominion Government in Canada is important, but neither extensive nor

“ Cramer and Browne : Contemporary Education p. 145.
" ibid., p. 146.

  1. The U.S.A.—A reference has already been made in paragraph 25 to the different
    activities of the US Federal Government in education and it is, therefore, only necessary to
    refer briefly here to the modern trends in the US education which will ultimately result in a
    substantial increase in the federal participation in educational development.

One of the most important modern trends of thinking in the USA is that education is also a
national responsibility and that, whatever justification there may have been for leaving it
exclusively to the States in 1788 when the Constitution was framed, the entire position has to
be examined afresh in the light of present day requirements. In fact, it is readily pointed out
that the position of exclusive State responsibility for education adopted in 1788 has already
become obsolete and that the federal government has, during the last hundred and seventy years,
developed a number of very significant and large-scale educational functions to meet the
demands of changing times. The most pointed example of this is the recent federal effort to
scout for talent in scientific studies and to improve science education when it was realised that
the USSR was probably outstripping the USA in the development of science; and all that is
now urged is that the federal role in education will have to be expanded still further if the USA
has to hold her own in the modern world.

Assuming that the federal government shall expand its educational activities, the direction in
which this expansion should take place is the next important issue to be discussed in this field.
One important area suggested is federal grants for ‘general education’ —which corresponds to
the free and compulsory education visualised in Article 45 of the Indian Constitution—with
a view to ‘equalising educational opportunities’. In no country of the world has so much
research and study been carried out on this problem as in the USA. The work really started with a
study of educational facilities provided by the local communities on whom, not very long ago,
the entire responsibility for general education was made to rest. It was discovered that the
‘educational load’ of communities, as shown by the number of children to be educated, varied
largely from place to place—rural and agricultural districts generally had more children per
1000 of population than urban and industrialised districts. Secondly, the ‘ability’ of the
communities to support education, as measured by their taxable capacity also showed large
variations and very often, a community with a poor ‘ability’ to support education was
required to carry larger ‘educational load’. Thirdly, the ‘effort’ of the community for
education, as measured by the percentage of its taxable capacity raised and devoted to
education, also showed large variations; and finally, the educational ‘achievements’ of the
different communities showed extreme variations—some communities providing a very high
standard of education to all the children, while others could neither enrol all children nor
maintain adequate standards in schools. What is worse, it was found that several
communities made the greatest ‘effort’ to provide education and yet, either because of poor
‘capacity’ or heavy ‘educational loads’ or both, they could only show a poor standard of
‘achievement’. Such disparities are increased rather than decreased by the system of
‘matching grants’ which give more to the rich than to the poor. To remove all these
shortcomings and to provide equality of educational opportunity for all children, which is a
fundamental need of democracy, the State Governments have given up the idea of grants-in-
aid on the basis of matching funds alone and have supplemented it by a new system of grant-
in-aid on the basis of equalization. The process is complicated but it works out somewhat on
the following lines: In the first instance, the State prescribes what is called a ‘foundation
programme’ that is to say, a minimum programme below which no community can be allowed
to fall. The programme includes targets for enrolments, teachers’ salaries, school buildings,
provision of health services (inclusive of school meals) and other contingent expenditures so
that it is both a qualitative and a quantitative programme. The second step in the process is to

work out the total cost of this programme for each community; and the third step is to
determine the ‘reasonable’ effort which the local community is expected to make. The
difference between the total cost of the foundation programme and the reasonable effort
expected of the community.

These ideas which have now come to stay at the community level are being naturally extended
to the State level and studies made so far have shown that the States themselves exhibit wide
variation in ‘educational loads’, in ‘abilities’, in ‘efforts’ to support education and in
‘achievements’. Consequently, a demand is now being put forward to the effect that
‘equalization of educational opportunity’ must be accepted as a Federal responsibility. The
federal government, it is said, must lay down a minimum foundation programme for all States
and must give equalisation grants where necessary on principles similar to those mentioned
above. It is also evident that the support for this concept of federal aid to education is rapidly
gaining ground and that it is only a matter of time when federal grants for equalisation of
educational opportunities would be generally available.

The main argument against this wholesome and urgent reform is the fear that federal aid to
education will necessarily be followed by federal control. There are several thinkers who
would rather refuse federal aid than have federal control. But an equally strong argument is
now being put forward that federal aid can and should be given without federal control.
“According to many fiscal experts,” writes De Young, “no sound programme of local or state
taxation can be devised and established which will support in every community a school
system that meets minimum acceptable standards. Time can never efface the inequalities in
natural resources that exist between states. Therefore, unless the federal government
participates in the financial support of the schools and the related services the less able areas,
several million children in the United States and the outlying territories and possessions will
continue to be denied the educational opportunities that should be regarded as their
birthright. Most recommendations and recent proposals for federal aid stipulate positively
that such grants shall not entail federal control over education. They also specify that the
money shall be apportioned to the states, except that for cooperative educational research,
which shall be administered by the United States Office of Education. Several decades ago
Rutherford B. Hayes, then President of the United States, sent to Congress a message in
which he said: “No more fundamental responsibility rests upon Congress than that of devising
appropriate measures of financial aid to education, supplemental to local action in the states
and territories and in the District of Columbia. This challenge has not yet been adequately
met. Federal aid to public education is one of the moral ‘musts’ of America.”

Apart from this major ‘equalisation’ aid for general education, the following programmes
have also been suggested for federal assistance:

(1) Scholarships and Fellowships in Higher education to be made available to
undergraduate, graduate and professional students (scheme to be administered by the

(2) Scholarships for talented youth in Secondary Schools;

(3) Improvement of teacher education; and

(4) Educational experimentation and pilot projects.

  1. The U.S.S.R.—The three examples given so far are those of countries which have
    accepted democracy as a way of life and which also have a federal form of government. The

“ De Young: Introduction to American Public Education, p. 519.

U.S.S.R., on the other hand, is a totalitarian state with a federal form of government and it would
be interesting to compare the role of the federal government in education under such a system.

There is no federal Ministry of Education in the U.S.S.R. and this may lead one to suppose that
the Soviet Union has a decentralized system of education. Nothing can be farther from the truth;
and in no country of the world is education so rigidly controlled by a central authority as in
the U.S.S.R. This paradox, therefore, needs some explanation and it can be understood only
in terms of Soviet philosophy and administrative techniques.

Under communist philosophy, the most important objective in education is to create the “new
Soviet Man” which means a person who is fully imbued with the philosophy of communism
and who becomes an efficient and loyal worker of the State in the field to which he may be
ultimately assigned. In the Soviet system, therefore, the highest significance is attached to the
control of the contents of education and of all the media which influence the thinking of men
such as films, radio, television, concert-hall, the theatre, press, books, lecture platform, etc. The
determination of the contents of education and the control of all media of communication in
such a manner as to produce the one effect desired on the minds of all men becomes, therefore,
a responsibility of the highest Soviet authority. It is the authorities at the federal level,
therefore, that determine the curricula and methods of instruction to ensure that education is
in line with Party and State Policy. Once decided, these curricula and methods are adopted in
every school in order that a uniform education could be planned and implemented for the
nation as a whole. All the different agencies that administer education at lower levels—from
the State to the local Soviet—have no control over these fundamental issues and their main
responsibility is to provide the necessary facilities to give effect to these Central decisions.

Secondly, the communist philosophy attaches the highest significance to the provision of free and
compulsory education for every child and for the provision of Higher education to every gifted
child according to his capacity because it is only under such a system that the new Soviet Man
can be created. In the planned and centralized economy of the U.S.S.R., therefore, all the
necessary funds required for the educational programme are provided from the common
financial pool and then allocated to the different subordinate units. In other words, the federal
financial resources of the U.S.S.R. are fully pledged for the support of education and for
ensuring equality of educational opportunity for all.

It has also to be remembered that the U.S.S.R. is an example of educational control by a single
party. Speaking from a purely technical point of view, it is possible to describe the different levels
in Soviet educational administration to which specific functions have been allocated by law.
But as the Communist Party alone controls every administrative unit from the lowest to the
highest, the entire control of education is centralized in the Communist Party and delegations
of administrative authority to lower levels makes no difference in this respect.

Subject to these three general observations in which the situation in the U.S.S.R. is not
strictly comparable to other countries, the role of the U.S.S.R. federal government in education
may be stated as follows :—

(a) There is a Union-Republic Ministry of Higher Education in Moscow (known briefly as
the RSFSR Ministry of Higher Education). It exercises supervisory control, including control
of general academic standards over all Soviet Higher educational institutions and semi-
professional schools. It controls teaching staff, curricula, textbooks, enrolment quotas and the
assignment of graduates. The Soviet Universities have no autonomy as we understand it—they
are merely departments of the State.

(b) The RSFSR Ministry of Higher Education is also charged with the task of anticipating and

meeting all needs for man-power in the USSR. In the planned economy that the USSR is
trying to build up, it is of the highest importance to train the manpower and to discover the
new techniques required for the expanding economy and it is, therefore, an important objective
of Soviet Higher education to prepare qualified specialists for all branches of national economy
and culture. A very elaborate procedure has also been evolved to discharge this responsibility.
Each Ministry works out its requirements of personnel in precise detail and these form an
integral part of its development plan. When the national plan is finalised, therefore, it also
includes the total requirements of man-power of all categories and it becomes the main object
of the educational plan to train and supply this personnel. This most significant task, as stated
above, is mainly entrusted to the RSFSR Ministry of Higher Education.

(c) The RSFSR Ministry of Higher Education also conducts an Academy of Pedagogical
Sciences and through it, takes a lead in formulating standard study programmes, working out
new procedures, setting up criteria for academic attainment, conducting educational
experiments or broadcasting their results, etc.

(d) At the federal level, there is also a RSFSR Ministry of Culture which deals mainly with
cultural-educational establishments for adults including those concerned with music, art,
drama, movies, ballet, public libraries and lectures, houses of culture, museums, rural clubs,
etc. In the democratic countries, recreation is a purely private enterprise. In the USSR, it
becomes, in keeping with the communist philosophy, a controlled and significant activity of
the State and both its content and method, like those of education, are severely controlled from
the federal level.

(e) The USSR federal government also performs the usual non-controversial functions assigned
to this level, such as (1) collection of statistics and data and (2) arranging for consultations
between State Ministries of Education and co-ordinating their activities.

But as may easily be imagined, these consultations do not have much significance. The most
effective discussions in policy-making take place at Communist Party Congresses and
“resolutions having significance for the general educational development of the whole
country are promulgated by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the USSR Council of
Ministers. Such decrees specify, inter alia, the types of schools to be established, basic
organisation, academic programmes to be followed and general provisions regarding compulsory

  1. There are, it is true, a number of other federations in the world. But a detailed examination
    of education in all or even some of them is not very essential to this study. The four States
    examined here illustrate all the important issues involved and the study of other federations
    would only repeat them in various combinations.

  2. The foregoing studies show, apart from the general characteristics of federal functions in
    education and the manner of implementing them, a few other interesting principles useful to
    an examination of the problem under review. To begin with it may be said that Australia stands
    at one end of the ladder as having the weakest role in education while the USSR stands at the
    other as having the strongest one while intermediate positions are occupied, in order of an
    increasingly important role, by Canada and the USA. India, it may be noticed, stands
    somewhere between the USA and the USSR. Having accepted democracy as a way of life, it
    would not centralise education under the federal government as has been done in the USSR.
    The Constitution, therefore, had to adopt a model more in keeping with democratic traditions
    and it is not surprising that the model of the USA where education is a State subject was
    selected for the purpose. But no country can solve its problems by mere imitation and the

“U.S. Office of Education : Education in the U.S.S.R.,p.21

general model of the USA had to be modified on account of three reasons: (1) The American
Constitution provides for strong State Governments with residuary powers vested in the States
while the Indian Constitution wanted to create a strong Centre with residuary powers vested
in the Centre; (2) Education in the USA is fully developed and the States are doing so much for
it and so well that the need of federal action does not arise in most matters, while in India
education has yet to be developed and the States would not be able to do so unless the Centre
played a more prominent role of leadership and assistance; and (3) Allowance had to be made
for the conditions peculiar to India and for the fact that the role of the federal government in
the USA itself was expanding in certain directions which it would be very advantageous for
India to copy. These basic considerations, which appear to have led the framers of the
Constitution to deviate from the USA model and to endow the Indian federation with more
powers and responsibilities in education, are still applicable and it is quite clear that, in the
ultimate solution of the problem, India will be found to be holding a position intermediate
between the USA and the USSR.


The Role of the Government of India in Education—as it is and as it ought to be

  1. In view of the studies made in the preceding sections—the historical study in Part II and
    the comparative study in Part IV—it is now possible to take up the thread of the argument
    where it was left in Part I1I—the analysis of the contradictions and conflicts in the existing
    educational role of the Government of India—and to discuss how this role could be
    reorganised in the near future.

  2. When one examines the role which the Constitution assigns to the federal government in
    education (or the role which it has now come to play in actual practice) and compares it with
    the role which other federal governments play in education, or even with the role which the
    Government of India itself played in the earlier years of our history, one can easily conclude
    that the following activities may be undoubtedly regarded as “federal functions in

(1) Educational and cultural relations with other countries;

(2) The clearing house function of collecting and broadcasting ideas and information;

(3) The coordinating function of harmonizing the educational activities of the Centre and the

(4) Education in the Union Territories;

(5) Scientific research;

(6) Technical education;

(7) Propagation, development and enrichment of Hindi;

(8) Preservation and promotion of national culture inclusive of patronage to national art;
(9) Patronage to the study of ancient Indian culture in general and the study of Sanskrit in
(10) Education of the handicapped;
(11) Promotion and coordination of educational research;
(12) Special responsibility for the cultural interests of the minorities;

(13) Responsibility for the weaker sections of the people i.e. the Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes;

(14) Responsibility for strengthening national unity through suitable programmes and

particularly through those of emotional integration;

(15) Grant of scholarships in an attempt to scout for talent, especially at the University

(16) Advanced professional and vocational training; and

(17) Maintenance of Central Institutions or agencies for education; and

(18) Provision of free and compulsory education up to the age of 14 years.

  1. These eighteen functions may be broadly divided into two groups—the exclusive and the
    concurrent. The first four functions obviously fall in the ‘exclusive’ group since no State
    Government can perform them. The remaining fourteen functions fall into the ‘concurrent’
    group in the sense that every State Government will have to participate in these programmes
    both on its own initiative and as an agent of the Government of India; but the over-all
    responsibility for these matters whose national significance is universally recognised would be on
    the Government of India.

  2. ‘A few explanatory remarks are perhaps necessary in support of the federal character of these
    eleven functions. In so far as scientific research and technical education (the fifth and sixth
    functions), are concerned, it may be stated that they have been accepted as federal functions
    everywhere. In India, the Federal responsibility for them is far more significant at the present
    moment, partly because scientific and Technical education is not adequately developed in the
    States and partly because a good deal of finance and technical help is being made available by
    a number of advanced countries to assist educational progress in India. The seventh function,
    viz., the development of Hindi, the national language, is naturally a peculiar and special
    responsibility of the Government of India. It has hardly any parallels in the western world; but
    a similar problem has to be faced in Asiatic countries with a multi-lingual population such as
    Malaya or Philippines. The eighth function, viz., the preservation and promotion of national
    culture, inclusive of patronage to national art, is an important federal function in almost all
    the countries. In India also, this function was assumed fairly early and its significance has
    increased very largely in the post-Independence period owing to the disappearance of the
    Indian Princely order which was well known for its patronage to art. The ninth function, viz.,
    the study of ancient Indian culture in general and that of Sanskrit in particular, also becomes a
    federal responsibility in India. These studies, which have no immediate utilitarian value, are
    likely to be pushed to the background in the stress of present day demands and it is, therefore,
    a duty of the federal government to conserve this heritage of centuries and to pass it on to the
    successive generations as a source of inspiration.

  3. The Government of India has also had to assume some responsibilities for the education of
    handicapped children, the tenth function. This is both a philosophic and a practical need. The
    handicapped children are ‘a weaker section of the people’ and their education and economic
    improvement thus becomes a responsibility of the federal government also under Article 46 of
    the Constitution; and even from the strictly practical point of view, it would not be feasible and
    financially worthwhile for every State Government to provide the necessary trained personnel
    and costly equipment required for the purpose. The decision of the Government of India to
    enter this field to do some pioneer work and to assist the State Governments and the voluntary
    organisations working for this cause has, therefore, been generally welcomed. In fact the
    demand is for a much larger expansion of the federal activities in this sector than what is
    visualised at present.

  4. The eleventh function, viz., the promotion and coordination of educational research is a federal
    function in Australia and the U.S.S.R. but not in the U.S.A. or Canada where well-organised
    non-official agencies attend to it. But in the peculiar conditions of India at present, this has to
    be a federal function. Hardly any effort has been made so far to set up Research Bureau in

the State Education Departments or to develop strong centres for research in the training
colleges or University Departments of Education. Very little has been done to collect data on
the research that is going on and still less of it is being published. There is not a single journal in
the country devoted to educational research and hardly any measures are being taken to count
for research talent and to develop research techniques in education. Since the formulation of
correct and progressive policies depends very largely on the development of research, it goes
without saying that this function would have to receive much more attention in the near future
than it has ever had in the past and that early measures will have to be taken to remedy all the
deficiencies pointed out above. It is only a vigorous central action in this sector that can
achieve these objectives.

  1. With regard to the twelfth function, viz., the special responsibility for the cultural interests of
    the minorities, reference has already been made to the Canadian Constitution where the federal
    government is specially charged with the responsibility of protecting the educational and
    cultural interests of the minorities. In India, the position is even more difficult than in Canada
    which has to deal with only two sub-sects of a religion and only two languages. The protection
    of the cultural and educational interests of the minorities is, therefore, a very important
    responsibility of the Government of India and the success of our democracy will very largely
    depend upon the extent and the manner in which this function is discharged and confidence is
    created in the minds of the minorities concemed.

  2. The Constitution already provides certain safeguards for the cultural and educational
    interests of minorities. For instance, Article 29(1) guarantees that any section of the citizens
    having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the
    same. Article 30(1) gives the minorities, whether based on religion or language, the right to
    establish and administer educational institutions of their choice, and clause (2) of the same
    Article further provides that such institutions shall not be discriminated against in respect of
    grant-in-aid on the only ground that they are under the management of a minority. Article
    29(2) provides that no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution
    maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race,
    caste, language or any of them. Article 350A directs that it shall be the endeavour of every
    State and every local authority to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother-
    tongue at the Primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups;
    and Article 350B provides for the appointment of a Special Officer for linguistic minorities
    with the specific object of investigating into all matters relating to safeguards provided for
    linguistic minorities under the Constitution.

  3. While these provisions are generally welcomed, a common criticism is that they are not
    adequate and that some additional measures are necessary. For instance, it has been suggested
    that the educational institutions conducted by linguistic minorities at the Primary stage of
    education should have a right to receive grant-in-aid from State funds, at least to the extent of
    the expenditure per pupil incurred by the State Government concerned for its own primary
    schools. It has also been claimed that the educational interests of the linguistic minorities at
    other stages of education need some special consideration which is not given at present. It has
    further been suggested that it is the responsibility of the Government of India to maintain, in all
    parts of the country, a sufficient number of institutions of Higher education teaching through
    the medium of Hindi or English in order to provide for the educational interests of the children
    of its own employees who are liable to be transferred to any part of the Union and also for the
    legitimate protection of the educational interests of small and scattered linguistic minorities. The
    whole problem is delicate and difficult and it is not possible to suggest any simple and clear-
    cut solution to it, but the need for the exercise of vigilance by the federal government in this
    regard is obvious.

  4. The thirteenth function refers to the federal responsibility for the education of Scheduled
    Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Under Article 46 of the Constitution, the Government of India is
    responsible for the economic and educational development of the Scheduled Castes and
    Scheduled Tribes and, as has been pointed out earlier, similar responsibilities have been adopted
    by other federal governments also—the Federal Government in the U.S.A. having special
    responsibility for Red Indians and Negroes, in Australia for Maoris and in Canada for Red
    Indians and Eskimos. Under the present set-up, this responsibility has been vested in the
    Ministry of Home Affairs which is assisted, in its turn, by all the Ministries of the Government
    of India, wherever necessary. The Ministry of Education has thus to look after the problems of
    education of these weaker sections of the community; and the Ministry of Home Affairs has
    made it clear, time and again, that it looks forward to the Ministry of Education for guidance
    in all technical aspects of education and every now and then, references regarding special
    intricate problems in this sector are made to the Ministry.

  5. The fourteenth function refers to the federal responsibility for strengthening national
    unity. One of the most important problems which faces the country at present is to strengthen
    the ties of national unity through programmes of emotional integration and to negate the
    fissiparous tendencies which have become so prominent, especially after the reorganization of
    States on a linguistic basis. This responsibility is so fundamental to the very existence of
    democracy and the defence of our freedom that it is hardly necessary to emphasise it. But
    unfortunately, very little is being done at present in this sector. The basic responsibilities in this
    programme will have to be that of the Government of India and the State Governments will have
    to cooperate whole-heartedly in their implementation. This is, therefore, an area where a good
    deal of fundamental thinking and intensive effort is immediately called for.

  6. The fifteenth function is the provision of scholarships. One of the principal purposes
    underlying educational development is social justice and the provision of equality of educational
    opportunity for all. A liberal scheme of scholarships to help the talented and poor children thus
    becomes a very significant programme in educational reconstruction. Obviously, such a
    programme will have to be implemented jointly by the Government of India and the State
    Governments. The Federal Government admittedly has a special responsibility for the institution
    of scholarships at the University stage; but it is also argued that, unless an adequate provision for
    scholarships is made at the Secondary stage, poor and deserving children would never be able
    to qualify themselves for University admission. Both in the first and in the second Plans, very
    little has been done in this sector. It is, however, obvious that, for several years to come, this
    would be an important programme of educational reconstruction. The Government of India
    would have to play a leading part in its implementation by helping in the determination of right
    policies and by providing necessary financial assistance to State Governments.

  7. The sixteenth function refers to advanced professional and vocational training. Under
    Entry 65(a) of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, the Federal Government is authorised to
    set up agencies and institutions for professional, vocational or technical training. Obviously, the
    State Governments are also competent to set up such institutions under Entry 11 of List II of the
    same schedule. It is, therefore, necessary to draw a dividing line between the Federal and State
    functions in this respect. If Entry 65(a) of List I is literally interpreted, it may be made to cover
    any course of professional, vocational or technical training from a tailoring class at one end to
    a post-graduate course for Plant Pathologists at the other. But obviously, this is not the intention
    of the Constitution. It should be assumed that the State Governments would make all the
    necessary provision for professional and vocational education; but there are advanced courses
    of professional and vocational education which are very costly and which could not possibly be

maintained by every State. It is in this sector that the Government of India has a special role to
play by providing such advanced courses as would be needed by the country in general or by more
than one State in particular. Another objective for the organization of such courses would be to
develop the highest type of professional and vocational education within the country itself and, to
that extent, to reduce the necessity of sending students abroad for Higher education. For
instance, it is not the responsibility of the Government of India to conduct an institution for
pre-service training of teachers at the B.T. or B.Ed, level. It should rather concentrate itself on
providing post-graduate courses of in-service training for higher grades of educational
administrators and teacher educators.

  1. The seventeenth function refers to the establishment of Union institutions and agencies
    for education. The federal government is required to establish and maintain educational
    institutions for a number of reasons. For instance, educational institutions have to be
    maintained for employees of the Central Government. They have also to be maintained in
    important commercial undertakings of the Government of India in order to meet the
    requirements of the population of the new towns which have been established for such
    undertakings. Military cantonments which are under the control of the Government of India are
    also required to maintain educational institutions, not only for defence personnel, but also for
    the general population living in cantonment areas. Apart from such special purposes, it is also
    the responsibility of the Centre to conduct educational institutions with two definite
    objectives: (1) to serve as experimental institutions in comparatively neglected or more
    significant fields; and (2) to cater to the needs of more than one State or for the country as a

  2. The eighteenth function refers to the provision of free and compulsory education to all
    children up to the age of 14 years as directed in Article 45 of the Constitution. If this Article is
    read with Article 12 of the Constitution, it will be evident that the provision of universal, free and
    compulsory Primary education is a joint responsibility of the Government of India, the State
    Governments and the local authorities. The role of the Government of India would obviously be
    restricted to the formulation of national targets to be reached, to the grant of financial assistance
    to State Governments for implementing this programme and to the maintenance of an equal
    standard of attainment, both in quantity and quality, in all parts of the country. The role of
    the State Governments would mainly be restricted to the provision of teachers, their training,
    and supervision. The local authorities will have to take responsibility for all the expenditure on
    the remaining items and will have to implement the programme satisfactorily with the help of
    grants-in-aid from the State Governments. Just as the grants-in-aid given by the Centre to the
    State Governments will have to be based on the principle of equalisation, the grants-in-aid given by
    the State Governments to the local authorities also will have to be passed on the same principle.
    In other words, the grants-in-aid to richer local authorities would be proportionately less and
    those to the poorer local authorities would be proportionately greater.

  3. The eighteen functions of the federal government in education discussed so far may be
    regarded as fairly non-controversial. The first four functions, as stated earlier, belong
    exclusively to the federal government and there can be no controversy about them. The
    remaining thirteen functions fall into the concurrent group. But it is universally agreed that the
    federal government has some responsibility with regard to each one of them, although there
    might be some slight difference of opinion regarding the extent arid nature of such role.

Over and above these seventeen functions, however, there are three other functions which are
very important and which at present, have become highly controversial, viz. (i) the education
of women, (ii) policy-making and (iii) financial assistance. It is therefore, necessary to discuss
them in some detail.

  1. Education of Women.—The National Committee on Women’s Education, it may be recalled,
    has recommended that the Government of India should assume a transitional special
    responsibility for this subject until the existing wide gap between the education of boys and
    girls is materially bridged. In the opinion of the Committee, women come under the expression
    “weaker section of the people” used in Article 46 of the Constitution. The Backward Classes
    Commission set up by the Government of India also recommended that women should be
    regarded as ‘backward classes’ and this strengthens the claim of treating their education as a
    responsibility of the Government of India under Article 46. The Committee has also put
    forward another strong argument in favour of its proposal. The Government of India
    admittedly has a special responsibility for providing free and compulsory education up to the
    age of 14. This responsibility is not being implemented at present mainly because the
    education of girls has lagged behind that of boys; and the Committee, therefore, claims that
    the responsibility of the Government of India under Article 45 cannot be fulfilled unless it
    also assumes some special responsibilities for the education of girls.

  2. Those who do not accept this view argue that, under the proposal made by the
    Committee, education becomes almost a central subject. Since women form about half of the
    total population, the State Governments would be deprived of 50% of their responsibility if the
    education of girls becomes a special responsibility of the Centre; and if the other sectors for
    which the Government of India is also responsible are taken into consideration, the
    responsibilities of the Government of India would be far larger than those of the State
    Governments themselves. Secondly, it is also argued that it will not be possible for the
    Government of India to discharge this responsibility to any extent unless the willing and
    enthusiastic cooperation of the State Governments is obtained by making them constitutionally
    responsible for the programmes and providing them with the necessary financial assistance.

  3. The only logical conclusion under these circumstances seems to be that the responsibility
    of the Government of India for the education of girls should cover, not the entire programme
    for the education of girls, but only the small quantum of a special programme which is needed
    to give it a fillip. Even the special programmes should not be directly implemented by the
    Centre. They should rather be included in the “Centrally sponsored” sector under which the
    programmes are planned by the State Governments on the lines of some general principles
    laid down by the Centre and also implemented by them through their own agencies. The
    provision for their expenditure, however, is made in the Central sector and the funds are made
    available to State Governments on a 100% basis, outside their plans and ceilings. If such a
    clear-cut policy is defined and adopted, even the States would welcome it; and it would
    obviously go a very long way in expediting the programmes of Women’s education,
    particularly in the backward States.

  4. Policy-making function.—The policy-making function of the Federal Government in
    education has now become one of the most controversial issues in education. Under entry 66
    of List I the Government of India is required to coordinate and maintain standards in University
    education. Obviously therefore, it does get a right to make policy decisions in University
    education and these will be binding upon State Governments under Article 257(i) of the
    Constitution which lays down that the executive power of the State Government shall be so
    exercised as not to impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive power of the Union.
    Should any State Government not accept these decisions, it would be open to the
    Government of India to take action under the same Article which also authorises the Union to
    give such directions to a State Government as may appear to be necessary for this purpose. But
    what about policy-making in Secondary or Primary education or in fields which are not
    specifically covered by Entries in List I of the Seventh Schedule? From the strictly legal point
    of view, it can be argued that the Government of India has no authority to make any policy
    decisions in these sectors and that even if it did make any policy decisions they cannot be

enforced against the State Governments under Article 257(i) of the Constitution. Of course, it is
possible to argue that the standards of University education are dependent on those in Secondary
education and that the standards in Secondary education are, in their turn, dependent on those
in Primary education and to deduce there from that the Government of India can also take
policy decisions in the fields of Primary and Secondary education. Such an interpretation
appears to be plausible; but one cannot say how the Courts would react to it if it is challenged.
At best, it appears to be a slippery position on which it would be dangerous to take a firm

  1. It is true that the Government of India has been taking decisions in all fields of education
    in the post-independence period and these decisions are mostly being accepted by State
    Governments. This result, however, is accidental and is due to two extraneous circumstances—
    (1) the political fact that the same party is in power at the Centre and the States and (2) the
    financial fact that most of these decisions have been sugar-coated with liberal financial
    assistance. But it would be wrong to assume that this political situation will always continue
    and it would be equally difficult to justify the use of financial pressures for inducing States to
    accept policies to which they would not otherwise have agreed to. The present constitutional
    position, therefore, presents an impasse. On the one hand, education must be treated as a
    whole and it is neither possible nor desirable to break it up into two compartments—
    University education and other sectors. On the other hand, Government has only a limited
    authority for making policy decisions in the sector of University education while it is not at
    all empowered to take any policy decisions in other fields; and even if it were to take any such
    decision, it does not have the legal authority to enforce it against the State Governments.

  2. What is the way out of this impasse? Three suggestions are being put forward and discussed
    in this context. The first and the most radical suggestion is to amend the Constitution and to
    make education a ‘concurrent’ subject. In support of this view, a number of weighty
    arguments are put forward and although some of these have been briefly referred to in the
    earlier discussion, it may still be desirable to sum up the whole case here. It is argued, for
    example, that the ‘economic and social planning’ for which the Union is primarily responsible
    cannot be attempted successfully unless the Centre is also empowered to plan education.
    Secondly, it is claimed that educational policy is a national rather than a State or local
    concern and that, although the administration of education may be left to the States and local
    authorities, the major decisions of State policy must be taken by the Centre. Thirdly, it is
    pointed out that the Directive contained in Article 45 of the Constitution implies that the
    provision of free and compulsory education is a joint responsibility and that the Centre will
    not be in a position to play its role in this sector unless it has also the authority to take policy
    decisions in Primary education and to compel the State Governments, if necessary, to adopt
    them. Fourthly, it is pointed out that it is a fundamental responsibility of the Centre to maintain
    an equal standard of social services in all parts of the country and as education is the most
    significant of all social services, the Centre will have to provide an equality of educational
    opportunity for all children in the country. This can only be done if education is amenable to
    Central planning and control. Fifthly, it is pointed out that the educational leadership available
    in the States is often below par and, as no chain can be stronger than its weakest link, the
    Centre must often provide effective leadership from above—a function which can hardly be
    discharged satisfactorily unless it is empowered adequately to deal with recalcitrant cases; and
    finally, it is pointed out that the Centre is responsible to Parliament for all the funds it gives to
    State Governments for educational development and that it cannot really be answerable to
    Parliament in this behalf unless it also has the authority to take firm policy decisions and to
    implement them. The burden of the song is, therefore, clear; amend the Constitution and
    make education a concurrent subject. It must also be stated that there is a fairly large support
    for this view and in almost every Parliament session, the notice of a resolution to this effect

is given by some member or the other.

  1. As against this extreme view in one direction, there is a second group of thinkers who
    would prefer to go to an extreme in the other direction. They suggest that education is and
    should be a State subject and that the modern trend towards centralization must be resisted as
    forcefully as possible in the larger interests of the country. They demand decentralization in
    general—even in planning—on grounds of democracy and warn that centralization, which
    brings some immediate gains, is extremely harmful in the long run because it saps the self-
    confidence, initiative, responsibility and even the competence of State Governments. In their
    view, a still greater need for decentralization in education is the possibility it affords to every
    linguistic minority to preserve its own culture and to progress in its own way. It is also argued
    that the varied mosaic pattern which Indian culture has evolved through centuries past can be
    preserved only if State Governments have real authority over education and that it can be
    destroyed in no time under a centralized control of education which would always tend to
    introduce dead uniformity. It is further urged that centralization of education would make it
    increasingly bureaucratic and thus deprive it of the healthy direct contact with the public. This
    group of thinkers, therefore, would not only preserve the sovereign authority which State
    Governments have over education at present, but they would even go a step further and cut at the
    very root of all trends of centralization by abolishing the Ministry of Education itself or by
    constituting a single small ministry for all social welfare services.

  2. Between these two extreme views—one of which is close to Australia and the other to the
    U.S.S.R.—there is a third view which represents the latest thought on this subject in the U.S.A.
    and which may also be regarded as the ‘golden mean’ proposal of reform. According to this
    view, centralization of educational authority—and this is exactly what all the talk of making
    education a concurrent subject really means—is definitely harmful while a weak or inactive
    Centre is hardly better than cultural anarchy. What this group of thinkers recommends,
    therefore, is that the federal grovernment should provide strong and competent leadership of
    a ‘stimulating but non-coercive character’.”

  3. This leadership is to be provided in three ways—in ideas, in personnel, and in

(a) The leadership in ideas is provided in two ways—through the development of
research and through the coordinating and clearing house functions which cross-
fertilise educational thinking by making known the good work done in one area of
the country to the remaining areas.

(b) The leadership in personnel is generally provided in three ways—the maintenance of an
advisory service, the training of educational administrators, and experimental work
in the training of teachers. It is a fundamental responsibility of the Centre to scout
for talent and to maintain an advisory service of the best people available in the
country and to make them available to State Governments for advice and assistance in
all matters. Secondly, it is also a responsibility of the Centre to arrange for advanced
professional training in educational administration and to provide for the in-service
training of educational administrators through such programmes as seminars and
workshops, special training or refresher courses, deputations for studies in the
country or abroad, and production of necessary literature. Thirdly, the federal
government has also a responsibility in the attempt to provide better teachers by
advising and assisting the State Governments to adopt such measures as improving

“ Federal State Relations in Education, N.E.A. (1945), p.7.

the remuneration and service conditions of teachers, conduct of experiments in
teacher education, etc.

(c) Finally, the leadership in programmes can be provided through the conduct of pilot
or experimental projects.

It is claimed that if the Central Government can thus provide a competent professional
leadership through ideas, men and programmes, the willing consent of the State Governments
would be secured to whatever common policy the Federal Government desires to adopt and that
such persuasion of the States is infinitely better than coercion under a constitutional authority. It
is obvious that a conscious adoption of this policy is probably the best course to be followed
in India.

  1. Financial Assistance.—Then comes another of the most significant federal functions in
    education, viz., the provision of financial assistance for programmes of expansion and
    improvement of education. That the federal government must give such assistance is
    universally admitted; and the task is of special significance in India where the most elastic and
    productive sources of revenue are vested in the Centre. The main controversies, therefore, relate
    to two issues—the objectives of assistance and the form and conditions of grants-in-aid.

  2. With regard to the first of these issues, it is generally suggested that there should be three
    types of grants. The first is a transfer of additional revenues in order to enable the State
    Governments to plan their programmes in all welfare services with greater confidence and
    self-reliance; the second is the institution of a general grant for educational purposes but not
    earmarked for any specific programme; and the third is a specific purpose grant which is
    intended for a programme organised and implemented with the approval of the Centre. It is
    obvious that if the autonomy and independence of the States is to be respected in the
    educational field, greater reliance will have to be placed on the first two of these grants. The
    mistake of the first Five-Year Plan was that innumerable specific purpose grants were created
    and they naturally led to a tremendous increase in administrative work and red tape. The
    mischief has been considerably undone in the second Five-Year Plan by introducing four
    main groups of grant-in-aid, by authorizing the States to reappropriate within the same group,
    and by introducing the system of ways and means advances. But even now, a good deal
    remains to be done and it would be worthwhile to simplify the system and to reduce the
    specific purpose grants still further during the Third Plan.

  3. Another point of extreme importance is that of special financial assistance to backward
    States or what is called ‘an equalization grant’ in American parlance. As pointed out earlier,
    it is a basic responsibility of the federal government to maintain a uniform standard of social
    services in general and to equalise educational opportunities in particular. In this respect, our
    States show immense differences. They differ in the level of development reached at present
    due mainly to historical accidents; their ‘educational loads’ i.e. the number of children still
    outside the school also vary greatly; and even the social and economic conditions show
    equally wide variations so that the States are far from comparable in terms of ‘ability’ to
    support education and the difficulty of the task to be performed. The advanced States have a
    bigger and a more difficult task to perform with more limited resources. Today, the
    conditions are so diverse that the expenditure on Primary education in the single city of
    Bombay is greater than that in the entire State of Orissa. It is for the Government of India to
    adopt an equalization grant and level up such differences to the extent possible.

  4. It should also be stated that it is not the object of the equalization programme to bring all
    developments to a dead level of uniformity. This need not and cannot be done. What is
    suggested is a three-fold programme: (1) the federal government should prescribe, from time to
    time, minimum or foundation programmes below which no area should be allowed to fall; (2)

the freedom of individual States to go ahead should be retained; and (3) the gap between the
advanced and the backward States should be continually narrowed down.

  1. It is obvious that this principle of grant-in-aid is diametrically opposed to that of matching
    grants which gives more to him that hath. Under this concept, some States may get no grant,
    others may get a medium one and still others may get a large one. Its operation can probably
    be best described in the following passage from De Young:

“The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States made education the primary res-
ponsibility of the individual states. Hence the support of public education became mainly a matter of
state concern. Today every state makes some contribution from its revenues for the support of public
schools through many types of funds, some of which are described later. An inconsistency exists,
however, between the legal intention to provide state support and the many cases of neglect and inade-
quacy. For the nation as a whole, state governments supply only about 40 per cent of the cost of
schools. Furthermore, the method of distributing such aid is an important factor. Despite favourable
arguments for federal support of public education, the fact remains that the individual states will have
to give more assistance to schools, particularly through the application of the next principle.

Strayer and Haig in 1923 were the first to give a clear-cut picture of the equalization principle. Their
analysis interpreted this principle as the complete equalization of the burden of a satisfactory minimum
educational programme below which no locality could be allowed to go, but above which any locality
would be allowed to rise by means of local support. In contradistinction to the payment-for-effort or
matching principle, the operation of the equalization plan tends to shift to more able communities some
of the undue burden carried by the less wealthy localities (see Fig. below). Most states today have a
state-local “partnership foundation programme” in which the commonwealth bestows more on these
schools which have less in fiscal resources.

Equalization Level
. |
| state |
} Support io 9]
. | oO
State 2
. | J
Support | | | a
Local 2.
Support 5
] ; S
| Local %
| | Support 3
| oO
Local |
’ Suppor |
Poor Average Wealthy
District District District

How state equalization works in three types of districts. In the poor district, local effort to support
schools produces only a small fraction of the cost of a state-guaranteed minimum or foundation pro-
gramme. In the district of average wealth, the same effort produces about half the needed fiscal support.
The wealthy district receives no state equalization aid because the local wealth back of each child is
great enough to more than finance the minimum programme. The district serves as a lighthouse to in-
dicate better practices.

In brief, the equalization principle means that governmental agencies collect educational funds where the

money is and spend the money where the pupils are. Every man’s property and income must be
taxed to educate every man’s child. Even though a man chooses to send his own children to a paro-

chial or private school he is not exempt from contributing his support to the education of all children.
The golden rule in educational finance is : “Thou shalt educate thy neighbor’s children as thine

At first this idea of equalization was applied to small areas, as the county and state. Now the old
slogan “the wealth of the state must educate the children of the state” is being supplemented with the
clause “and the wealth of the United States must be used to equalize the education of all the children in
the nation”. Furthermore, the phrase “all the children in the nation” implies that more adequate
educational opportunities and greater financial support be provided for exceptional or a typical children,
since their learning opportunities, as in the case of the blind, are below par, and the costs of their ins-
truction are above average. American public education will not be genuinely democratic until there
is nation-wide application of the principle that opportunity and burden shall be equalized for all

  1. The second issue refers to the conditions of grant-in-aid. Here strict adherence to certain
    general principles is necessary. To begin with, the tendency to use grants-in-aid as indirect
    pressure levers for policy decisions should be discouraged as far as possible. Secondly, the
    quantum of specific purpose grants should be restricted to the very minimum and confined to
    basic programmes of national significance only or schemes in the nature of experimental or
    pilot projects. Thirdly, the procedure for sanctioning these grants will have to be simplified to
    the utmost. And lastly, a suitable machinery will have to be devised to obtain, from the State
    Governments, a report on the utilization of grants and the results obtained thereof. This can
    probably be effectively done by appointing high level advisers who should pay visits to States
    and submit reports after a special study on the spot.

  2. Another useful suggestion to be made in this context is that the specific purpose grants
    should be included in the Centrally-sponsored sector. In a Centrally-sponsored scheme,
    ‘planning’ should be a joint responsibility in which the fundamental principles are laid down
    by the Centre, but a large initiative and freedom is left to State Governments to make the Plan
    suit its local needs and conditions; ‘implementation’ would be through the State Government;
    and ‘finance’ would come from the Centre on a hundred per cent basis and outside the State Plan
    and ceiling. This will ensure that the programme is most effectively implemented and also that
    such implementation does not interfere with any other schemes.

Summary and Conclusions

  1. In the present study, an attempt has been made to examine the various issues concerning
    the role of the Government of India in Education. The problem was approached from three
    angles, historically, constitutionally and comparatively from the point of the role which the
    federal governments of some of the foreign countries are playing in education.

  2. In the historical survey which covered the period 1773—1950, it was shown that prior to
    1833 the Centre had hardly any role to play; between 1833 and 1870 education was virtually a
    Central subject; between 1870 and 1921, while the day-to-day administration was vested in
    the provincial governments, the Government of India discharged five distinct functions, viz.,
    (1) policy-making, (2) serving as a clearinghouse for information, (3) promotion of research
    and publication of suitable literature, (4) coordination and (5) financial assistance; the years
    1921- 35 saw a virtual divorce between education and Central Government with disastrous
    consequences; but more progressive policies were evolved and the Government of India again
    began to play a more leading role.

  3. In the next section, the Constitutional provisions relating to education were subjected to a

" De Young: Introduction to American Public Education, pp. 502-504,

close examination and it was shown that the present position is somewhat anomalous. On the
one hand, the Constitution takes the simple stand that education, with all residuary powers, is
a State subject; while in a number of important fields (such as the provision of educational
facilities for children up to the age of 14, the promotion and safeguarding of the cultural
interests of the minorities, the need for controlled development of Higher education etc.,)
education appears to be more of a joint responsibility than an exclusive preserve of the

  1. The study of the role of the federal government in education in certain other countries
    showed that the interest and activities of a federal government are not always guided by the
    provisions of the Constitution and that, in many instances, the federal government is taking a
    very definite and positive interest in the formulation and implementation of educational
    programmes even in the absence of any constitutional obligation for that purpose.

  2. In the concluding section of the study, it was suggested that, without trespassing on the
    autonomy of the States, the Centre had a useful role to play in evolving suitable educational
    policies for the country and that in view of the greater elasticity of the Central tax structure it
    had a very definite responsibility for rendering financial assistance to the States towards the
    expansion and improvement of educational facilities.

  3. Finally, I would humbly like to state that I am fully aware of the complexity of the issues
    raised in this paper that I have had no illusions about the finality of the suggestions made herein.
    My main object in writing and publishing this paper has been to arouse interest in the
    discussion of the basic questions relating to the role of the Government of India in education. If
    this fond hope were to materialise, my labours would be more than adequately rewarded.


Excellent analysis, particularly the constitutional and comparative aspects, particularly given the time it was written. Extending on this there is a need to discuss the impact of liberalisation and the understanding of the purpose of education in a globalised world. In India’s context it would be 1970s to 1990s (education for industrial labour) and post 1990s where the purpose of education was defined purely by ability to accumulate capital at any cost. Historically education has been used by all forms of power to indoctrinate the population. Evidence of it increasing with the increased centralisation of education (including the arts and all cultural expressions). It may be useful to take a look at the developments in education, role of Governments and the states in countries like Finland, Canada, Singapore, Japan to name a few. One useful resource to consider is Clever Lands by Lucy Creehan. in the context of school education.

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