Educational Inequality In Rural And Urban India - India only have one teacher, illustrating the severe rural-urban disparity in education system in India. Edit Snippet


 India is known for its rich culture and diverse population, diverse population, and rapid economic growth. After the LPG reforms in 1991, the Indian subcontinent saw a spike in the economy. However, India faces many challenges in terms of Social and Economical Development despite all the facts.

The education system is one of the sectors which faces disparity and segregation. There is an increase in the gap between attaining better education in Rural and Urban India. The fund allocation by the government is acting as a catalyst in increasing the gap.

The divide between educational inequality in rural and urban India is well documented with disparities in basic infrastructure, access to healthcare, and other Indicators. Two-thirds of the population in India consists of rural areas, and it is the home of the majority of the poor in India. In brief, urban areas are more prosperous and have better access to resources and services. The gap is not between Urban and Rural, but it is also between Poor and Rich. By Rich, I mean the population residing in the urban areas.

The divide has a significant impact on the education system of the country, the urban kids are getting an education more filtered and precise, whereas the kids in rural areas are getting an education in a very distorted manner, as the rural areas already lack resources and infrastructure so they lack in providing the high-quality education.

The issue of fund allocation and resource distribution is not something new in India. The education system is the most affected sector which faces this disparity.

Despite the fact that the majority of the population lives in rural areas, the government is not able to provide equal opportunity to the people residing in rural areas. According to the 2018 National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), per capita public expenditure on education in rural areas was only about two-thirds that of urban areas.   Even though most of the country’s population lives in rural areas and is in greater need of education services.

Theeducational inequality in rural and urban India disparity in the educational fund has very serious implications on the quality of education and overall well-being of the people residing in the rural areas, which eventually leads to the development of the county. If there is no equal opportunity for the rural population, it is going to affect the country’s development directly. Again unequal access to education provokes the cycle of poverty and social exclusion and hinders achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4, which talks about equal education.

This paper will examine the educational inequality in rural and urban india disparity in India with a focus on Education and fund allocation by the state for educational services. The paper will use secondary data such as reports, and news articles. The paper will examine the factors like political power, social structure power, and the role of the state influencing the disparity. Finally, the paper will discuss the implications of this disparity for education and development in India and provide some policy recommendations for addressing this issue.

Overall, this seminar paper seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the educational inequality in rural and urban india disparity in fund allocation for education services in India and to highlight the need for more equitable policies and strategies to address this issue.

The study used a systematic review and analysis of the available literature and data related to the topic. The sources of data were primarily secondary and included government reports, academic literature, and statistical data from various sources.

Overall, the paper offers a thorough analysis of India’s educational inequality in rural and urban India funding disparity for education services and draws on various sources to offer a nuanced view of the problem.

Review of Literature

  Indian Education System

Even though India has one of the largest educational systems in the world, it still needs to work on equity, access, and quality (Suthar, 2021). The Indian educational system is divided into three levels: primary, secondary, and higher education, according to her. Classes 1 through 5 are at the primary level, and classes 6 through 10 are at the secondary level. Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs make up higher education. The Ministry of Education, establishing rules and guidelines for educational institutions nationwide, oversees the Indian educational system. According to (Suthar, 2021), access to education is limited in rural areas, where infrastructure and resources are inadequate. The authors note that the lack of transportation and housing facilities in rural areas further limits access to education. In addition, the authors argue that gender-based discrimination is a significant barrier to education access for girls, especially in rural areas.

Also, she questioned the quality of education later in the literature by stating the quality of the teachers, Gap between the education provided and industry-required education, the Lack of Available Resources, the Lack of Facilities, and questioning Research and Innovation.

Rural Education

 (MUDULI, 2021) states as India will soon fully benefit from the demographic dividend, it is poised to see quicker, more inclusive, and sustainable growth. India will have the largest population in the world by 2030. India’s average age is under 25, and it will soon have the world’s largest working population. The only way India can take advantage of this demographic dividend is by creating an education system that is flexible, marketable, and skill-based. Because it produces human capital, a crucial component of development, education serves as a barrier against progress. Education is especially important in nations like India because of its many differences and inequalities, including its division into urban and rural areas and its geographic and gender inequities.

(MUDULI, 2021) later states that the Less number of Schools, Low Income of Parents, Inadequate Infrastructure, educational inequality in rural and urban india Divide, Deficiency of Funds, Lack of technology, Low Salary Structure, Non-teaching duties of Teachers, Social promotion and Linguistic barriers are the major reasons behind the lacking of the education services in Rural India.

(MUDULI, 2021) later states that India’s population will be young when other nations’ populations are ageing. If this benefit is only available to a small, highly educated elite, then we will not be able to compete with other nations. Almost 60% of the population living in rural areas, and 35% of them being under 15, but with inadequate human resource development.

This is a result of numerous issues facing India’s educational system. While several policymakers and education experts have advised raising education spending from the current level of 4% of GDP to 6% of GDP, this has not been the case in recent years. On the one hand, graduates from India’s best business schools, IITs, IIMs, and colleges are globally competitive, while on the other hand, basic and secondary schools, especially in rural areas, are at the bottom of the educational scale facing the issues of lack of teachers.

Rural-urban disparities in education access and quality

 (Pratham NGO, 2014) investigate how educational practices differ in rural and urban Indian schools and how such variations affect students’ learning outcomes. To evaluate the standard of education in rural areas across India, the study examines data from the 2014 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey.

According to the study, there are considerable differences between educational practices in rural and urban settings. Larger class numbers, fewer competent teachers, and sparse infrastructure and resources are more prevalent in rural schools. These elements play a role in rural areas’ poorer learning outcomes compared to urban areas.

According to (Pratham NGO, 2014), enhancing rural school practices is crucial for raising academic standards and bridging the achievement gap between rural and urban areas. The authors suggest strategies that will enhance community involvement in education, rural school

funding, and teacher preparation and professional development. According to data from the 2011 Census, the literacy rate is over 80% in urban regions and barely 60% in rural ones

Education funding in India

 Dongre and Kapur (2016b) find that there has been an increase in public expenditure on education in India, but this increase has yet to be uniform across all states. The central government has taken steps to increase funding for education, including implementing the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan program, which aims to provide universal elementary education. However, the authors note that the funding provided by the central government has been insufficient, and the burden of financing education has fallen largely on the states.

Furthermore,   Dongre and Kapur (2016b) note that states often face budgetary constraints when it comes to funding education, which may impact their ability to allocate resources to rural areas. As a result, rural areas may have less access to quality education and may face greater inequality in terms of educational opportunities—the need for greater attention to be paid to the issue of education financing in India. By addressing the challenges faced by the education sector, including those related to educational inequality in rural and urban india inequality, it may be possible to improve access to quality education and reduce disparities in educational opportunities.



 The methodology will include analysis of different results from NSSO and Census, also to examine the news articles and recent events.


Problem statement

 The rural economy contributes 46% of the national income and 25-30% of India’s GDP. Still, rural India lacks way behind in getting the development—essential services like healthcare services and education services. There is a very evident difference between the quality of education in schools in Rural India and the Quality of Education in Urban India. Ironically the majority of the population lives in Urban areas.


      1. Schools in Rural Vs Urban India.

A report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) shows that nearly 1.2 lakh schools in India only have one teacher, illustrating the severe educational inequality in rural and urban india disparity in education.

Rural areas are home to 89% of these single-teacher institutions. There are 11.16 lakh unfilled teaching posts in Indian schools, according to the “2021 State of the Education Report for India: No Teachers, No Class.”

“During the academic year 2018–19, roughly 75 percent of all teachers in India were employed by rural schools. According to the research, 60% of them were government school teachers, 26% were employed by private schools, and 7% were by private-aided institutions. However, there are more teachers in urban areas working in private schools (57%), government schools (25%), and private-aided schools (12%).

Interestingly, women make up an equal percentage of the teaching workforce, even though the educational inequality in rural and urban india divide is still present. In urban areas, they make up 63% of the teaching staff, as compared to 28% in rural areas. However, 88% of early childhood education teachers work in rural regions and are primarily female. According to UNESCO Report (Team & Boom, 2021), only 24% of secondary school teachers in rural areas are female, compared to 53% in metropolitan areas.

According to the report, at the primary and general secondary school levels, private school teachers only make roughly 43% of what a government school teacher makes.

Private school teachers make an average compensation of Rs. 13,564, while those who work in rural areas make an average salary of Rs. 11,584. The average salary for female teachers in rural private schools is significantly lower, at Rs 8,212. The survey also mentions that 69% of teachers don’t have employment contracts.

The lie within the numbers

 According to the Ministry of Education in India, there are a total of 14.89 lakh schools in the country, out of which only 2.54 lakh are located in urban areas, while the remaining 12.34 lakh schools are in rural areas. However, as per the Annual Status of Education Report, 2022, approximately one in every four schools in rural India does not have access to basic amenities like toilets or drinking water.

The government blog titled “Shaping the Bright Minds of Tomorrow: Education in Urban and Rural” states that the difference between urban and rural students is not due to their intellect but because of the environment they are surrounded by, their learning abilities, the availability of infrastructure, skills, and access to different facilities. These factors can significantly impact the quality of education that students receive and affect their future opportunities.

If we talk about the quality of education, we can see the difference between the data and the ground reality. We will examine the place of toppers of classes 10 in the last 5 years

Here is the list of class 10 toppers in CBSE and their location.

Year Name of School Urban/ Rural Average fees
2022 Amity International School, Urban ₹ 1,00,000
2021 Sai international school Urban 1,50,000
2020 Delhi Pub School Sectix Vasundhara Ghaziabad UP Urban 1,50,000
2018 DPS Gurgaon Urban 1,50,000

The conclusion coming from this table is that the state is claiming that the number of schools in Rural areas is more than in urban areas, but in seeing the results the toppers are continuously coming from the urban areas. The rural schools are full of single teachers.

One of the main reasons why results are not coming from rural schools is the lack of teachers. The total percentage of the vacant post has decreased as more teachers have been hired to work in schools.

However, the level of knowledge among the teaching team is poor, as several of the teachers lack a professional teaching degree.

When it comes to teachers, we frequently observe teacher absence from their duties. According to World Bank research, at a typical government-run elementary school, one out of every four teachers is not available for duty. Poorer states like Jharkhand and Bihar were found to have greater rates of teacher absenteeism, with the former having a rate of 42%.

In rural India, teachers frequently receive additional responsibilities, including maintaining the school’s physical plant, organising students and educating the local population about the value of education, leading polio missions and censuses, ensuring the execution of social programs at the school level, etc. All of this eats up teaching time and degrades learning effectiveness.

The NSS data for 2004-05 indicates significant rural and urban disparities- the enrolment rate being

6.73 percent and 19.80 percent for the rural and the urban areas, respectively – the GER in the urban areas being three times higher compared to rural areas.

         2. Colleges in Rural vs Urban

Among 1043 Universities, 408 Universities are privately managed, and 420 Universities are located in rural areas. 60.56% of Colleges are located in Rural Areas. The government report flexed the fact that 60.56% of the colleges are in rural India in the report (AISHE 2019-20).

We all are well aware of the fact that the colleges need a big piece of land to build the infrastructure as well as the building. The price of land in rural areas is comparatively lower than the price in urban areas.

The claims by the government are somehow portraying that the participation of students in higher education is very prominent. The report itself does not mention the percentage of rural and urban students in the colleges.

There is a chance that the large concentration of universities in rural areas will give local students additional options to pursue higher education. On the other side, because of things like higher fees mostly from the private colleges and cultural differences not letting students from rural backgrounds participate.

For example-TISS, Tuljapur is located in a rural area, according to the reports. The participation of students coming from a rural background is very low as compared to the students attending from an urban background.

The same example can be seen in many colleges located in the NCR region of Delhi. The colleges in Noida and Greater Noida claim themselves to be located in rural areas but the number of students enrolled from rural backgrounds in very low.

Liberty of Stream selection

According to Chakrabarti (2009), households from relatively poorer economic backgrounds, which are predominantly located in rural areas, are less likely to participate in higher education, with a greater gap between the rich and poor in professional degree courses such as Medicine and Engineering compared to general stream courses like Arts.

The proportion of students attending higher education institutions is significantly higher for Arts/Humanities streams compared to professional courses like Medicine and Engineering, for both urban and rural samples. The cost of education is a major factor in determining the number of students who choose to enrol in school and which educational courses they choose.

As the prospective cost of education increases, the likelihood of attending higher education institutions decreases, especially for general stream courses like Arts/Humanities and Commerce, and to a lesser extent for professional courses like Medicine and Engineering. This mismatch in impact is due to families being more willing to pay higher costs for rising expenses, after controlling for economic status.

Also (Murali & Murali, 2021) state that The Justice AK Rajan Committee refers after NEET, rural applicants’ hopes were reduced. It demonstrates that, compared to the pre-NEET period,

rural students received much fewer admittance offers from government and privately funded universities than urban students.

In the government lot, the data showed that while the rural students kept their pre-NEET average of 61.45% and dropped it to 49.91% in 2020–21, the urban students saw an increase in their pre–NEET average from 38.55% to 50.09% in 2020–21.

The availability of quality offline education is often low in rural areas, which can lead to a stark difference in educational qualification between urban and rural Indian populations. This difference in educational qualification often translates into lower job opportunities and income levels for those living in rural areas. Non-traditional education methods such as open courses and distance learning can help bridge this gap by providing access to education to people living in remote or underserved areas. The increasing adoption of these methods in states like Kerala, Bihar, and Jammu and Kashmir, which have lower availability of quality offline education, is a positive sign (A Study by KMPG in India and Google, 2017).

Rural India    4.5%  %Graduate Male Population            Urban India     17%

Rural India    2.2%  %Graduate Female Population       Urban India     13%

Rural India    INR 2.5K  Average Annual Spend            Urban India    INR 10K

                                           On Primary Education


Problems Faced by rural children in achieving education

Poor foundational knowledge and learning results

Although rural children attend school, the level of teaching they receive falls short. Their basic reading and math abilities are weak. Only 73% of eighth-grade students, according to ASER 2018 statistics, can read texts at the Grade II level. Additionally, only 44% of eighth-grade

students can complete a simple math problem. While in standard VIII, students are expected to be masters of foundational abilities.

Financial constraints

Children are entitled to free education up until the age of 14 under the Right to Education Act, after which they are no longer covered by the RTE. Families in rural areas are sometimes struggling financially for a variety of reasons. They no longer place high importance on their children’s education, which forces them to engage in income-generating activities in order to survive.

This is one of the causes of the low secondary and higher education enrollment rates. Only 43.1% of kids in India register in senior secondary school, and 14.2% engage in higher education, according to the MHRD’s Glance 2018 report on education data.

Remote schools

The population of secondary schools serving remote students is currently underwhelming. In India, there are only 1.39 lakh secondary and 1.1 lakh senior secondary schools that are recognised. The majority of them are found in areas of the village with a bigger population or in talukas. As a result, pupils must travel great distances to attend school.


Toilets are a frequent topic of conversation in rural schools, particularly for girls. A significant issue in schools is general sanitation, which has an effect on student’s health. It is crucial to have accessible, clean restrooms, especially for female students. Only 66.4% of schools, according to the ASER 2018 data, have usable restrooms for girls.

Policy recommendation

There should be data available for tracking the enrollment in schools and colleges from both rural and urban areas. Also, improving the education system in rural areas should not be judged based on schools and colleges situated in rural areas.

The availability of school teachers must be improved in rural areas. Also, it is important to appoint teachers with good qualifications and teachers with specialised subjects.

Focusing on Digital Education and a better understanding of online education should be promoted in rural areas. We see recently, during the COVID-19 time, the potential of online education.

It is important to promote the importance of education in the rural community. Usually, people from rural backgrounds tend to stop the education of the children and engage him/her in farms and other work.

It is also important to increase the fund allocation from the government and subsidise the education of children from rural backgrounds.


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Ritik Kumar Sinha

Tata Institute of Social Sciences ( TISS )
The Rural-Urban Disparity in Education System in India / Educational Inequality In Rural And Urban India




4 thoughts on “The Rural-Urban Disparity in Education System in India

  1. Gaurav

    Very Informative

  2. Gaurav

    Very Informative and well articulated paper.

  3. Ananya

    Well done.
    Keep going. 😊

  4. Vineet

    This is really well researched

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