New Delhi: Concerned that the finance ministry’s decision to allocate almost Rs20,000 crore less to it for school and higher education programmes than it had asked for could prevent it from meeting objectives set out in the 11th Plan, the human resource development (HRD) ministry is asking for at least an additional Rs3,000 crore.
The finance ministry is not willing to allocate more than Rs32,300 crore in the coming Budget for these programmes, a 12.5% increase over the allocation for these in the last budget, although the HRD ministry had asked for Rs53,300 crore.
“At this rate, the government will not be able to meet the commitments it made in the 11th Plan and growth in the education sector will be impeded,” said a senior government official, who did not wish to be identified. India sets out its policy objectives in five-year plans; the 11th Plan ends in 2012.
The 11th Plan has projected that 19.3% of the total gross budgetary support, or GBS, in the Plan period should go to education. Against this, only 7.7% of the total GBS was spent on education in the 10th Plan. The sector has also been accorded highest projected allocation of Rs2.74 trillion in the 11th Plan.
The government’s focus on the sector, and its desire to spend money on it, is motivated by some appalling statistics: One out of every two children who go to elementary school drops out; and 7.1 million children in the country have never stepped into a school.
According to the 11th Plan, money allocated to the sector will go into improving quality of elementary education, recruiting additional teachers, upgrading information and communication technology, and restructuring Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the government’s flagship elementary education programme.
In an effort to raise money to spend on the sector, the government levied an additional 1% secondary education cess on customs, excise and service tax in the last budget.
To meet the targeted allocation for education in the 11th Plan, the finance ministry should raise the allocation to the sector in the coming Budget by more than it did in the last budget, said the official.
In 2007-08, the first year of the 11th Plan, the budget raised the allocation to education by 38% over the previous year. Even if the finance ministry agrees to the HRD ministry’s demand for an additional Rs3,000 crore, it will mean an increase of only 23% over the amount allocated to the sector in the last budget.
Still, experts said more money alone would not help. “In order for the sector to grow, the states should improve their performance, and educational reforms are necessary. Although more money is required in the sector, the unconditional release of money will not serve the purpose,” said Madhav Chavan, founder, Pratham, an organization that works in the area of primary education.