Education for all still a distant dream

Most Central government schemes have reported shortfalls in budgetary outlays

Overall spending on education in proportion to total budget outlay has increased marginally from 3.88 per cent in 2009-10 to 4.5 per cent in 2010-11 while its share in terms of GDP has inched up from 0.64 percent in 2009-10 to 0.71 percent in 2010-11.

It seems more inadequate considering that the government has committed to achieving universal education for all through the flagship Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) without revamping its expenditure norms that constrain effective implementation of the scheme.
It has set aside Rs 49,904 crore for the Human Resource Development ministry from Union Budget 2010-11 but this accounts for just 0.72 percent of the GDP, which has remained stagnant from the previous fiscal, and pales when compared to the tax sops, let alone outlays, for priority sectors like Defence.

After pushing through the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, and planning to operationalise it through SSA, the budget has proposed a meagre hike from Rs 13,100 crore (2009-10 Revised Estimates) to Rs 15,000 crore this year towards the scheme.

A study by Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability shows that per capita expenditure on education from the budget for a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe student works out to Rs 1,073 per annum and per capita spending for schooling a girl child is Rs 725 pa.

Budgetary outlays for education also seem to have ignored the high out-of-pocket expenses involved. The 64th Round of National Sample Survey, 2008, reveals that per capita out-of-pocket expenditure by an average parent in the country for elementary-level government school education is Rs 1,243 and Rs 2,597 for the secondary/higher secondary level.

The budget proposals also belie the UPA government’s reiteration of the D S Kothari Commission recommendations in 1966 that total public spending on education should be raised to six percent of GDP by 1986. With just one year left in the 11th Five Year Plan period, most of the Central education schemes have reported shortfalls in terms of budgetary outlays.

At least 80 per cent of the plan outlay should have been made in the first four years but actual provisioning has been 12 per cent for Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, 36 per cent for Teacher Training and 46 per cent for UGC. SSA and Mid Day Meal schemes have fared better with 76 per cent and 65 per cent respectively.

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