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Budget 2019: There’s money for world class institutes, but not much for education

school children

Although Nirmala Sitharaman made provisions for a new education policy, a research fund and skill development, there’s not much for the education sector in the Union Budget.

In her Budget speech, instead of announcing provisions for the education sector, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman talked about implementing a new education policy, a research fund, skill development and a new and reformed higher education regulatory under the category of “youth”.

The focus on the demographic dividend of youth is much needed, but Sitharaman’s Budget speech was strangely silent on school education.

She credited the Modi government’s past efforts as three Indian higher education institutes – two Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) – have found place among top 200 global universities.

She announced that the government has allocated Rs 400 crore to create “world class institutes”.

However, by remaining silent on school education, the finance minister seems to have ignored what educationists have been harping on – without a solid primary and secondary education, the quality of higher education cannot be improved.

Of course the Budget has announced that the government would accept the New Education Policy (NEP), but the big question remains in what form.

Unlike the budget’s focus on higher education, the NEP, submitted on May 28 by K Kasturirangan Committee, lays out an elaborate plan to revamp and restructure school education in the country, starting with pre-school education.

While NEP talks about making the teacher the center of the new education revolution, the Budget makes no overall allocation for teachers’ training and adult education – the last two Budgets allocated over Rs 450 crore.

Instead, Sitharaman has allocated Rs 50 crore for appointment of language teachers. Interestingly, the NEP places high emphasis on learning three languages at the school level.

Whether the government accepts the NEP in its current form or not, the finance minister’s speech makes it clear that the Narendra Modi government will launch the New Education Policy in its second term.

The NEP’s suggestion to create a National Research Foundation has already found a place in the Budget statement. The overall fund allocated to research and innovation has gone up from Rs 244 crore to Rs 609 crore. Also, Sitharaman proposed to create a new regulatory body for higher education.

The NEP has estimated that for proper implementation of the policy proposals the government will have to increase the budgetary expenditure on education by 10 per cent over next 10 years to make it 20 per cent of the total public expenditure from the current expenditure of 10 per cent of the country’s public expenditure.

To start with, the Union Budget has allocated Rs 94,854 crore or just three per cent for education out of the total allocation of Rs 27,86,349 crore. That’s certainly not a great beginning.

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