Need of greater thrust to reform our education sector.....by Aaftab Singh Ahluwalia
The ancient Indian sages had said “Saha Veeryam Karavaavahai”, which refers to the idea of growing together. For inclusive growth in our Amrit Kaal journey from India@75 to India@100, we need to have a complementary two-pronged approach- increasing the size of our economic pie and ensuring equitable distribution of this pie. For the latter, education and health sector reforms need to be at the nucleus of our growth strategy.The significance of raising investment in education has been highlighted time after time in our education policies.
However, we have entered Amrit Kaal without achieving the recommended level of 6% of GDP, as envisaged by the 1968 Policy, reiterated in the Policy of 1986, and which was further reaffirmed in National Education Policy 2020. Union Education Minister had apprised the Parliament that public expenditure (Government - Centre and States) on education was 4.39% of GDP in 2019-20. This is significantly short of recommendations of various visionary education policies of India.
The dichotomy between NEP recommendation and Budget has been concealed by the fact that the education sector has got the highest ever allotment in Budget FY 23. There has been a rise of budgetary allocation for education from 1.04 lakh crore (FY 2022-23) to 1.12 lakh crore (FY 2023-24); which does appear like a leap towards our NEP goal of 6% of GDP expenditure on education. However, statistics can be misleading.
Economic Survey 2022 noted that expenditure on education (Union Budget) has been consistently hovering around 2.9% of GDP since 2015; which is true for Budget 2023 as well. It is uncanny for a developing country like ours that the share for education, as % of GDP, hasn’t been bolstered in the Union budget. This may act as an impediment to leverage our demographic dividend.
For India to reap the benefits of our demographic dividend through education, we not only need to increase public investment but also create a conducive environment for governance consulting firms, CSR, and philanthropic initiatives for the bottom of the pyramid in education sector.
Two case studies of successful partnerships have been elucidated.Firstly, Haryana Government’s work with Samagra Governance (a governance consulting firm) has transformed Haryana’s government school ecosystem and made the students grade-competent.
Government’s ‘Saksham Haryana’ programme successfully achieved grade competency in 107 of 119 blocks. Tech was leveraged to improve top-down decision-making, e.g. Academic Monitoring System (AMS) application that collected and analysed State-wide data, which could be used by stakeholders ranging from the Chief Minister to a teacher.
Secondly, Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Bharti Enterprises, is making government schools more accessible for girl children. It’s engaged in ameliorating the school infrastructure by providing a girls’ toilet in government schools that don’t have a separate girls’ toilet. This addresses one of the foremost reasons for girls not attending schools in rural India, i.e. absence of adequate and clean toilets in schools.
Furthermore, cooperative and competitive federalism should be promoted to nudge governments to adopt innovative practices. Ministry of Education’s Performance Grading Index (PGI) is an ideal move in that direction. It’s a tool that provides insights into the status of school education in States & UTs including key levers that drive their performance.
All in all, a greater thrust is needed for the education sector to ensure the holistic development of India’s youth. This is inherent to realise our vision of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”.
Aaftab Singh Ahluwalia, The author runs an NGO working for Education
Phone No. : +91-7530000539
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