On Wednesday, 1st of February 2017, the Finance Minister of India Arun Jaitley announced the Budget for the Fiscal year 2017-2018, through this he showed that there would be a path of reform for the Indian education sector in the following fiscal year.
The budget had a lot of key focal points including the introduction of learning assessments for schools, the set-up of a national testing agency which would conduct the entrance examinations for higher education, allowing more autonomy for universities by revamping the University Grants Commission (UGC) as well as freeing educational bodies at the nodal level from having to deal with the tedium of administrative work.
The Union Budget for 2017-18 overall, has drawn out a total of Rs. 79,685.95 crore for the sector of education, which is an increase of close to 10% from the previous year. An amount of Rs 46,356.25 of this total would go to the school sector and the remainder would be earmarked in the favour of higher education.
The finance minister spoke of an emphasis on science and technical education as well as flexibility in curriculums which would work to promote creativity in students as well as local innovation. Towards this goal, an ‘innovation fund’ has also been spoken of for the segment of secondary education which would leverage technology to bring quality education courses to a massive number of students nationally in the more educationally-challenged blocks, of which 3,479 have been identified. Reforms in the UGC have been mentioned in the space of higher learning.
Along with the recent bill granting complete autonomy to the IIMs, there will also be an enabling of greater administrative and academic autonomy based on accreditations and ranking of several educational institutions currently controlled by the government. There has, however, been some noticeable gap found between the idea and the real-world allocation in terms of the education reforms. The school assessment programme, for example, has received an allocation of Rs 67 lakh for this fiscal year which is severely lower than the Rs 5 crore allocation in the previous year.
The budget also interestingly has allocated Rs. 125 crore towards the appointment of language teachers which is a 400% increase from the previous amount. The e-learning segment has been allocated only Rs. 497 crore as opposed to Rs. 552 crore from the previous year. These allotments are serious causes for concern as they do not follow the statements made by the Ministry of Finance leading up to the announcement of the Union Budget for this year.
The budget does, however, allocate Rs. 250 crore towards capital expenses in setting up a financing agency for higher education which is much greater than the previous token amount of Rs. 1 crore. The plan for world-class institutions has been allocated Rs. 50 crore, and the new kid on the block, the pm’s research fellowship has been given Rs. 75 crore to start.
The IITs have been allotted Rs 7,856 crore which is an increase from the previous allocation of about Rs. 500 crore last year. The Mid-day meal programme now has been allotted Rs. 10,00 crore, which is a significant raise from the previous Rs 300 crore.