Why Modi Govt Needs To Double Its Budget Allocation For Education Sector?

To bring about the much-needed thrust in the education sector of the country the budgetary allocation for the coming FY should get closer to the recommended 6% of GDP mark.

Education builds depth of character, creative abilities and scientific thinking. Educated populace can steer a nation towards ethical advancement, social and cultural advancement, medical and technological advancement and also spiritual advancement. In that sense education budget allocation must be treated as paramount in the larger scheme of the nations all round growth and development.

Education is part of the constitutional rights of the people of India yet it is observed that insufficient, inefficient and ineffective budget allocation and implementation does not allow the intended beneficiaries to enjoy what they were promised. 

Since a majority of this ‘allocated’ budget is lost in transit the Indian Education Budget has failed to meet people’s anticipations time and again. A 21st century ‘modern’ Indian Education Budget is not only expected to meet the tenets of quality, sufficiency, equitability and transparency but also that of competitiveness, relevance and effectiveness. 

If we are treating delivery of education as a public good then the implementation authority, which is the government, is answerable to the stakeholders and beneficiaries and therefore, it was the catalyst, must stay clear of any and all regressive tendencies. 

Determining an ideal budget

Determining an ‘ideal budget’ for education is debatable as it depends on several feasibility factors such as the ongoing GDP, allocation and focus on education as a sector in the past, the aspirations of the people of the country, global education standards and expectations, pending commitments and foresight of educationists and economists.

Internal and external turbulences such as wars with other nation(s) and pandemics also tend to shift the focus of the country’s funds towards geographical protection and physical safety. Therefore, governments should frame education budgets and education policies in such a way that, as far as possible, they remain insulated from turbulences. 

‘’It has been suggested that health and education allocations should be above 5% of the GDP. Currently, I think it is hovering around under 2%. The problem with centralising the issue is that most of the money goes in creating and managing the bureaucracy instead of going to schools and teachers. There are too many rules and compliance’s which are a deterrent to innovation in education and serve as inductors to corruption in the teaching profession. I think education should be moved back to the state list with a mandatory allocation of a certain portion of the state’s revenue allocated to education every year,’’ says Supreme Court Advocate Suchindran. B.N.

In the recent years, India has witnessed marginal increment in the education budget allocation from Rs 85,000 crore in 2018 to Rs 94,500 crore in 2019, a 10 % increase and Rs 94,500 crore in 2019 to Rs 99,300 crores in 2020, which was a 5% increase only. In the FY 2020 of the Rs 99,300 crore Rs 59,845 crore were allocated to school education and literacy department and around Rs 39,466 were allocated to higher education, even though the Indian Higher Education sector has been growing extensively with much greater monetary requirements. 

Currently it stands at 993 universities, 3.7 crore students and 14 lakh teachers. In the higher education sector in particular, budget allocated to Indian Institutes of Technology had been hiked from Rs 6,559.95 crore in FY'20 to Rs 7332 crore in FY'21, but budget allocated to Indian Institutes of Management had been reduced from Rs 500.53 crore in FY'20 to Rs 476 crore in FY'21. 

National budget is what govt proposes to spend and a government can only spend what it is able to tax, earn, borrow, or print. Budget estimates are usually a small percentage of the country’s GDP (value of goods and services produced in a year) and not 100% of the GDP. 

While GDP is not considered a great index for measuring social welfare since it fails to take into account parameters such as quality of life and health, general happiness and contentment, life expectancy and years of schooling, yet it is the most acceptable and widely used measure of a country’s economic progress. Therefore, all these factors put together create vague limits on a government’s ability to spend.

Constitutionally speaking

‘’The constitution of India does not make any specific mention of education expenditure. However, since the addition of Article 21A, access to free and compulsory education has become a fundamental right. 

To begin with the Indian constitution had envisaged for the states to provide for free and compulsory education for all children upto the age of 14 years, within a period of 10 years post adoption of the constitution. Unfortunately, these objectives could not be achieved since they were enshrined only within the directive principles and were therefore not enforceable. 

It was during the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister, that this unenforceable directive principle was converted into a positive fundamental right available to all citizens through article 21(A),’’ says Supreme Court Advocate Suchindran. B.N.

‘’According to article 112 of the constitution of India, the union budget of a year is an annual financial statement, i.e the estimated receipts and disbursements of the government of the current fiscal year. This emphasises an obligation on the Indian parliament to assure that all revenue, expenditure and measures it authorizes, legally and constitutionally are economically sound, matches the needs and aspirations of the people with equity and symbolizes that it is we the people that are the source of the budget,’’ Legal Service India.

Budgeting in for turbulence 

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Each resource needs to be carefully considered during such times to minimize wastage at any stage. The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly one of the biggest turbulences the modern world has experienced in recent years. 

As a consequence, the economic status of the world and individual nations remains coarse. Resources are limited yet educational needs and continuity must be maintained. Steps should be taken to measure effectiveness of money spent, administrative costs should be reduced, administrative processes should be streamlined and also there is an urgent need to cut back on bureaucratic involvement and costs. Locally successful models should be made case-studies and replicated. 

Expectations from 2021 education budget

To bring about the much-needed thrust in the education sector of the country the budgetary allocation for the coming FY should get closer to the recommended 6% of GDP mark and steadily work towards a 10% of GDP mark in the coming years. 

Since this will also be the first budget after the introduction of the NEP 2020 therefore the upcoming budget should be capable enough to fulfil the NEP 2020 objectives as well. RTE commitments should continue to be fulfilled so should any other backlog of commitments. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused not only a paradigm shift in learning and teaching methodologies but also in the physical infrastructural arrangement of educational spaces. Therefore, the education budget must take into account any and all costs caused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccination costs, to ensure continuity in education for the students. 

Taking into account changing trends in education, expenditures also need to be made to support and fulfil; the ICT (Information Communication Technology) training and implementation, building and strengthening digital infrastructure, physical infrastructure improvements, building special needs facilities for students, skills building, research based higher education, on world class science laboratories, libraries and knowledge banks. 

Budgetary support should also be extended to those sectors which are playing a supporting role for the education sector, such as the communications and transport sectors. Last but not the least teacher salaries, teacher training and capacity building must remain the focus, since teachers are the backbone of the education sector. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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