India, April 17 -- A fundamental tension in the design of education systems is that, historically, they have served three very different roles. First, they have sought to impart knowledge and skills that improve employment and earnings prospects (the human capital role). Second, they have aimed to create shared norms of behaviour, values, and identity (the socialisation role). Third, they have aimed to assess and classify students by educational ability and achievement to select students for higher education and skill-intensive occupations (the sorting role).

A simple way to understand the Indian education system is that it is mainly driven by the sorting role. Indeed, the Indian education system is perhaps best understood as a filtratio...