Aditi Tandon Tribune News Service New Delhi, February 1

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today announced enhanced allocation for the education sector along with new initiatives even as the ones he announced last year remain on paper.

The Budget for the Ministry of Human Resource Development has been raised by 10 per cent — from Rs 72,394 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 79,686 crore in the current fiscal, but the sector experts term the raise negligible given challenges the country is facing.

Other major Budget announcements include setting up of a National Testing Authority to relieve CBSE, AICTE and other regulatory bodies of the additional burden of conducting entrance exams; reforming UGC to allow promising colleges to get academic and curricular autonomy and to create a system of assessing learning outcomes of school students. Funding for these initiatives has not been clarified by the FM.

Ambarish Rai, convener of the National Right to Education Forum, says, “Due to fund crisis, the implementation of the RTE Act, 2009, as a fundamental right couldn’t take shape despite constitutional obligations of the government. Only 9.5 per cent schools are RTE compliant to date. Low allocation is hampering the quality of education in government schools where posts of 5 lakh teacher remain vacant. We still have several single-teacher schools and need much more funding to create quality infrastructure.”

This explains why major part of the education sector funding has been set aside for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the vehicle to implement the RTE Act. The National Education Mission, including SSA, has been given a budget of Rs 29,556 crore today as against Rs 28,330 crore in last year. This is a significant part of the total education budget.

Likewise, the government’s flagship midday meal scheme has received Rs 10,000-crore allocation, which is Rs 300 crore more than 2016-17. The FM also announced an innovation fund for secondary education to encourage local talent and research in India’s 3,479 educationally backward blocks but didn’t say how much money will be put into the fund.

Besides, new announcements come when FM’s year’s education-related announcements – setting up of a national depository of academic certificates; establishing and operationalising Higher Education Financing Authority (HEFA) and energising National Digital Literacy Mission — remain more or less on paper.

The government today also said it would lay emphasis on science education but didn’t say how when education budgets hover much below the promised 6 per cent of the GDP.

‘Development- oriented’

It is a revolutionary Budget and development-oriented. The education sector has been allocated nearly Rs 79,686 crore, an increase of around Rs 6,087 crore from last year. This increase is a huge advantage. Prakash Javadekar, HRD Minister 

Quotes

Low allocation is hampering quality of education in govt schools where 5 lakh teacher posts remain vacant. We still need much more funding to create quality infrastructure. – Ambarish Rai, chief, National Right to Education Forum 

 

Proposals are aimed at boosting care clinical facilities, and reducing out-of-pocket expense. – V Srinivas, Deputy Director, (administration), AIIMS

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