Under the Indian constitution, education is compulsory and free for all up to the age of 14. India has about 688,000 primary schools and 110.000 secondary schools. In terms of tertiary institutions_ there are 11,089 col­leges and 259 universities. For the socially disadvantaged Scheduled Castes, govern­ment-subsidised tuition is offered to those wishing to take university-entry exams. In addition to state schools, there are many pri­vate (usually English-language) schools, some run by church organizations. Places in these exclusive institutions are highly cov­eted among those who can afford them.

Two-thirds of India’s children are en­rolled in school, including most children of primary-school age. However, this figure is artificially optimistic, as many don’t attend school regularly. At least half of all students from rural areas drop out before completing school. Girls are under-represented, espe­cially in higher education.

The enrolment at secondary school throughout the Country was close to 28 mil­lion in 1998-99: the government aims to increase this level in the coming years through the implementation of proposed new educational strategies.

There are an estimated 20 million disabled children attending primary and secondary schools, but this only represents a fraction of India’s total number. On top of that, the drop­out rate is high. Attempts to boost literacy among adults (especially women) have met with mixed success.

The literacy rate stood at 65.38% in the 2001 census, a 13.75% improvement on the 1991 census tigures. With literacy now at 76° o for males and 54`% for females there is also heightened gender equality. Kerala recorded the highest literacy rate (91 %) and Bihar the lowest (48%).