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Public Economics Union Budget 2017
Dissecting Union Budget 2017: What’s in store for the Education Sector?
February 9, 2017
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Rather than entering the debates of the Union Budget being a damp squib or an “uttam” budget, one thing that cannot be debunked, at the outset, is that this budget coming amidst oodles of expectations is indeed a shrewd and a smart one!

What a developing country expects from budget? Greater thrust on development challenges and education sector invites attention automatically in a nation that has the highest population of youth in the world and lack of skills can hinder the country’s potential to enjoy the benefits of demographic window. Modi government’s narrative on India’s education sector has been full of intent but has fallen short in practice, in all these years so far. In the union budget announced by Mr. Jaitley on 1st February 2017, almost a 10 per cent increase in the allocation was recorded for this sector; accelerating from INR72,394 crore in 2016-17 to INR79,686 crore in 2017-18. Of the total outlay, INR 46356 crore was allocated to the school and rest INR 33329.70 crore for higher education (Table 1 and 2 below).

The allocation for the school sector has accelerated from INR 43896.04 crore to INR 46356.25 crore while that of higher education has gone up from INR 29703.20 crore to INR 33329.70. Finance minister, with an impressive budget speech, seemed to declare complete reforms for the education sector. Some of the excerpts from his speech are as follows:

“We have proposed to introduce a system of measuring annual learning outcomes in our schools. Emphasis will be given on science education and flexibility in curriculum to promote creativity through local innovative content,”

“Good quality institutions would be enabled to have greater administrative and academic autonomy. Colleges will be identified based on accreditation and ranking, and given autonomous status.”

“We have proposed to introduce a system of measuring annual learning outcomes in our schools. Emphasis will be given on science education and flexibility in curriculum to promote creativity through local, innovative content.”

“In higher education, the government will undertake reforms in the University Grants Commission (UGC). Good quality institutions would be enabled to have greater administrative and academic autonomy.”

So, the budget rightly emphasised on revamping the nation’s education system, by keeping a check on annual learning outcomes in the school, putting in place innovative fund for secondary education in order to ensure universal access and quality education and promoting ICT learning. Finance Minister, Mr. Jaitely also announced that atleast 350 swayam online courses will be introduced to promote e-learning among students via best faculty, allow students who are taught virtually to take tests and get graded. The greatest thrust of this Union Budget 2017 in context of education sector has been setting up an autonomous national testing agency to undertake all entrance examinations for higher education, hence relieving CBSE and AICTE from the administrative role of conducting examinations, thereby leaving these bodies with more time to focus on academic content development.

Tabel 1: Budgetary Allocations for School Education

  ActualsBudget EstimatesRevised EstimatesBudget Estimates
2015-162016-172016-172017-18
Major Head
REVENUE SECTION
GRAND TOTAL61107.4263826.6563628.5167459.05
 Note: The above estimates do not include the recoveries shown below which are adjusted in reduction of expenditure.
Revenue Section
General Education2202-9.33
Secretariat-Social Services2251-0.01
Grants-in-aid to State Governments3601-19298.17-20272.65-19732.47-21102.8
Total-Revenue Section-19307.51-20272.65-19732.47-21102.8
 The expenditure provisions, net of above recoveries, will be as under.
Revenue41799.914355443896.0446356.25
Total41799.914355443896.0446356.25
Source: Union Budget of India, 2017-18

 

Table 2: Budgetary Allocation for higher Education

  ActualsBudget EstimatesRevised EstimatesBudget Estimates
2015-162016-172016-172017-18
Major Head
REVENUE SECTION
Total-Revenue Section25549.942884029702.233079.7
CAPITAL SECTION
Capital Outlay on Education, Sports, Art and Culture4202... ... 1250
Total-Capital Section... ... 1250
GRAND TOTAL25549.942884029703.233329.7
Source: Union Budget of India, 2017-18

Despite everything seeming to be goody—goody in this budget there seemed to be few gaps between the intent and the practice of the present government. The was a repeated emphasis of the finance minister on undertaking assessment of learning outcomes, so basically he was referring to an assessment of 250 million students in roughly 1.5 million schools and the amount so allocated towards this head makes this as a distant dream to be realised.

E-learning – another key thrust of Finance Minister in the speech given the changing demands of the education sector, also shows a mismatch between what the present government is going to implement no matter how much it was emphasised upon or in fact needs to be emphasised upon. INR497 crore has been allocated to this head in 2017-18 compared to INR552 crore in 2016-17. But the question that is larger than life for this sector is where is the allocation for national testing agency or the innovation fund?

But this is not to discount the increased allocations on setting up new IIMs has gone up from INR 190 crore to INR 1030 crore in the recent budget compared to last year’s estimates. Increased allocation has also been recorded for IITs and SSA at the school level has been allocated INR 1,000 crore more than the previous budget emphasising on the universalisation of school education. Mid-Day Meal Program has also received a budgetary allocation higher by nearly INR 300 crores compared to allocations of 2016-17.

How these allocations translate into utilisation of funds is yet to be seen but revisiting these figures in several subheads will certainly improve the situation of education sector in India.

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