Education ministers of India since independence

-Riya Ganguly

Education Ministers of India

Formerly known as the Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) till 2020, the Ministry of Education of India is the department of the Indian government in charge of the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP)- the policy formulated by the government to promote and regulate elementary to higher education in rural and urban India.  

With the recent resignation of Ramesh Pokhriyal as Minister of Education, Dharmendra Pradhan was inducted into the Modi cabinet as India’s new Education Minister on 7 July 2021 during the cabinet reshuffle process. Let’s take a look at the former Education Ministers of India since independence.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (term: August 1947 – February 1958)

The first education minister of independent India, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was associated with the Indian National Congress. A part of the Nehru government, Azad never received formal education, being self-taught in English and home schooled in traditional Islamic education from his scholarly father and Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, who ensured he received a well-rounded education. His contributions to Indian education are apparent in the naming of several institutions in his honour.

Kalu Lal Shrimali (term: February 1958 to August 1963)

This union education minister was a part of the Nehru government and a representative of the INC. Shrimali was educated at Banaras Hindu University, Calcutta University and Columbia University, New York. His contributions to education earned him the prestigious Padma Vibhushan in 1976.

Humayun Kabir (term: September 1963 to November 1963)

The third education minister of India under Nehru’s government, Humayun Kabir completed his IA from Presidency University (Kolkata), BA and MA in English from Calcutta University with first class distinction and went on to receive his Modern Greats degree with first class from Exeter College, Oxford University in 1931.

Mohammadali Carim Chagla (term: November 1963 to November 1966) 

Serving as the minister of education from under Nehru, Shastri and Gandhi, Chagla was associated with the INC. He was an alumnus of St. Xavier’s High School and College, Bombay and the Lincoln College, Oxford University where he received his BA and MA degree in modern history.

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (term: November 1966 to March 1967)

The INC party politician and lawyer was inducted as the fifth minister of education under Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. He completed his higher education from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, becoming the first immigrant Assamese from East India to receive a doctor of medicine degree.

Triguna Sen (term: March 1967 to February 1969) 

Triguna Sen held the office of union minister for education in Indira Gandhi’s government. Completing his mechanical engineering degree from Bengal Technical University, he went on to obtain his doctor of engineering degree from Munich University, doing his research in fluid mechanics. His contributions to education are marked by his Padma Bhushan in literature and education in 1965 along with his significant efforts in the growth of Jadavpur University and Banaras Hindu University as their vice chancellor.

Vijayendra Kasturi Ranga Varadaraja Rao (term: February 1969 to March 1971)

Serving the ministry of education under Indira Gandhi, this congress party politician and economist was an alumnus of Bombay University obtaining BA and MA degrees in economics. He went on to attend Cambridge University (Gonville and Caius College) where he received his MA and Ph.D degrees. His contributions to education are notable in his establishment of numerous Indian institutions and research centres, most notably the Delhi School of Economics. He was also the recipient of the Padam Vibhushan Award in 1974.

Siddhartha Shankar Ray (term: March 1971 to March 1972) 

This education minister under Indira Gandhi’s government was associated with the INC, and completed his higher education from Presidency University, Calcutta and University Law College (Calcutta University), following which he served as Barrister-at-Law at Inner Temple, London.

Saiyid Nurul Hasan (term: March 1972 to March 1977) 

The Congress party statesman and historian served under Indira Gandhi’s government. Hasan completed his graduation from Muir Central College, Allahabad, following which he obtained his M.A. and D.Phil. in history from New College, Oxford University. He was instrumental in establishing political neutrality of education by ameliorating the career advancement scheme of several leftist teachers, and is credited with the establishment of the “10+2+3” education system followed at high school, junior college and undergraduate levels.

Pratap Chandra Chunder (term: March 1977 to July 1979)

The Janata Party politician served as the education minister of India in the Morarji Desai Ministry. He received his B.A. (Hons.) degree in history with first class from Presidency College, Kolkata, following which he obtained his LL.B. and D.Phil. Arts degree from the University of Calcutta.

Charan Singh (term: July 1979 to January 1980)

The INC politician was inducted into Charan Singh’s cabinet as the minister of education and culture. He completed his bachelor’s degree from the Jammu & Kashmir University, Srinagar, following which he received his master’s and doctoral degree in political science from the University of Delhi.

B. Shankaranand (term: January 1980 to October 1980)

Shankaranand was associated with the INC and held office in Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. He was an alumnus of the Lingraj College Belgaum, Siddharth College Bombay, Govt. Law College Bombay and RL Law College, Belgaum from where he obtained his BA (Hons.) and LL.B degrees.

Shankarrao Chavan (term: October 1980 to August 1981)

The INC politician and advocate served as the education minister in the Indira Gandhi cabinet. Chavan was an alumnus of Madras University from where he received his B.A. degree and Osmania University from where he obtained his LL.B. degree.

Sheila Kaul (term: August 1981 to December 1984)

The social democratic leader of the INC held the position of Education Minister under Indira and Rajiv Gandhi’s ministries. She was educated in the Lahore College for Women and the Ganga Ram Training College, Lahore from where she received her degree in arts and in teaching respectively. She led the Indian delegations in the First Conference of Ministers of Education and Culture of the Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries, Pyongyang in 1983 and the International Conference on Education, Geneva in 1984.

Krishna Chandra Pant (term: December 1984 to September 1985)

Appointed as the minister for education in Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet, Pant was associated with the INC. He obtained his postgraduate degree from Lucknow University, following which he pursued higher studies in Germany. Pant’s contributions to the education field comprised his numerous campaigns such as mass literary campaign, education for the blind and education for all initiative. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Indira Gandhi National Open University.

Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao (term: December 1984 to September 1985, December 1994 to 9 February 1995, and January 1996 to May 1996)

Associated with the INC, Rao served as the minister of HRD for three terms: in Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet from 26 September 1985 to 25 June 1988 and twice during his own prime ministership- from 25 December 1994 to 9 February 1995 and from 17 January 1996 to 16 May 1996. He completed his bachelor’s degree in arts from the Osmania University, following which he obtained his master’s degree in law from Hislop College, completing his law degree from Fergusson College, Pune.

Punjala Shiv Shankar (term: June 1988 to December 1989)

A member of the INC, this minister of HRD was inducted into Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet. He received his B.A. degree from Hindu College, Delhi, following which he completed his LL.B degree at Law College, Osmania University, Hyderabad.

Vishwanath Pratap Singh (term: 2 December 1989 to November 1990)

A representative of the Janata Dal (National Front) party, Vishwanath Pratap Singh served as the minister of HRD during his own prime ministerial term. He completed his bachelor of arts and law degree at Allahabad University where he was elected the student union vice president. He went on to obtain his bachelors of science degree in Physics from Fergusson College, Pune University.

Raj Mangal Pande (term: November 1990 to June 1991)

This Janata Dal member was inducted into the cabinet of Chandra Sekhar as the minister of HRD. He was educated at the Allahabad University where he completed his B.A., LL.LB degree.

Arjun Singh (term: June 1991 to December 1994, and again from May 2004 to May 2009)

Associated with the INC, Arjun Singh held the office of the minister of HRD twice- in P.V. Narasimha Rao’s government from 23 June 1991 to 24 December 1994, and again from 22 May 2004 to 22 May 2009 in Manmohan Singh’s ministry. An alma mater of the Allahabad University and Agra University, Singh held a BA, LL.B degree. His term as the HRD minister was not without controversies, as he was accused of corruption in granting the “deemed university” status which did not meet requisite educational standards.

Kapil Sibal (term: May 2009 to October 2012)

The INC politician and lawyer was inducted into Manmohan Singh’s cabinet as the minister of HRD. Completing his BA and MA degree in History from St. Stephens College, Delhi, he obtained his LL.B degree from the prestigious Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. Sibal went on to attend Harvard University where he received his LL.M degree in 1977. His contributions to the education sector comprised his free elementary education initiative to all children aged 6-14, introducing the CCE system of evaluation from class IX-X, implementing changes in the IIT JEE pattern and laying the foundation stone for IIT Patna. 

Mallipudi Mangapati Pallam Raju (term: October 2012 to May 2014)

This member of INC served as the minister of HRD under Manmohan Singh’s ministry. Raju received his electronics and communication degree from Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam in 1983, following which he obtained his MBA degree from Fox School of Business and Management, Temple University in 1985. In his ministerial term, Raju focused on the integration of moral education in the curriculum to reinforce the younger generation’s value systems and believed in the scope of ICT to meet educational objectives in schools and higher education institutions.

Smriti Irani (May 2014 to July 2016)

This former TV actress and BJP politician was inducted into Narendra Modi’s cabinet as the minister of HRD. Irani was educated at School of Open Learning at University of Delhi where she enrolled in a B.Com Part 1 degree course (incomplete) against her claims of having completed her B.A. course. Some of her contributions to the education sector during her ministerial term include The Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), the inception of the National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF) and the Udaan Yojna and Pragati Scheme addressing low enrolment of girls in engineering colleges.

Prakash Javadekar (July 2016 to May 2019) 

The BJP member served as the minister of HRD under Narendra Modi’s ministry. Javadekar completed his education from the University of Pune where he received his B.Com (Hons.) degree.

Ramesh Pokhriyal (term: May 2019 to July 2021)

The BJP candidate was appointed as the minister of education in Narendra Modi’s ministry, serving his term till 7 July 2021, citing health issues for resigning. He was educated at the Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University and held an MA and Ph.D (Hon.) degree in addition to an honorary D.Litt. (Hon.) degree in literature conferred to him by Graphic Era Deemed to be University, Uttarakhand. His literary contributions won him the Vatayan Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dharmendra Pradhan (term: July 2021 onwards)

The most recent addition to the list, the BJP candidate was appointed as the new Minister of Education in Narendra Modi’s cabinet on 7 July 2021. Pradhan obtained his MA degree in Anthropology from Utkal University, Bhubaneshwar, and has been active in youth concerns such as the lack of skill-based education in India and unemployment since then.

Also read: Dharmendra Pradhan is the new union education minister

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