New Delhi: Finance minister P. Chidambaram’s Budget 2008 boosts education spending by 20%, but critics say it’s not enough and claim the lone new initiative—to launch 6,000 model schools—is elitist.
The government put Rs650 crore behind the model schools, which was announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in August. Overall, education spending went up to Rs34,400 crore from Rs28,674 in the last budget, which itself had been a 34% increase over the previous year.
“Rather than the provision of a fully equipped and functional school in every village, the government has reinforced that education continues to be planned as a privilege rather than a fundamental right,” complains Lysa John, campaign coordinator for Wada Na Todo (don’t break promises) Abhiyan, an anti-poverty network.
Agreed Madhav Chavan, who heads the non-profit education organization, Pratham: “You can take an existing school and make it a model school with certain standards of achievement and expenditure, or build a new school. How to do the model will be a problem.”
Days before the Budget, the Planning Commission and the ministry of human resource development, which oversees education, sparred on precisely the same issue. In the end, it appears that Chidambaram backed the Prime Minister’s plan though little details emerged on a prototype.
The Budget increased two flagship programmes financed by a cess on all taxpayers—the universal primary education programme, or Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, received Rs13,100 crore, 23% more than last year; and the mid-day meal scheme saw a 9% increase to Rs8,000 crore.
While the government was expected to expand universal education to cover secondary education, Chidambaram did not announce a formal plan. He increased the spending on keeping 15- and 16-year-olds in school by 20% to Rs4,554 crore. The Budget document also talked of a “universal access and quality” at the secondary stage plan, “being launched this year”.
Shantha Sinha, director of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, lauded the increase in secondary education, but “would expect a larger increase”. She said the amount should reflect the intense demand for secondary education.
Aruna Vishwanatha contributed to this story.