Quality education is central to any nation’s development. According to the Global Education Monitoring Report 2020 ‘India, being a developing country already had inequalities in education but this pandemic even enhanced these inequalities and widened the digital gap’. To sail the economy through the current crises and most importantly Education sector, the first budget of this decade was presented by our Honorable Finance minister Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman but the budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Education saw a considerable fall of Rs. 6086.69 crores and is likely to receive Rs. 93,224.31 in year 2021-22 which is lowest budget allocated to it in the past two years.
The New Education Policy 2020 was all set to transform the Indian Education System to meet the huge unmet needs of the 21st century. This policy seeks to rectify the poor literacy and numeracy outcomes associated with primary schools, reduction in dropout rates in middle and secondary schools. Not only this, it also had provisions for early childhood care which is evident in its 5+3+3+4 model for school education. This policy focuses on revamping and restructuring the curriculum and pedagogy; reforming assessments and exams, investing in teacher training and broad-basing their appraisal. Laudable aspect of this scheme is the introduction of vocational courses with an internship which would help realize the goals of Skill India Mission.
It proposes to make education more inclusive through the extension of Right of Education to all children up to the age of 18. This new policy seeks to lay the foundation for a multi-disciplinary approach in higher education by further establishing a super regulator for education which will be responsible for standards-setting, funding, accreditation of higher education in India. Most crucially NEP once and for all, buries the strident Hindi verses English divide and rather focuses on making local language as the medium of teaching at least till grade 5. It also encourages the infusion of international perspective and innovation by allowing foreign universities to set up campuses in India.
Since all were awaiting to see the implementation of New Education Policy through this interim budget but contrary to our hopes, the first budget following the new policy of 2020, in no way lays the path to realize the lofty goals of NEP 2020. Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan which is a flagship scheme of the Modi government to provide inclusive and equitable school education to all; witnesses a sharp decline in its fund allocation. Since this scheme subsumes three other schemes which are Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, and Teacher Education, they all are likely to receive less funds this year. Apart from NEP 2020, budget will not even help in realizing the Global Education Development Agenda specified in Goal 4 of Sustainable Development Goals. This budget explicitly mentions that only 15,000 schools (1% of the total schools) will be strengthened to have all the components of NEP 2020 which means 99% of the Indian schools are not even the concern of the government. However, the New Education Policy seeks to establish gender inclusive fund for promoting girls education but the funds for National Scheme for Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education saw a sharp decline of more than 100 crore in this budget.
Though this Budget fails to accommodate many concerns but its collaboration with UAE and Japan to generate skilled workforce and to facilitate the transfer of vocational skills, knowledge and technical know-how is a step welcomed by all. But this single good initiative cannot surpass the loopholes that prevails in this hopeful budget of 2021.
Indian education system does not require a paradigm shift in its approach to make education more inclusive and accessible to all. But it simply should start by focusing more its social sector for better implementation of policies. The government should consider the recommendation of Education Commission, that is, the then Kothari commission which also stressed on the need to spend at least 6% of our GDP on Human Development. They should work more closely with the States as they spend a major chunk of their funds on social sector.
But none of this can happen unless there is political push to achieve the goal of Universal Education, at the part of the government. But with less funds being imparted to education, it seems that the government do not even intend to address the problems that exist in education sector, especially, when it has witnessed a serious setback due to the pandemic. In the recovery packages of Covid-19, Education sector was thought to remain at the core of this budget, but it has unfortunately not happened. One can just hope for better implementation of the funds assigned.