Fund allocation for education as a share of total budgeted expenditure under the Modi government has been falling for the past three years. While in UPA regime’s last budget (2013-14), education got 4.57 percent of total expenditure, there has been an alarming decline to 3.65 percent in 2016-17.
Education spend as a share of GDP also dipped from 0.63 percent in 2013-14 to 0.47 percent projected by the government for 2017-18. However, an estimated outlay for coming year showing a minor uptick of 3.71 percent in budget allocation.
Though budgeted expenditure for the ministry of human resources development (MHRD) has been increased over the previous year by about 8 percent, this is illusory because inflation of about 5-6 percent would neutralise most of it, an analysis of Budget’s revised estimate by the Times of India states.
The central government has rearranged the fund allocation pattern of Central schemes in key sectors including secondary and higher education with lower outlays in 2016-17 Budget and more direct transfers as per the 14thFinance Commission’s recommendation.
This shift would have marginally contributed to a decline in total education outlays as allocation for the two schemes Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyan, was about 7 percent of the total education outlay in 2015-16, the last year before new sharing pattern.
Besides the fund allocation, government’s approach to universal education policy has also been regressive. It was under UPA the policy was made to bring almost all 6-13 years old children to elementary school. Gross enrollment ratios (number of students in school at a particular stage as a percentage of all children in the concerned age group) rapidly deteriorated after elementary school, going down to just 54 percent by senior secondary classes, means about 35 million kids out of school.
The enrolment ratio in higher education is much worse with just 24 percent for the 18-23 years age group, including distance education students. In most advanced countries, the ratio is close to the 50 mark. So, about 71 million youth are still out of the higher education system, TOI analysis says.
In case of Dalits and Adivasis, the dropout rates are much higher. These areas needs and immediate attention, with a focus on school infrastructure and teachers. But the government has made an increase of only 4 percent for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
In terms of improving quality of education, funds for better training of teachers are near to nothing, despite the fact that Right to Education Act implemented since 2010 mandates certain basic norms like pupil-teacher ratio and physical infrastructure. Currently, there are about 8.6 million school teachers and 1.5 million higher education teachers in the country. Studies shows that only about 10 percent of schools fulfil all the norms.
Meanwhile, family spending on education is rising when quality is speedily deteriorating, and 25 percent of students are dependent on private tuition for getting through.
These are not mere numbers. Their importance for India lies in that public spending on education is a must for making it available for all, and in better quality.