The Inter-Linkages between Education and Development

The state of Himachal Pradesh (HP) is known for its relatively better achievements in schooling in India. Based on the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014, the non-enrolment in schools among children in the 6 – 14 years age-group is only 0.3% in the state whereas, the all-India figure is eleven times higher, at 3.3%.


The state of Himachal Pradesh (HP) is known for its relatively better achievements in schooling in India. Based on the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014, the non-enrolment in schools among children in the 6 – 14 years age-group is only 0.3% in the state whereas, the all-India figure is eleven times higher, at 3.3%. A much higher level of enrolment in HP can be seen in the higher grades too. Only 3.2% of boys and girls aged 15 – 16 years are not enrolled in schools, while this figure is 15.9% for boys and 17.3% girls at the national level.

The poverty rate in HP is only 8.5% (World Bank, 2015) which is nearly one-third of that of the country. Life expectancy is about three years more than the national average. The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of the state is 36.1 (20056), also significantly lower than the corresponding figure at the national level, 57. The vaccination coverage is about 70% when it is only 50% at the country level. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in HP has come down closer to the replacement level which is a notable achievement when compared to many major states in North India. Though the sex ratio at birth (970 girls for 1000 boys) is unfavourable towards females, it is significantly better than the all-India situation (940 for 1000). The improvements in health and education give HP a higher position in the Human Development Index next only to Kerala and Delhi. Compared to the other Indian states, HP also has an above-average growth rate in its State Domestic Product (SDP).

Research Findings on the Achievements in the State

Researchers have attempted to analyse the factors behind the achievements of HP in terms of education and human development. The social and political basis of the achievements in education are noted in the Public Research on Basic Education (PROBE), 1999. Sanan (2008)1 summarizes some of these features, The surplus generated by the scattered rural communities was minimal. Hence, the class distinction in the rural society (marked by a tiny ruling elite, a large mass of landowning peasants, and a smaller number of tenants and artisans) was not sharp. The interdependence within communities necessitated by the physical environment, women’s importance as a source of labour, and the absence of sharp socio-economic stratification, enabled all sections of society to access development services’ when these were provided by the state government’. These enabling social conditions are noted by others too (Drèze, 2003; World Bank, 2015). Mangla (2014) notes that the bureaucratic system in HP is relatively more autonomous and hence innovative in responding to the needs of people. We discuss critically, some of these explanations in a later section. However, as noted by the World Bank (2015: 3) the literature that can help understand why its outcomes are better than those of its neighbours, is lamentably sparse’.

Scope of the Case Study 2

This case study is based on a short-period fieldwork in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh during November 5 – 12, 20163. This mountainous district is located close to India’s border with China and is adjacent to the state of Uttarakhand. It is also remote in the sense that it can take up to 812 hours to travel by road from Shimla, the capital of HP. These features of the selected district help us to control some factors which enable the spread of education including, closeness to the state-capital, accessibility, and so on. The villages selected were Kalpa, Sangla and Chitkul (a frontier village). The fieldwork included visiting schools for discussions with teachers and visiting villages for unstructured interviews with informed residents like retired officials from the education department of the district. We explored the origins of educational institutes in the locality, the dynamics of the use of schooling, and the challenges faced in the current schooling system.

Insights from the Case Study

The observations/​conclusions based on the case study are discussed in the following sections.

1. Schools in this remote region started much before the formation of the state of HP 

Primary schooling had started in all these villages much before the formation of the state of Himachal Pradesh. This was despite the remoteness of these localities, from where people had to walk more than 10 – 12 hours (or a few days) to reach the nearest town (Rampur) until the middle of the twentieth century when roads and bus transport reached there. In one of these villages, a primary school was founded in the last decade of the 19th century with a local as the teacher, who was himself schooled till standard VIII in Kashmir4. Two other lower middle schools were started in the area soon after5. Though these were started as private schools, they soon got the support from the local king6 and were turned into government middle-schools in the 1940s. According to one of our local sources, who studied in one such school in the 1930s, there were about 70 – 80 students and half of them were staying in the hostel.

The primary schools in Sangla and Chitkul were started by the 1950s. A night school in Chitkul started around the same time by a local landlord by the name of Mahatma Gandhi, mainly for the purpose of adult learning. A few years later, it transformed into a regular primary school7. Hence, some people from these remote localities could complete schooling and then continue higher education elsewhere even in the fifties8. Certain jobs were available for educated people in the locality, including that in the Army, and we discuss this in the next section.

2. India-China War in the early sixties enabled education

The district of Kinnaur is located close to the border and the village of Chitkul is only 70 km away from it. Kalpa is also an important intermediary point of travel from North India towards the Chinese border. The Indo-Chinese war in the sixties might have changed the local situation significantly. The construction of roads to the border (for the use of the Armed Forces) started then. There was an increase in the recruitment of the local people into the Army9. The fact that these villages were close to the border and the people were used to the difficult terrain might have facilitated the recruitment (initially to the lower tiers of the Armed Forces)10. The need for some education or literacy to be in the Army might have encouraged some people to acquire school education. The interaction of the initial recruits from the region with others in the Army, who may have had higher levels of education, may have demonstrated to the former, the benefits of acquiring an education. These factors may have increased the demand for education and thereby, the use of the limited facilities available for schooling in these villages even in the sixties, much before the establishment of the state government of HP.

3. Social factors enabled the creation of demand for schooling among most caste groups

Even when schools are available, and when certain sections of the society are using schooling, it may not necessarily encourage others to avail of it, as evident from the studies of other North-Indian states (Santhakumar et al, 2016). However, the situation in the hill districts of HP could be different due to several underlying reasons. Researchers have noted that there is a relatively less unequal distribution of land among different caste groups in HP (Drèze, 2003; World Bank, 2015). The definition of tribe’ is slightly different in the hilly districts of Kinnaur and Lahul-Spiti with most people being categorized as Scheduled Tribes (STs), including the land-owning castes like the Rajputs. Here, the remoteness and mountainous terrain are the reasons for attributing tribal-ness’ to sections of the society.

There could be other features as well. The absence of wide stretches of land, and the limited nature of cultivation (carried out only during seasons other than winter and with minimal tilling on the hill slopes) did not lead to the creation of the system of a few landowners with an army of agricultural workers. Most people who owned land, cultivated it with the help of family labour. This would mean that the category of landless agricultural worker’ among the population was not significant. There was the land-owning peasant group (predominantly, Rajputs), and another section involved in a number of artisanal occupations like weaving, carpentry, and so on11. Some of the latter were categorized as Scheduled Castes(SC) but they too were not landless as they owned and cultivated small holdings of land. Hence, the socio-economic gap between different social (caste) groups was not significant in these parts of HP.

When schools were made available, and when the demand for schooling began to grow among some people (say, because of the employment in the Army), most others too, irrespective of their caste, may have started feeling the usefulness of schooling12. We have heard from the locals that students from some of the traditionally backward castes are doing better in terms of education13. Even in 1981, that is, only 10 years after the formation of the state of HP, a much higher percentage of SC and ST students were attending schools in the state, compared to many other Indian states (Table 1). This could be due to the pre-existing conditions which were favourable for these social groups within the state.

Table 1: The percentage of children aged 6 – 10 years reported attending school, by gender and caste for major states of India, 1981 and 1991 Census.

StateRural Areas, Males
— — — — –Scheduled CastesScheduled TribesAll Population
Andhra Pradesh4046.928.53549.254.5
Himachal Pradesh63.772.658.471.273.778.4
Madhya Pradesh38.445.527.832.642.848.5
Tamil Nadu58.875.3395070.678.3
Uttar Pradesh33-42-41.141.5
West Bengal3733.128.928.345.644.7
All India41.635.350.652.3
Andhra Pradesh23.929.813.617.630.639.6
Himachal Pradesh44.862.428.756.857.570.3
Madhya Pradesh13.227.19.620.418.634.3
Tamil Nadu39.96627.239.85871.6
Uttar Pradesh8.1-19.1-17.524.6
West Bengal23.926.41418.834.437.6
All India20.517.331.439.3

Source: Ramachandran V. 2003; quoted by Reddy (2007)

4. Societal setup enabled the schooling of both boys and girls

Researchers and commentators have noted a relatively better status of women in these hilly districts compared to the flat terrains of North India (Drèze, 2003; Sanan, 2008; World Bank, 2015). The theory14 which speculates on the relative position of male and female based on the nature of the dominant occupation in a geographical area seems to be relevant here. In terrains where tilling (or the use of plough) requires hard labour or in geographies where people depend on cattle rearing (with movement from one place to another) or long-distance trade, male labour is valued highly. This may encourage families to retain male labour (sons) and send daughters out and accept daughters-in-law for facilitating reproduction. These may sustain practices of dowry and patrilocal residence and the associated problems’. It has been noted that dowry and patrilocality are not as enabling practices for the education and work-participation of girls as bride-price and matrilocality or neolocality are15.

The situation in HP (especially, in the hilly districts like Kinnaur) is such that the female labour is valued somewhat at par with, if not more than, that of the male. Here, the cultivation does not require hard tilling (which may have warranted the use of male labour). The other operations like seeding, light tilling (appropriate for slopes), harvesting, carrying agricultural supplies and agricultural produce along mountain slopes, and so on, are carried out by both, men and women. This may be the reason for a slightly better status of women in these societies. The recruitment of the men into the army might have also enhanced the importance of women as they were left behind to manage agricultural operations and the local trading of the produce. All these, in turn, may have influenced the marriage-related practices. Dowry has not become a serious social issue here as in the other parts of India. Women continue to have property rights. We were told by a few locals that the practice of asking the would-be in-laws to register land in the name of the girl before agreeing to the marriage (by the parents of girls) is not uncommon here16. Though patrilocal residence is prevalent, the distance between the girl’s residence before and after marriage is generally not too much in these hilly areas. In general, the position of women in the household (in terms of responsibilities and informal rights) seems to be relatively better in the mountainous tracts of HP when compared to that of women in the other parts of North India17.

This is not to say that there is no discrimination against women in HP. Parents were not keen to send girls to school even the 1950s18 . In the school in Kalpa, which was started in 1890, there were only a few girl students even in the 1940s19 . However, the growing demand for schooling through the demonstration effect, and also the relatively better position of women or greater dependence on them for managing family affairs due to the employment of men elsewhere (De, 2002), might have changed the situation. Hence, one may not notice any significant difference between boys and girls in the use of schooling during the last three to four decades. The way boys and girls (in higher grades) interact in schools also shows the relative freedom and equality that the latter enjoy here compared to the intensely patriarchal and restrictive settings in the other parts of India. In this sense, HP seems to be closer to the hilly states in North-East India (like Mizoram).

5. The state government of HP has built on the pre-existing advantages of the region

We have seen that the groundwork for mass education had started and progressed significantly, even before the formation of the state of Himachal Pradesh in 1971. The successive governments of HP have built on this foundation. The expansion of road networks could be an important initial development enhancing the mobility of people and goods. The funds allocated by the Central Government to HP as a special category state’ may have facilitated this infrastructure development (Sanan, 2008). It may be noted that the closeness to the Chinese border has provided an incentive to the Central Government to provide such funds and also to invest directly in developing and maintaining infrastructure in remote districts like Kinnaur. The law which prevents outsiders from buying land in HP may have facilitated the retention of land among the local people, though the land ownership was relatively less skewed in the state even before the passing of this law.

The growing demand for schooling that started before the 1970s might have created pressure on the newly established state to enhance investments in education. Certain features of the state (its small size and the special category status) may have facilitated these investments too. This has led to the setting up of new schools (for higher grades or in localities which were far from the existing schools) and programs that encourage children from all sections to attend school. Hence, the infrastructure and other facilities in schools in HP are relatively better than those in other states. On an average, 138 primary schools and 18 middle schools per lakh population exist in HP whereas, the figures in a state that is performing better in this regard, namely, Kerala are only 22 and 8, respectively (Santhakumar et al, 2016). The hilly terrain of HP might have necessitated this distributed infrastructure. Successive governments have also instituted a number of programs to enhance the demand for schooling, such as, the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) scholarship, free writing materials and free textbooks for all students in the tribal areas, free clothing/​uniform to girl students in the tribal areas, free textbooks to IRDP/SC/ST and OBC students in the non-tribal areas, attendance scholarship for girls, poverty stipend, scholarship for Lahaul-Spiti region and so on. The state introduced the Mid-Day-Meal scheme in 1995. It was initially a food-grain distribution service which was changed to a hot, cooked meal from 2004.

Hence, primary schooling became almost universal in the 1980s even in the difficult terrains of the state. The overall school enrolment and completion by the end of the millennium were substantially better when compared with most other states in North India (as evident from Table 2).

There might be pressure to increase appointments in government jobs in a state where there were not many other opportunities for employment for educated people. Appointment to teaching positions might have gone up as a consequence of this demand and the political compulsion to respond to it. We could see that the pupil-teacher ratio was significantly lower in HP compared to other states20. This too may have benefitted schooling.

Table 2: School Attendance by State in 1988 – 99.
The percentage of the household population age 6 – 17 years attending school by gender, residence, age, and state, India, 1998 – 99

6 – 10 yrs91.783.
11 – 14 yrs85.178.580.282.861.6678470.473.9
15 – 17 yrs65.354.857.760.532.840.3634449.3
6 – 14 yrs88.781.483.186.369.773.787.675.778.6
6 – 17 yrs8375.877.68061.766.281.56972.1
North Delhi8689.286.287.683.287.286.786.286.7
Himachal Pradesh96.495.495.596.392.89396.394.194.3
Jammu & Kashmir8385.885.385.267.670.48476.677.8
Central Madhya Pradesh8473.175.977.95862.881.265.769.6
Uttar Pradesh77.777.377.37757.361.477.36869.9
East Bihar79.166.868.272.147.550.575.557.459.6
West Bengal78.572.573.776.165.96877.369.370.9
North East Arunachal Pradesh96.782.384.287.374.375.992.278.380.1
West Goa91.288.589.687.286.586.889.287.588.1
South Andhra Pradesh80.171.373.578.556.061.579.463.967.7
Tamil Nadu84.481.682.684.773.376.984.577.479.7

Source: Reddy (2007)

6. Improvements in health Indicators followed the spread of education

Though the relative success of HP in terms of education is known for some time, there is a recent interest in the other dimensions of human development of the state. The improvements in the health indicators of the state (like the reduction in infant mortality rate) have been noted in literature (for example, World Bank, 2015). However, the tendency is to either view the improvement in health independent of that in education or the possible contribution of the spread of education towards an improvement in health indicators has not been analysed adequately.

While analysing the temporal pattern, one can see that the spread of schooling has preceded the improvement in health indicators. This is evident from the fact that the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in the mid-1990s or the early 2000s was unacceptably high in HP, and the improvement in this regard has occurred only afterwards. The IMR in HP (51 per 1000) was 39 points higher than that in Kerala in 2004 and that came down to 24 points in 2012. Hence, the improvement in the health indicators is a recent phenomenon in the state. There are indications that such an improvement is due to the better practices followed by people, and not necessarily due to the supply of health-care facilities. Nearly 29% of the child-deliveries occur outside health-care facilities in HP whereas that figure is only 0.2% in Kerala. This indicates the possibility of education (especially, female education) contributing to better practices of infant and child care, and these may have contributed to the improvement in the health indicators, albeit slowly and gradually. This contribution of female education has been noted in other contexts in literature (Elo, 1992; Bhatia and Cleland, 1995a; Govindasamy, 2000).

7. The expansion of commercial cultivation of horticulture crops followed after the expansion of education

The contribution of the cultivation of horticultural crops like apple, to the income growth of households in HP is well recognized. Though apple cultivation has a history of 8 – 9 decades in HP (especially, in areas around Shimla), the expansion of apple cultivation in Kinnaur has started only after the mid-eighties21. The spread of apple cultivation has increased the income of households22, which in turn, has enhanced their ability to invest in the education of their children (in private schools nearby or even far from home and also for higher education to other parts of the state or the country)23. However, the initial phase of development of education has preceded (not followed) the expansion of commercial cultivation. This is due to the fact that schooling had covered a substantial share of the population before the mid-1980s in this district, at a time when commercial horticulture had just started to gain popularity. The spread of education by the mid-eighties may have contributed to the knowledge and ability of the farmers to assimilate the practices of commercial horticulture. Hence, it seems that in HP, mass education has contributed to income growth (through commercial agriculture) and not the other way around.

Explanations for the Success of HP: An Analysis

The PROBE (1999) attributes the success of education in HP to the existence of effective parent-teacher associations (PTAs) and community involvement in affairs related to schooling. The widely shared interest in and the exposure to the benefits of schooling could be the reason for the communities and PTAs to be active in HP more than in the other North-Indian states. Drèze and Kingdon (2001) found that both, household features (such as parental education) and village characteristics were important determinants of school attendance in HP whereas, only household features were significant in the other North-Indian states. This too may indicate towards the importance of conditions by which the educational achievements of one household encourage the use of schooling by others, or which sets the demonstration effect into motion.

One explanation for the relatively better status of schooling in HP focusses on the role of the state government (Sanan, 2008; World Bank, 2007; and World Bank, 2015). The same local elites who had taken initiatives to spread education in the region before the formation of the HP state, might have continued similar strategies with greater vigour when they became political leaders and rulers of the state government. However, there can be a few problems with the perspective that attributes a major role for human-development to the state government because if that is the key differentiating factor, then there should be a political economy explanation for the creation/​emergence of such a government.

It is argued that the form of Governance (in HP) is based on a clear, though unwritten, social contract, where citizens repose trust in a state that has historically looked out for them. For instance, citizens expect the state to provide a range of entitlements, from public employment to basic services’ (World Bank, 2015: 48). However, such demand for goods and services (mainly private goods) from the state can be seen in most states of India as part of the political transformation when the governance moves away from the elite control/​capture (Santhakumar, 2014). The political régime in HP is one of competitive populism driven by two parties, with the leadership of people from landed and elite/​feudal families24. In that sense, a class-based mobilization of non-elites (as had happened in Kerala or West Bengal) or that based on identity/​caste (as in a number of other states including, Tamil Nadu) has not happened in HP. Its politics is not different from the competitive politics of most other North-Indian states (using the framework of Santhakumar, 2014) where the competing parties are under different degrees of elite control. Or the pre-existing social hierarchies have not been broken through the political process there (Negi, 1993 in World Bank, 2015). Hence, the unstinting loyalty’ of the citizens to the state government noted in World Bank (2015: 48) could be an outcome of the persistence of social hierarchies and the limited mobilization of non-elites against the elite-controlled political parties of the state.

However, the spread of education, which started even before the formation of the state can be a part of the political economy framework that may explain the increased responsiveness on the part of the state. The spread of education even in the rural areas might have contributed not only to the growth of incomes and class mobility of a section of the society (say from poor to the middle class) but this may have increased the willingness to demand specific goods and services from the state, which in turn could enhance its responsiveness. Such a responsiveness may lead to the expanded provision of public services in education and health-care, and this can accelerate the process of human development. The provision of higher levels of public employment, which is attributed to an implicit social contract (World Bank, 2015), could be an outcome of the pressures from educated people from most parts (rural and urban areas) of the state. In the absence of such a spread of education, either the demand for such services are muted or it could be for services other than education and health-care such as subsidies or cash transfer for consumption (Santhakumar, 2014). Hence, the pre-existing social conditions and the spread of education in the rural/​remote areas might have made the politics and governance of HP more accountable.

The other explanation is the different nature of the bureaucratic system of the state or their flexible working norms (Mangla, 2014). This explanation is also silent on what has made the bureaucracy of the state different25. The specific features of that flexibility mentioned in Mangla (2014) are visible in other states too such as Kerala and can be the product of an enabling local political economy. The presence of an educated section of the society at the village-level even before the formation of the state may indicate the possibility of an adequate social basis for demanding development services’ from the state government, compelling the bureaucracy and political system to deliver better. This can make changes in the system of the bureaucracy. For example, one of the efforts of the state is Himachal Pradesh Prathmik Sahayak Adhyapak /​Primary Assistant Teacher (P.A.T.) Scheme, 2003’ under which the gram panchayats were allowed to recruit a teacher from the same village or nearby village on a contract basis following a defined procedure. It is highly unlikely that the state government or bureaucracy would have given such power to panchayats without any demand from the people. Therefore, the flexibility of the system may be the result of the demand for education among the people, rather than just the farsightedness of the government or the bureaucracy. One of the indications that the demand may have prompted it is that this scheme started only in the year 2003 when a considerable improvement in education had already taken place.


  1. Quoted in Santhakumar et al (2016)

  2. The financial support for the case study was provided by the Azim Premji University.

  3. The geographical locality of the study is same as that of Chakrabarti and Banerjea (2000) which has a more detailed description of the recent history and geography of this district and which is not repeated here.

  4. Based on the discussion with a retired teacher from this school, Mr. Shyam Saran Negi. This school was started in the Chini Village in 1890 by a person called, Master Hari Lal. Mr. Negi joined the school in 1927 at the age of ten. He had to go to Rampur – the headquarters of the Bushahr state, of which Kinnaur was a part, by walking for a couple of days to appear in the grade VIII examination in 1935. The schools in Kalpa started conducting grade VIII exams in 1940s.

  5. The other two schools were opened in Kilwa (by Baba Rang Ramanuj) and Kanam.

  6. The local king then, Padam Singh had started giving teachers’ salary, as told by Shyam Saran Negi.

  7. This was the information provided by the teachers in a high school in Chitkul, Sangla

  8. Based on the discussions in Kamru, Sangla.

  9. This was mentioned in a number of discussions.

  10. This may be the beginning of the trend by which people from HP became an important part of the Indian Army. One estimate is that 4.8% of the people in the Indian Armed Forces come from HP, a state which accounts for only 0.6% of the national population (Khalidi, 2002).

  11. Based on the discussion with a retired educational functionary and her husband who have grown up in Kalpa. The presence of these two broad groups in Kinnaur is noted in Chakrabarti and Banerjea (2000).

  12. The demand for schooling among most sections of Kinnaur irrespective of the caste status is noted in Chakrabarti and Banerjea (2000).

  13. Moreover, teachers note that dropping out or irregular attendance of children from the lower castes or the economically backward families is not an issue in their schools. However, some families, irrespective of their caste, are not in a position to monitor the studies of their children and this may reflect in their learning achievements.

  14. For example, there are evolutionary explanations for the prevalence of bride-price instead of dowry in certain regions, Dunbar and Barret, 2007.

  15. A review of this is given by Santhakumar (2018).

  16. As noted by the teachers in the Chitkul High School.

  17. The relatively equal decision-making power of women in HP was noted by female teachers whom we interviewed in the schools.

  18. As noted in the discussions in the school in Sangla, and also with a retired, female education functionary in Reckong Peo.

  19. Based on the discussions with Shyam Saran Negi.

  20. The high school in Chitkul has 8 teachers for 26 students and the middle school in Kalpa has 5 teachers for 40 students.

  21. Based on the discussions with informants in both Kalpa and Sangla. Before that period, the dominant crops were jowar and other coarse grains.

  22. According to owners of small-scale apple orchards, one apple tree may contribute 10 – 12 boxes of apples per year worth 10000 to 12000 Rupees per annum.

  23. The relationship between income from apple cultivation and investments for education in private and/​or distantly located institutes came up in most discussions.

  24. World Bank (2015: 48) notes: Himachal Pradesh has historically been ruled” by a set of largely benevolent, feudal entities, primarily from the Rajput caste’. What made these rulers benevolent’, is not clear. The report also notes that Rajasthan too has a culture of benevolent feudalism. However, this benevolence’ has not improved the development indicators there.

  25. One explanation given in World Bank (2015: 49) is that due to the topography and climate, districts and sub-districts could often get cut off from the state capital and had to innovate to remain functional’. However, this factor does not seem to have made the bureaucracy in Uttarakhand similarly innovative.


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V. Santhakumar, Professor, Azim Premji University
Indervir Singh, Assistant Professor, Central University of Himachal Pradesh
Naresh Kumar, PhD scholar, Punjabi University