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India, or in official circles, the Republic of India, is a massive country in Southern Asia, with a total geographic area of 1.3 million square miles, making it the seventh-largest country in the world by total land area. The country is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south, the Arabian Sea to the southwest and the Bay of Bengal in the southeast. India shares land borders with Pakistan in the west, China, Nepal and Bhutan to the northeast and Burma and Bangladesh in the east. India is also in control of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia. The capital and largest city in India is New Delhi.
As of the 2011 census, India was home to a permanent population of over 1.2 billion, making it the second-most populated country in the world, after China, and the most populous democracy in the world. The overwhelming majority of India’s population is comprised of ethnic Indians, with smaller minority groups that include the Pakistani, Chinese, Nepalese and even smaller groups of those from Burma and Bangladesh. India has two official languages: Indian and English. The Indian language, which is the most commonly spoken language in the country and is used for most official matters of the state, is broken down into two major language families: Indo-Aryan, spoken by nearly 75 percent of the population, and Dravidian, spoken most commonly by the remaining 25 percent. English is used occasionally for official dealings within the government and for commerce and is taught as a second language in most Indian schools. Hindi is the official religion of India and is practiced by the majority of its residents, with other religions, particularly Islam, practiced by small minority groups within the country.
Education in India
Education in India is the responsibility of both the national government and the individual states, and schooling is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14—the years that comprise primary or elementary education. The education is divided between three distinct levels: primary education, secondary education and higher education.
In recent years the primary level of education has been a high priority of the Indian government at both the state and national level. To ensure students have wide and equal access to the school system—a system in which over 80 percent of the schools are state-run and supported—India has banned child labor. This move, which also helps protect young children from being exposed to unsafe working conditions, has helped to improve the attendance rates in some states, some of which report net enrollment rates upwards of 90 percent. However, in some outlying and poverty-stricken states, free and compulsory education and the ban on child labor are difficult to enforce due to economic disparity and poor social conditions.
Secondary school enrollment is not mandatory in India but enrollment rates have improved dramatically in recent years. All students between the ages of 14 and 18 who have completed their primary education are permitted to attend, and the curriculum includes both academic and vocational training, with the latter typically provided in a variety of career fields by professionals within the community. The curriculum is based on the 1986 National Policy on Education which provided for environment awareness, science and technology education, along with a reintroduction of traditional elements such as Yoga into the secondary school system.
Higher education in India is provided by the country’s universities, most of which are operated by the national government. Students with a secondary school diploma are allowed to pursue undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate degrees in a select number of academic disciplines.
Although there is still plenty of room for improvement, India has made great progress in their educational system in recent years. The result has been an expansion of literacy to over two-thirds of the population and an economy that is now on the rise.