Education in India is primarily managed by the state-run public education system, which falls under the command of the government at three levels: federal, state, and local. Under various articles of the Indian Constitution and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, free and compulsory education is provided as a fundamental right to children aged 6 to 14. The approximate ratio of public schools to private schools in India is 7:5. Major policy initiatives in Indian education are numerous. Up until 1976, education policies and implementation were determined legally by each of India’s constitutional states. The 42nd amendment to the constitution in 1976 made education a ‘concurrent subject’. From this point on the central and state governments shared formal responsibility for funding and administration of education. In a country as large as India, now with 28 states and eight union territories, this means that the potential for variations between states in the policies, plans, programs, and initiatives for elementary education is vast. Periodically, national policy frameworks are created to guide states in their creation of state-level programs and policies. State governments and local government bodies manage the majority of primary and upper primary schools and the number of government-managed elementary schools is growing. Simultaneously the number and proportion managed by private bodies are growing. In 2005-6 83.13% of schools offering elementary education (Grades 1-8) were managed by the government and 16.86% of schools were under private management (excluding children in unrecognized schools, schools established under the Education Guarantee Scheme, and an alternative learning centers). Of those schools managed privately, one-third are ‘aided’ and two-thirds are ‘unaided’. Enrolment in Grades 1-8 is shared between government and privately managed schools in the ratio 73:27. However, in rural areas this ratio is higher (80:20) and in urban areas much lower (36:66).
In the 2011 Census, about 73% of the population was literate, with 81% for males and 65% for females. National Statistical Commission surveyed literacy to be 77.7% in 2017–18, 84.7% for males, and 70.3% for females. This compares to 1981 when the respective rates were 41%, 53%, and 29%. In 1951 the rates were 18%, 27%, and 9%. India's improved education system is often cited as one of the main contributors to its economic development. Much of the progress, especially in higher education and scientific research, has been credited to various public institutions. While enrolment in higher education has increased steadily over the past decade, reaching a Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 26.3% in 2019, there still remains a significant distance to catch up with tertiary education enrolment levels of developed nations, a challenge that will be necessary to overcome in order to continue to reap a demographic dividend from India's comparatively young population.