Measuring Education Performance in India and Suggestions for Improvement

Aaditya Tiwari
13 min readJun 27, 2024


The challenge of the Indian Education system is varied. While on one hand there is the struggle of finding quality teachers, improved infrastructure, appropriate curriculum and locating efficient governance structures, there is also a multiplicity of actors that are supposed to make sense of this mesh. Mudaliar Commission(1) was established in 1952 with regard to secondary education and it suggested diversifying the school curriculum, making vocational education part of the course. Kothari Commission(2) or the National Education Commission in 1966 was the first policy initiative by the Government of India to streamline school education in the country. An important recommendation was about standardizing the education system into the 10+2+3 format in India. Education became part of the concurrent list from the state list under the Forty Second Amendment Act, 1976 which was brought during the emergency(3). National Policy of Education (NPE), in 1986 (4) (later modified in 1992) was brought under the Rajiv Gandhi Administration. It launched ‘Operation Blackboard’ to improve the primary education status across the country. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government made universalization of primary education a mission and the Right to Education was made into a fundamental right. National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 (5) is the latest policy intervention brought by the Narendra Modi government after a gap of almost three decades. National Education Policy 2020 was adopted by the Union Cabinet on July 29, 2021. The focus of NEP 2020 is different from previous policies in the context that it puts a lot of weight on the quality of education.

The vision of the policy aspires to ‘provide high-quality education to all, and thereby making India a global knowledge superpower’ (6). Some of the commitments in the policy include (7):

  1. Changing school structure from the current 10+2 to 5+3+3+4 model to make learning more holistic.
  2. Focus on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE).
  3. ‘Achieve the goal of universal foundational literacy and numeracy in primary schools by 2025’.
  4. ‘Expose at least half the school and higher education students to vocational training by 2025’.
  5. ‘To adopt innovative mechanisms to group or rationalize schools by 2025’.
  6. ‘Ensure all students are school ready when they enter school in first grade by 2030’.
  7. ‘Prioritize bringing out of school children back into the educational fold. Aim to stop further drop out from schools and achieve 100% enrollment from preschool to grade 12 by 2030’.
  8. ‘Making teacher education multidisciplinary by 2030’.

(Source: NEP 2020)

These commitments are ambitious and an uphill task given the current state of schools in India(8). But we have 1.5 million schools, 265.2 million children and 9.5 million teachers (9) are at stake and the economic cost of failing this demographic will be enormous.

Peter Drucker is attributed the quote, ‘What can’t be measured, can’t be improved.’ India doesn’t have the challenge of measurement per se, but it is ineffective at using the data collected for improvement. There are multiple datasets and indexes which fail to guide the policy maker to make informed choices. For instance, the challenge of zero enrollment schools. Several state governments like West Bengal (10) and Arunachal Pradesh(11) have shut down zero enrollment schools, which were opened to comply with the Right to Education policy but hadn’t seen any admission for a long time. It is also important to define objectives towards which performance is being measured. Currently whatever measure happens is used to rank states and districts and the expectation is that a sense of competition will motivate lagging regions to perform better. Ideally, this exercise should be able to define factors that are causing a certain set of schools to outperform other schools in the same region.

This essay is an attempt to look at methods currently used to generate data and measure performance in India as well as to explore the feasibility of employing sixteen equity indicators(12) prepared by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in the United States.

Existing performance measuring mechanisms:

Unified District Information System For Education Plus (UDISE+)(13)

‘District Information System for Education’ (DISE) was piloted in 1995 to measure and monitor Government scheme implementation for primary grades. A similar management system called SEMIS was launched for grades 9–12 in 2008–09. A ‘Unified District Information System for Education’ (UDISE) was prepared by integrating both DISE and SEMIS in 2012–13. An updated version of UDISE called UDISE+ was introduced in 2018–19 with improved mapping, capture and verification of data.

UDISE+ isn’t an index but an elaborate collection of data on school management, student enrolment in different categories, number of teachers etc. It also measures data on various infrastructure developments like toilets for girls and boys, libraries, computer labs, internet etc. UDISE+ then comes up with certain findings which are basically representation of cumulative data without any analysis.

National Achievement Survey (NAS) (14)

NAS is a national level survey to identify learning level outcomes for students of class three, five, eight and ten. The purpose of the survey is to identify continuous learning and skill gaps. The first NAS survey was conducted in 2017 and the latest was held in 2021. It measured students of class three and five on language, math and environmental science; class eight kids on language, math, science and social science and class ten students on language, math, science, social science and english.

Performance Grading Index (PGI) (15)

Introduced in 2017–18, PGI was developed to provide insights into the status of school education across India. PGI collects data from the Department of School Education and Literacy, MoE and following sources:

  1. Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE+)
  2. National Achievement Survey (NAS) of NCERT
  3. Mid Day Meal website (MDM portal)
  4. Public Financial Management System (PFMS)
  5. Shagun PortalEL (This portal was launched in 2019 to integrate .23 million education websites across India.)


PGI measures a total of seventy indicators under two main categories, outcomes and governance & management. Under the outcomes category there are four domains:

  1. Learning Outcomes And Quality (measures 9 indicators obtained from Shagun and NAS)
  2. Access (measures 8 indicators obtained from UDISE+ and Shagun)
  3. Infrastructure & Facilities (measures 11 indicators obtained from UDISE+, Shagun and MDM portal)
  4. Equity (measures 16 indicators obtained from NAS, UDISE+ and Shagun)

Governance and Management category measures 1 domain which is governance processes (it measures 26 indicators obtained from UDISE+ and Shagun).

(Source: PGI 2020–21 Report)

School Education Quality Index (SEQI) (16)

School Education Quality Index (SEQI) was developed by NITI Aayog to evaluate the performance of schools in states and UTs. The purpose of the index was to focus on outcomes, strengths and weaknesses and help with policy interventions. The first report was launched in 2019.

SEQI measures two categories under outcomes and governance processes. Outcomes and further divided into four domains.

Category 1: Outcomes

  • Domain 1: Learning Outcomes
  • Domain 2: Access Outcomes
  • Domain 3: Infrastructure & Facilities for Outcomes
  • Domain 4: Equity Outcomes

Category 2: Governance Processes Aiding Outcomes

(Source: School Education Quality Index, 2019)

Challenges with current measurements:

  1. Performance Grading Index is a very elaborate exercise given its reliance on 70 varied indicators that source information from multiple portals. Data used by PGI is difficult to access and the platform to interact with the index isn’t very user friendly.
  2. The interface for the National Achievement Survey is interactive but has too many data points in one window. Also the averages are compared among districts and states, there can be a more efficient way to compare data instead of averages which hides information on inequality.
  3. The National Achievement Survey isn’t an annual feature. The first survey happened in 2017 and the second survey in 2021. To be able to see year on year growth, this survey has to be an annual feature. There is no other national survey that happens at such a scale.
  4. The National Achievement Survey should be used to identify skill gaps in language, math and science which will help policy makers to plan and allocate resources more efficiently.
  5. The equity indicators under the PGI and NAS measure the difference in math and language performance between scheduled caste and general category students, rural and urban students & minorities and general category students. Some indicators measure infrastructure facilities for children with special needs as well as boy and girl toilets. But these data points are not enough in either understanding or measuring the gap in performance and learning outcomes.
  6. UDISE+ data is elaborate in terms of physical and social infrastructure but the interface has to become more user-friendly allowing comparisons across years. It also fails to depict the growth trajectory of factors it measures.
  7. Data on Mid Day Meal isn’t centrally available. Different states provide this information differently without a uniform format.
  8. Shagun Portal needs to be reworked entirely as the interface is quite poor.
  9. The School Education Quality Index hasn’t been published since 2019.

There is a need to overhaul the data management methods and make it more scientific. An article published in the journal Scientific Data in 2016 by a group of scientists and organizations presents a set of guiding principles on scientific management of data. These are called the FAIR principle which means data that should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (17).

Building Equity Indicators for India

National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, US set up a committee which came out with a report in 2019 titled ‘Monitoring Educational Equity’18. The report identifies 16 key indicators to identify ‘differences in the conditions and structures in the education system that may affect students’ education’. These indicators have been chosen to highlight gaps, potential causes of those gaps and look for interventions to fill those gaps. The report proposes to measure inequities under two categories:

A. ‘Disparities in Outcomes’: to assess disparity in academic performance

B. ‘Equitable Access to Resource and Opportunities’

The attributes of such indicators as per the report are:

  1. ‘Able to measure academic outcomes over time’
  2. ‘Bring out disparity among subgroups within populations’
  3. ‘Indicators should be useful across different geographies and at different times’
  4. ‘Grade level appropriateness’
  5. ‘Factor in context that impacts education’
  6. ‘Frequently produce easy to understand summary of statistics’
  7. ‘Use methods that are scientifically sound’
  8. ‘Include continuous inputs from relevant research or other developments’

Disparities in Outcomes

Domain A: Kindergarten Readiness

Various studies in neuroscience suggest that around 85% of a child’s brain development happens by the age of 619. The early years of education are very critical in a child’s overall development. If proper interventions are made at the early childhood stage this can help bridge gaps among children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. The report suggests measuring disparity in two skills under this domain.

  1. Indicator 1: Disparity in Reading and Numeracy skills
  2. Indicator 2: Disparity in Self-regulation and Attention skills

The reading and numeracy skills can be measured under the National Achievement Survey. While the National Curriculum Framework, 200520 does focus on skills like discipline, attention etc but they would need to be incorporated into teacher training of early childhood educators.

Domain B: K–12 Learning and Engagement

Attendance and performance in school tests has direct and positive relevance to learning and attainment. Measuring group differences over these can help narrow down the gaps.

  1. Indicator 3: Disparity in attendance
  2. Indicator 4: Disparity in overall performance and being on track to finishing schools
  3. Indicator 5: Disparity in reading, math and science scores.

Shagun portal provides attendance data and indicators 4 & 5 can be covered by the National Achievement Survey.

Domain C: Educational Attainment

Education is a means to better opportunities and an improved lifestyle. Ideally, education in schools should be able to prepare students for college and financial opportunities.

  1. Indicator 6: Disparity in graduating on-time
  2. Indicator 7: Disparity in readiness for opportunities after school like college, employment opportunity or armed forces.

Annual board results will be able to identify the gaps in on-time graduation. There is no mechanism currently to capture post-secondary education avenues for the children.

Equitable Access to Resources and Opportunities

Domain D: Extent of Racial, Ethnic, and Economic Segregation

A child’s exposure depends on the peers they study along and grow with. Schools in low income areas or with majority students coming from low income or disadvantaged groups tend to perform poorly, leading to poor opportunities later.

  1. Indicator 8: Disparity in concentration of poverty or presence of diverse groups of students in the school.

This data can be captured by the UDISE+ surveys. Section 12 1(c) of the Right to Education21 promises admission of up to twenty five percent of maximum capacity of seats in class 1 to children belonging to economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups and provide them free and compulsory education till the completion of the school. Effective implementation of this section will increase the diversity within schools.

Domain E: Equitable Access to High-Quality Early Learning Programs

Pre-elementary schools play a vital role in kindergarten readiness and in overall development of the child. Access to pre-elementary education is a factor of geography, economic conditions and family background. The access to high quality early learning programs can lead a child to different lifepaths.

  1. Indicator 9: Disparities in access to and participation in high-quality pre-elementary programs.

The National Education Policy has focused on the aspect of early childhood education and care (ECCE). It suggests delivering high quality pre-elementary education by building well-ventilated, well-designed, child-friendly and well-constructed infrastructure. Also co-locating ECCE centers with anganwadi’s (rural childhood care center) or existing primary schools, wherever possible. This can be incorporated and measured through the UDISE+.

Domain F: Equitable Access to High-Quality Curricula and Instruction

Access to rigorous curriculum and quality teachers plays a critical role in the learning process of a child. Exposure to a diverse curriculum including subjects like science, geography, economics, technology, laboratories, languages, art and history makes the student well-rounded. A single teacher has the ability to inspire an entire classroom but there is no conclusive evidence on what teacher traits contribute to student achievement and outcomes. Experienced and more qualified teachers should be distributed equitably and not in a concentrated manner.

  1. Indicator 10: Disparities in access to experienced and qualified teachers in diverse subjects.
  2. Indicator 11: Disparities in access to and enrollment in rigorous coursework like programs, international baccalaureate.
  3. Indicator 12: Disparities in curricular breadth with absence in availability of subjects like economics, geography etc.
  4. Indicator 13: Disparities in access to high-quality academic support like tutoring etc.

Indicator 10, 12 and 13 can be easily measured through the UDISE+ and database created. For Indicator 11, state governments or CBSE can take initiative to adapt to rigorous curriculum in a phase wise manner.

Domain G: Equitable Access to Supportive School and Classroom Environments

Environments that are physically and emotionally safe address a child’s socio-emotional and academic requirements. While there is focus on building safer infrastructure, more stress has to be laid on supportive environments by providing access to counseling staff, social service etc.

  1. Indicator 14: Disparities in school climate in terms of perception of safety, support and trust etc.
  2. Indicator 15: Disparities in non-exclusionary discipline practices like suspensions and expulsions
  3. Indicator 16: Disparities in non-academic supports for student success

Indicator 14 can be measured by adding it to the National Achievement Survey, indicator 16 can be measured through the UDISE+. Indicator 14 can also be measured by involving school management committees. There is no mechanism to measure indicator 15 in the available data sources.


National Education Policy 2020 talks of Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs) like the scheduled castes, tribes, minorities, children with special needs and women as under-repesented cutting across all inequities. It mentions the disparity due to lack of access, quality of good schools, teachers and poor infrastructure. As the Indian economy grows, these disparities have to be reduced. The current education system will provide the bedrock that provides the skilled work-force that India would require, if attention is not paid in building an equitable landscape, India as a society might face unintended consequences. Hence, it must improve the measurement of performance in school education and build indicators that enable the policy maker to make informed decisions.


  1. “75th Independence day, education policies in india, New education policy, NEP, education post independence education news | Education News.” India TV News. Accessed December 16, 2022.
  2. “National Policy on Education 1968.” n.d. Government of India, Ministry of Education. Accessed December 16, 2022.
  3. The Hindu. 2022. “Transfer of ‘education’ to concurrent list during the Emergency has upset India’s federal structure, T.N. govt tells HC.” October 17, 2022.
  4. “npe86-mod92.pdf.” n.d. Ministry of Human Resource Development. Accessed December 16, 2022.
  5. “National Education Policy 2020.” n.d. Ministry of Education. Accessed December 12, 2022.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. “ASER 2021.” n.d. ASER Centre. Accessed December 12, 2022.
  9. n.d. UDISE+ Dashboard. Accessed December 12, 2022.
  10. EducationWorld. 2021. “West Bengal shuts schools with zero enrolment.” December 8, 2021.
  11. The Indian Express. 2020. “Arunachal govt to close down zero enrolment schools: Education Minister.” March 2, 2020.
  12. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Monitoring Educational Equity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  13. n.d. UDISE+. Accessed December 16, 2022.
  14. 2022. NAS Gov.
  15. n.d. Performance Grading Index (PGI). Accessed December 16, 2022.
  16. Ahmad, Junaid K., and Cristian Aedo. n.d. “Untitled.” | NITI Aayog. Accessed December 16, 2022.
  17. “What are the FAIR Data Principles? | Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library.” 2022. Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library.
  18. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Monitoring Educational Equity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  19. The Hindu. 2019. “Focussing on the critical years of a child’s life.” July 31, 2019.
  21. “Right to Education | Ministry of Education, GoI.” n.d. School Education. Accessed December 16, 2022.



Aaditya Tiwari

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