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Why despite Rs 95,000-cr allocation, Sitharaman’s education budget has experts unhappy

Repackaging old schemes, announcements and fewer details on implementation, less focus on school-level education remain some of the key concerns of the academicians and child rights activists from the Union Budget.

By: Education Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 5, 2019 6:59:25 pm
union budget, budget 2019, education budget, education allocation budget, nirmala sitharaman, june 5, education news, Education allocation up by nearly 16%. (Representational image)

Budget 2019: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday announced the allocation of Rs 94,854 crore to the education sector in Union Budget 2019, of which Rs 400 crore was dedicated to developing ‘world-class’ higher education institutes. Last year, the sector received Rs 83,626 crore from the Centre. Among major announcements this year is an initiative to train over one crore youth and focus on the Study In India programme to enroll foreign students into Indian higher education system. However, many see this budget as more of a vision statement than a well-drafted plan.

Nothing for Indian students aiming to study abroad

Jitin Chadha, founder and director of Indian School of Business & Finance (ISBF), a featured teaching institute of London School of Economics (LSE) in India, said: “While the National Research Foundation and the allocation for developing world-class institutions will pay rich dividends in the long run, it will not solve the problem of human capital formation in the next 5-10 years. The Budget has shown a willingness to bring in foreign funding and expertise in areas such as aviation and insurance to India. There are no steps to harness higher education from across the world and make it accessible for our youth.”

Read | Budget 2019: Govt to unveil new education policy, proposes ‘Study in India’ programme

Most of the announcements, according to Buddy4Studdy COO Ankur Dhawan, are repackaged old schemes rather than major launched. Dhawan said the Budget does not have many new items for the education sector and we will have to wait for implementation of the New Education Policy to see major changes. “Though the focus on ‘Study in India’ is good, it does not solve the urgent problems of lower enrollment in higher education as well as poor learning outcomes. The Budget could have emphasised on leveraging more of CSR funds in education to cover insufficient budgetary allocations.”

Hike in allocation is a positive sign, implementation needed

The budget has given a major chunk of funding to the education sector, more than any recent budgets which was much appreciated by the higher education institutes. Rudra Sensarma, Dean, Research at Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Kozhikode, said the National Education Policy (NEP) has a lot of impressive ideas for improving education quality, but its success depends on the funds available. “The education sector has received a total allocation of close to Rs 95,000 crore in this budget which is a generous 13.4 per cent rise from the previous year, compared to a mere six per cent rise in the year before that. Within the overall allocation, the finance minister has provided a massive 16 per cent hike in the National Education Mission (which includes key schemes like the national literacy mission, school education and teachers training). There are also been hikes in other programmes like the Midday meal scheme (11 per cent rise) and a whopping 47 per cent rise in the Technical Education Quality Improvement Program (TEQIP) – the flagship capacity building program in technical education. Overall, this budget will provide a strong impetus towards achieving the NEP’s vision of making India a vibrant knowledge society.”

Read | Budget 2019 needs to have a holistic view on where education in India needs to go

Schools still need more funds

Yet, the school level educational institutes have raised concerns against the funding, said Zishaan Hayath, CEO and founder of  Toppr.com, a digital learning platform. “We expected a larger focus on education for schoolgoing children. Today, India has almost 250 million children in that age group, but very few have access to quality education since it is limited to certain pockets of India. Though improving and upgrading of higher education institutes is required, at the same time, we need to ensure that our children have access to well-trained teachers, infrastructure and resources from the very beginning.”

“The total Budget for Children again witnessed an incremental increase of 0.05 per cent compared to last year, from 3.24 per cent (BE) to 3.29 per cent (BE). This is showing a continuous declining trend of the last 2-3 years with the allocations at Rs. 91644.29 crore in comparison to 2018-19’s allocation figures of Rs. 79090 crore allocated for children,” said Priti Mahara, Director of Policy Research and Advocacy at CRY – Child Rights and You.

“This year, Samagra Shiksha Scheme with an allocation of Rs 36,322 crore would still fall short of the current education requirements. Given the perspective shift proposed in the New Education Policy, the allocations for addressing the requirements of the continuum of education from pre-school to secondary education would have to be substantially higher. Higher education institutions have raced ahead while India’s school system, probably the world’s largest, has not seen the paradigm shift even though hopes of finally having a New Education Policy continue to glimmer. However, the overall budget envelope for child health has declined even further to 3.51 per cent,” she added.

As told to Shyna Kalra

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