Education budget—a mockery of the learning process


The Union Government is in a hurry to implement the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), even though a large section of educationists are strongly opposed to it. This is not the place to discuss NEP 2020, but the Government’s attitude to education is revealed through the Union Budget. While the NEP 2020 prescribes ‘‘to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest’’, the apathy of the Government is exposed by the successive budgets. This year’s budget allocation is Rs. 1,12,899 crore, which is merely 2.5% of the total budget This is way below 6% of GDP and below the Draft NEP prescription of 10% of budgetary expenditure. If we compare with the 2020-21 allocation for education of Rs. 99,312, the average annual increase is about Rs. 4535 crore, which is much less than the annual rate of inflation of about 7%. So, effectively there is no increase in the allocation for education over the years.
The New Education Policy 2020 has recommended the setting up of a National Research Foundation which would be the nodal Agency for funding, coordinating and promoting research in the country. In the Union Budget 2021-22 it was announced that there would be an outlay of Rs, 5000 crore over five years. The revised 2022-23 allocation was Rs. 1, 00,000 only (0.01 crore), and the 2023-24 budget has set aside Rs 2,000 crore for the NRF. The Government seems to curtail the estimate given in 2021-22. Another concern is, to what extent basic science research or curiosity-driven research would be funded by the NRF. The way the Finance Minister talked about investing in dedicated centres for research on artificial intelligence, lab-grown diamonds and sickle cell anaemia gives a cause for worry.
We cannot think of excellence in research without ensuring excellence in education. Unless the creative mind of the student is nurtured and nourished through the education system, unless he or she is encouraged to question, taught to think logically and rationally, he or she cannot be a worthwhile researcher.
Moreover, considerable proportion of this amount will go to the NGOs and private EDTECH companies to set up digital libraries and laborataries for massive online education. Improvement of infrastructures in schools, colleges and universities and recruitment of adequate number of qualified teachers have received low priority. The budget is, therefore, a blow to the improvement of public education and promotion of scientific research. This education budget is emblematic of how the government is bent upon to mould education as per the doctrine of Hindutva which promotes irrationality, obscurantism, national jingoism and hollow traditionalism. The entire education system is so designed as to whatever little scope modern education is available is made heavily skewed towards the rich and privileged.

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