File Photo: Used for representational purpose only
India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitaraman presented the full Budget for 2019-20 on July 5, 2019. Education was given its due importance in this budget although there is always room for more improvement and change. The budget announced an allocation of Rs 93,847.64 crore for the education sector, 10 percent higher than Rs 85,010.29 crore allotted in the previous year. It includes Rs 37,461.01 crore for a higher educational institution and Rs 56,386.63 crore for school education. This indicates a 10 percent increase which will be largely used for meeting the expenditures of ongoing activities rather than new ones.
However, the percentage of GDP spent on education has remained stagnant at around 3 percent during the past few years. The Kothari Commission and subsequent committees have emphasised the need for higher spending in the education sector at par with developed countries, which spend close to 5-6 percent of GDP on education.
In the school sector, the bulk of the allocation (Rs 36,322 crore) will be allotted to Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, a new scheme that amalgamates several school schemes including the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. The mid-day meal programme has been allocated Rs 11,000 crore or Rs 500 crore more than what 2018-19 budget estimates had allocated.
Poor learning outcomes continue to be a major issue in our education system according to the recent ASER (Annual Status of Education) report. The budget allocates the teachers training and adult education only Rs 125 crore, which is a huge drop from Rs 871 crore allocated in the 2018-19 budget estimate. To sensitise youth about Mahatma Gandhi's ideas, Sitharaman said a ''Gandhi-Pedia'' is being developed. The Budget proposes the creation of several new bodies to overlook different facets of education. There is a suggestion for a new apex body Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog to implement educational initiatives and programmatic interventions and to coordinate efforts between the Centre and states.
Study in India
The Budget gives an impetus to the ‘Study in India’ programme launched by the MHRD in April 2018. The programme aims to bring in foreign students to top institutions in India. This aims to launch India as an international hub for education. The Budget allocates Rs 400 crore for setting up world-class education institutes, which is over three times the revised estimates for the previous year. While this is indeed a positive step, there also could have been a bigger step to retain Indian students to take up higher education in India, rather than go abroad. But hopefully, more foreign students coming to study in India will influence the mindset of Indian students who wish to study abroad rather than in their own country.
However, Sitharaman highlighted that three institutes, two IITs and IISc Bangalore, are in the top 200 institutions in world university rankings, which, she claimed, was not there five years back. This has been achieved due to concerted efforts by the institutions to boost their standards and also project their credentials better, she said.
Khelo India Scheme
The Budget brings in a sense of relief when it comes to giving importance to the sport. The Khelo India Scheme, aimed at reviving the sports culture in India at the grass-roots level, will be expanded to provide all necessary financial support. A National Sports Education Board for Development of Sportspersons would be set up under the Khelo India Scheme to popularise sports at all levels.
Higher Education Commission of India
A higher education commission was also proposed. The Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will promote the quality of academic instruction, maintenance of academic standards and encourage autonomy of good performing educational institutions for free pursuit of knowledge, innovation, skills, and entrepreneurship. This will help to comprehensively reform the regulatory system of higher education to promote greater autonomy and focus on better academic outcomes.
National Research Foundation
Also announced in this Budget is a New Education Policy (NEP) for school and higher education where the greater focus will be given to research and innovation.
The allocation for research and innovation has been increased from Rs 350 crore to Rs 608.87 crore in FY20, which is a huge leap. Also, Sitaraman has proposed the National Research Foundation (NRF) to assimilate the research grants being given by various ministries independent of each other and avoid duplication of resources and expenditure.
Technology has added a new dimension to the education sector and is poised to disrupt the sector. Fortunately, the Budget mentions the need for imparting new-age skills in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Big Data, among others, to equip youth to meet the demands of Industry 4.0.
To make the Indian youth ready to take up jobs in foreign countries, there will now be a renewed focus on imparting relevant skills to students. These will include focus on new-age skills like artificial intelligence and robotics and language training. Another initiative is about plans to establish a television channel broadcasting from Doordarshan dedicated to inspiring and promoting start-ups across the country.
A recent report by UNESCO and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences indicates that about 75 percent of five-year-olds with disabilities do not attend any educational institution and 20 percent of children with visual and hearing impairments had never been in school. The percentage of children attending schools is the lowest among those with multiple disabilities, mental illnesses, and mental retardation, as more than 50 percent of these children do not attend school. The Budget completely fails in bringing justice to this category of students in India.
This Budget clearly tries to keep up with the changing trends in education and changes in the economy. India still has a long way to go to bring its quality of education on par with technological advancements. However, a lot more can be done to ensure “education for all” in a country with vast economic differences. We need to wait and see how many of these policies will actually bring in a positive change at the grassroots level. We need to see how much of the planning will translate into effective implementation.
This article was originally published in the 3rd Anniversary (August 2019) issue of ScooNews magazine. Subscribe to ScooNews Magazine today to have more such stories delivered to your desk every month.
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