Educational Development and Disparities in India: District-Level Analyses

  • Sayantani Chatterjee
  • Udaya S. Mishra


Education is one of the key domains of human capital. Besides improving the well-being of the individuals and building on cognitive skills, it acts as a catalyst for the closely interrelated economic, social, cultural and demographic changes in the population. A regional description of educational differences informs about the potential for convergence in this vital dimension of human capability towards addressing the visible north-south development divide in India. While regions in India remain divided in terms of attainment in literacy, such a divide is wider with reference to a range of educational outcomes in terms of districts.

Using data from Census 2011 and NFHS 4 (2015–2016), this chapter examines the state of educational development in the districts of India. The educational progress has been assessed using mean years of schooling (7+ years), school life expectancy (6–24 years), percentage of graduates (20+ years) and their gender parity indices. Descriptive statistics, composite index of educational attainment and educational progression ratio were computed for all the 640 districts of India. Results suggest wide variations in each of the educational outcome indicators across all the districts of India. The distribution of districts in mean years of schooling suggested that 26 districts (4%) had less than 4 years of schooling and 50 districts (8%) had above 8 years of schooling. Similar variations were observed for other indicators. More than half of the districts had school life expectancy between 11 and 13 years. In the composite index of educational attainment, the values were more than 0.6 in 100 districts (16%), while 52 (8%) of them had values below 0.4. The composite index was highest in the district of Ernakulam (0.756) followed by Kottayam (0.743) in Kerala and lowest in the district of Alirajpur (0.276) in Madhya Pradesh followed by Malkangiri (0.298) in Odisha. The probability of progressing from illiteracy to below primary education was 0.888, 0.556 from secondary to higher secondary while that from higher secondary to graduation was 0.382. The disparity between males and females in each of the outcome indicators was strikingly high across districts of India.


India District Educational progression School life expectancy Mean years of schooling