With development agenda among top priorities, the BJP led NDA government maiden budget has been tabled on 10th july by the finance minister Arun Jaitley. Millions of youngsters have built up high expectations from the new government regarding reforms in education sector. The election manifestos did speak of areas such as girl education, e-learning, restructuring of University Grants Commission (UGC) into Higher Education Commission and setting up of National Multi-Skill Mission to name a few, besides others.
The FM has proposed to set up five new IIMs and five new IITs and twelve medical colleges with dental facilities along with four more AIIMS in Andhra, West Bengal, Vidarbha and Purvanchal. 500 crores has been set aside for the AIIMS project. The ten institutes have also got an initial sum of total 500 crores. With a poor record of female literacy in our country, 100 crores has been given to “beti padhao beti badhao” yojna. The finance minister described elementary education as “one of the major priorities of the government” and set apart Rs.28,635 crore for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) programme. This is part of the total school education allocations. In the 2013-14 budget estimate, the previous government had allocated Rs.27,258 crore for the SSA. The budget also advocated starting a school assessment programme and aimed to infuse new training tools and motivate teachers through another scheme called the Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya New Teachers Training Programme. Jaitley allocated Rs.500 crore toward this initiative. The lack of trained teachers is considered a hurdle in improving schools and education outcomes. The budget allocated Rs.4,966 crore for the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, a programme to universalize secondary education.
For the modernisation of madarsas the government has given an aid of 100 crores. Agriculture universities in Andhra and Rajasthan and horticulture universities in Haryana and Telengana have been proposed to be set up. Government proposes that the school curriculum must have a separate chapter on gender mainstreaming.
No doubt the Finance minister has embarked on new policies for the education sector through his budget speech. Neverthless, when critically examining it, we get to know the following major fall-outs.
- If increase in budget allocation is to be used as a proxy for priority, I would argue the priority has gone down. There was a 17.1% jump in allocation to HRD in Chidambaram’s 2013-14 budget, while Jaitley’s budget provides an increase of only 11.1%, a net drop of 6%. The school sector allocation goes up only 9.9% while that for higher education goes up 14.98%. When will they start prioritizing primary education?
- It is completely infeasible to set up an IIT and an IIM with mere amount of 50cr each. The previously established IITs and IIMs in the previous government are still makeshifts and lack adequate and proper infrastructure and quality and do not stand at par with global standards. No IIT even today ranks in top 200 world universities. Hence its more appropriate and judicious to allocate this much amount for improvement at primary education which has been left out in the cold.
- The budget has been silent on the “quality issue” at primary and secondary level learning which is an immediately-needed-concern. There is a decline in teacher classroom ratio in schools. It is also witnessing decline in basic reading and arithmetic levels and children’s attendance. “There has been a decline in the proportion of schools with at least one classroom per teacher, from 76.2% in 2010 to 73.8% in 2013,” the Economic survey says.
- The quality of textbooks, the quality of midday meals, the protection of girl students, separate sex-wise toilets at primary schools and the provisioning of RTE yet in some states are the issues that need to be addressed at first.
- To revamp the education sector in India, the budget should have focussed on extensive capacity-building of the existing state and central universities and colleges.
Since India would have a large number of young persons in the 20-35 age group in the coming years, it would be a great opportunity for India to have a huge skilled populace and the country needs to provide quality education for the same. This is a great opportunity for India. Taking advantage of such an opportunity is contingent upon progress on the human development index. India has to provide quality education and develop the skills of its large young population to fully reap the benefits of the demographic dividend. There should be an all inclusive education policy denouncing the biased and discriminatory policies meted out to the marginalised sections.
“All humans are dead except those who have knowledge;and all those who have knowledge are asleep, except those who do good deeds;and those who do good deeds are deceived, except those who are sincere;and those who are sincere are always in a state of worry.” (Imam Shafi’i)