Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Budgeting for the education emergency

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Expenditure on education in India

Mains level: Paper 2- Increasing the expenditure on education

Context

Faced with an unprecedented education emergency, this is the time to substantially ramp up public spending on education and make it more effective.

Low allocation for education

  • UNESCO’s 2030 framework for action suggests public education spending levels of between 4% and 6% of GDP and 15%-20% of public expenditure.
  • A recent World Bank study notes that India spent 14.1 % of its budget on education, compared to 18.5% in Vietnam and 20.6% in Indonesia, countries with similar levels of GDP.
  • But since India has a higher share of population under the age of 19 years than these countries, it should actually be allocating a greater share of the budget than these countries.
  • Public spending on education in most States in India was below that of other middle-income countries even before the pandemic.
  • Most major States spent in the range of 2.5% to 3.1% of State income on education, according to the Ministry of Education’s Analysis of Budgeted Expenditure on Education.
  • This compares with the 4.3% of GDP that lower-middle-income countries spent, as a group, between 2010-11 and 2018-19.
  •  In the 2021-22 Budget, the Central government’s allocation for the Education Department was slashed compared to the previous year, even though the size of the overall budget increased.
  • Of the major States and Delhi, eight either reduced or just about maintained their budget allocation for education departments in 2021-22 compared to 2020-21.

Way forward

  • The vast majority of the 260 million children enrolled in preschool and school, especially in government schools, did not have meaningful structured learning opportunities during the 20 months of school closures.
  • Infusion of resources: The education system now needs not only an infusion of resources for multiple years, but also a strengthened focus on the needs of the poor and disadvantaged children.
  • What it is spent on and how effectively resources are used are important.
  • It is clear what additional resources are required for.
  • The needs include: back-to-school campaigns and re-enrolment drives; expanded nutrition programmes; reorganisation of the curriculum to help children learn language and mathematics in particular, and support their socio-emotional development, especially in early grades; additional learning materials; teacher training and ongoing support; additional education programmes and collection and analysis of data.
  • Focus on teacher training:  How does expenditure on technology compare with the amounts spent on teacher training, which represents just 0.15% of total estimated expenditure on elementary education?
  • Teachers are central to the quality of education, so why does India spend so little on teacher training?

The opacity of education finance data in India

  • The opacity of education finance data makes it difficult to comprehend this.
  • For instance, the combined Central and State government spending on education was estimated to be 2.8% of GDP in 2018-19, according to the Economic Survey of 2020-21.
  • This figure had remained at the same level since 2014-15.
  • On the other hand, data from the Ministry of Education indicates that public spending on education had reached 4.3% of GDP in the same year, rising from 3.8% of GDP in 2011-12.
  • The difference in the figures is due to the inclusion of expenditure on education by departments other than the Education Department.
  •  Including expenditure on education by, for example, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (on Anganwadis, scholarships, etc.), the Ministry of Science and Technology (for higher education) is of course legitimate.
  • However, the composition of these expenditures is not readily available.

Conclusion

The questions for this Budget should be clear. How much additional funds are being allocated for different levels of education by the principal departments in 2021-22? Are the funds being spent on the specific measures required to address the education emergency facing the children?

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