The untold tragedy of India’s budget schools and education

The government’s goal to reform India’s education system and digital infrastructure is contradictedby the budget cut

Every national education policy (NEP) since 1968 has said that India needs to spend 6% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education. According to the 2019-20 Economic Survey, India spent barely 3.1 percent of its GDP on education in 2019-20, 52 years after that proposal. Over one million government schools, where over half (52%) of India’s over 248 million students study, have remained underfunded as a result of this underspending on public education. According to analysts, this is one of the reasons why India’s educational outcomes have been so low.

We discuss how funds are distributed for government-run schools, how the money is used, and what more needs to be done to ensure the sector’s effective financing in this pre-budget explainer. (While the education budget is split between school and higher education, this explainer focuses on early childhood and school education, which is regarded the most important stage of learning and a key to higher earnings and better health later in life.)

Government investment on education in India is primarily for government schools (nearly one million), with a tiny percentage going to government-aided schools (84,623). Private schools (326,228) do not get government money, although they do receive monies for every student in grades I through VIII who comes from a low-income home, as mandated by the Right To Education Act, which requires institutions to set aside 25% of seats for disadvantaged children. Education is funded by both the federal and state governments.

The federal government contributes to education in two ways: through centrally supported programmes and through programmes run by the private sector. The first group includes programmes like the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, a central government programme for school education and teacher training that is supported 60:40 by the federal government and the state. The Union government provides 90 percent of the financing for centrally sponsored initiatives in northeastern states.

The Centre fully funds all central sector initiatives, including scholarships for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, the Navodaya school network for extraordinarily gifted students in rural regions, and the Kendriya Vidyalayas for the children of government employees. However, according to Mridusmita Bordoloi, senior researcher at the Delhi-based research group Accountability Initiative, these accounts for only 1-2 percent of school financing in India. The National Council of Educational Research and Training, which is in charge of producing and publishing textbooks and teacher training, is also funded by the federal government.

“The education storey in India is incomplete if you only look at the Union budget,” Bordoloi added, noting that the state government provides the majority of cash for government schools. The federal government pays a portion of the funding for programmes like teacher training and mid-day lunches.

About Insha Khan

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