Stagnation in budget allocations to education point to government privatization plans


New Delhi: The near-stagnant budgetary expenditure of recent years for the Ministry of Education and a general lack of imagination to give impetus to the growing need for accessible and quality education indicate the now evident will of the Union government to gradually transfer its responsibilities to the private sector.

The 2022-2023 Union budget is no different from its previous counterparts. With a total budgetary expenditure of Rs 104277.72 crore, split between the departments of Higher Education and School Education and Literacy, the Union Government has only marginally increased the total allocation to the Ministry of Education. Last year’s allocation to the ministry was around Rs 88,000 crore.

Much of the Rs 16,000 crore increase in expenditure over last year is due to the need to give digital education infrastructure a boost in the current circumstances as schools remain indefinitely in the pandemic. Educators and policymakers who hoped the Union government would step in as thousands of students lost crucial years of education to the pandemic have been disappointed.

Among the most important initiatives that Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced as measures to support students from marginalized communities during the pandemic was the expansion of the program “a class one television channel” of PM eVidya from 12 to 200 TV channels in different languages. “This,” the finance minister said, “will allow all states to provide additional instruction in regional languages ​​for grades 1 through 12.” Along with this, she also announced that 750 virtual science and math labs, 75 skill e-labs for “simulated learning environment” will be launched in the next fiscal year.

She also said that a “digital university” with a personalized learning experience will be created and Indian public universities will collaborate in its establishment.

Educators, however, believe that the government should have made efforts to maintain existing school and college education instead of announcing new projects that could end in non-startups in a restricted environment.

According to Mitra Ranjan of the All India Forum for Right to Education, “The Union budget not only grossly underestimates India’s education needs, but also ignores all the realities on the ground.”

“We need to ask whether 80% of students who have little or no access to digital infrastructure will benefit from education spending. In my view, the Union budget is yet another exercise in deceiving the nation and opening up a softer path to privatize education.

Most education experts involved in the public education system believe that the Union Government’s National Education Policy (NEP) has opened up unprecedented avenues to normalize private education, especially low-cost education. cost and poor quality at school level and inaccessible and expensive higher education. They also believe that the NEP only circumvented the Right to Education Act, which made education a fundamental right and guaranteed a kind of equitable education for all, regardless of the economic and social origins of the people. students.

According to the recent response of Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan to Parliament, compliance with the TEN has been only 25.5% in the last 11 years since its introduction. Moreover, about 11 lakh teacher appointments are pending at the moment, of which the budget does not refer.

More importantly, Prime Minister Poshan Shakti Nirman’s spending, formerly known as the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, has steadily declined over the past few years. In 2020-21, the allocation for the program was around Rs 12,900 crore, while in 2021-2022, it was reduced to Rs 11,500 crore. In the Union Budget 2022-2023, the allocation for the scheme was reduced to Rs 10,233.75 crore, further discouraging primary education for poor children. The downward spiral of the single diet continued despite the fact that the Prime Minister in his multiple speeches stressed the need for better nutrition for children.

“Focusing on digital education is another way to involve private actors in the education sector. It will only make inequalities worse,” says Ranjan. He cited the example of how budget expenditures to encourage the education of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe female students were entirely removed from the budget sheets.

“Last year, the government reduced budget expenditure for the scheme from Rs 110 crore to just one crore. This year the budget removed it entirely,” he says, adding that the government has completely diverted its eyes from its basic responsibility to provide education to students from poor and weaker communities, contrary to its rhetoric of facilitating the universal education.

There has been agreement among government officials, policymakers and educators that the budgetary allocation for education should not be less than 6% of GDP, as recommended first by the Kothari commission and more recently by the Modi government’s own NEP. However, subsequent governments failed to meet the target. The Modi government, over the past few years, has done the worst in this regard by cutting the education budget every following year. During the BJP-led government, the education budget hovered around 3% or less consistently.

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