The Way Forward: Education in the Union Budget


An entire generation that entered the teaching profession in the early eighties willsoon be hanging up their boots without seeing the second edition of the National Education Policy since the one presented to the nation in 1986. If nothing else, it reflects poorly on thepriority we accord to education in this country.

Quality education is a prerequisite to thequality of life,socialtransformation, research and innovation, sound value system and above all to build a high human capital. The educators, policymakers and the civil society are acutely aware of the challenges that we face todayin education. As oftoday over 17 million children and adolescents are out of school, according to the recently released UNESCO eAtlas of out of school children. The share of GDP to education is hovering below 4%, hampering efforts to provide educational access to the weaker sections, investment in research and technology, skill development, and in creating a pipeline of committed and well-trainedteachers.Over 10 million young people in India are in need of jobs at any given time.

Last year’s budget was presented in February 2017 by Finance Minister MrArunJaitleyin the backdrop ofconsiderable hype around fixing the gap in budgetary allocation for education. It was expected from the Finance Minister to allocatemore for creating centres of excellence, particularly in the areas of teacher training, research and development, and inintroducing cutting-edge technology. Unfortunately,none of these happened. The broader goals of the budgetary allocation and the government’s priority, though, remainfocused on eradicating poverty, hunger and inequality. Rightly keeping the youth in the centre, thegovernment has shown clear intent to treat education as an important agenda in  governance. In the last year’s budget, the Finance Minister highlighted ten talking points, ‘youth’ being one of them.


Considering that India is a growing economy amid the world’s gloominess; that India will be the dominant hub of talent and world’s workforce; the upcoming union budget ought to give a push to the education sector. India is also a signatory to sustainable development goals( SDGs) mandated by the United Nations in 2015. The SDGs, focus on providing inclusive and quality education and ensuring skill, competencies, decent employment and opportunity to all. Education underpins these lofty objectives. Without an explicit provision by doubling the existing fund allocation and managing fund utilisation more efficiently, we will miss the targets of SDGs to be achieved by 2030. The Finance Minister must introduce amechanism to revamp SarvaShikshaAbhiyan (SSA), Mid Day Meal Scheme, Strengthening of Teacher’s Training Institutes and also back it up withbudgetary commitment.

India has consistently improved its enrollment of school education ratio at primary level. However, at the higher level, it remains low at 23%. Therefore, there is a need for strengthening the secondary educationlandscape, vocational education and skill development. With theexpansion of educational access, ensuring excellence and maximising employability are the two other challenges. The governmentis conscious of the equality issues and accountability in achieving learning outcomes. In the era of globalisation,and India’s growing stature in the world,  global competencies need to be developed. Our teaching-learning standards must match up to global benchmarks. Learning a foreign language along with the need to learn Indian languages seenin the broader perspective willaccruelong-term benefits.

To fix the challenges in education, we need to revampthegovernment-runschools to impart free, compulsory and quality education.At the same time, we need to engage with the private sector to share the responsibilities of nation building, innovation and enterpriseand transform them into remarkable learning environments.In the last one year, the most talked about phenomenon in education has been the inclusion of section 12(1) c of the RTE Act mandating the inclusion of 25 % of students in the private schools from the economically weaker and sociallydisadvantaged groups. The Act recognises that private schools have the bandwidth to impart quality education. The RashtriyaAdarshVidyalayadocument on private-public partnership in schooling released by HRD ministry in 2013-14 (MHRD Education_rfq/06.07.2012) acknowledges that private sector’s efficiency would optimise the lifecycle cost and improve the quality of education. While many argue that the privatisation of education must be discouraged, governments over the years have relied on the capacity of private schools.And yet, the controversy around autonomy of the private schools remains a sore point.Thestudent enrolment in the private schools is 40% of the entire school going population, making privatisation an irreversible process.

The Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report 2017-18 released on Oct 24 by UNESCO calls upon the governments to design accountability systems for schools and teachers that are supportive of children. It further suggests democratic participation, respect for media, freedom to scrutinise education and establish independent institutions to hear grievances. As a signatory to the UN obligations, we cannot ignore these observations.

Looking from the standpoint of education sector the finance minister is expected to come out with a  dream budget aligned with the aspirations of the youth and the New India. That will be an investment in and a solace to the youth,constituting  fifty percent of India’s population.

(The author is principal Ahlcon International School, Delhi. First Published In Financial Express)

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