New Delhi: The finance minister has raised the planned allocation for education in Budget 2011 by 24% with an eye on providing universal access to secondary education, increasing the number of scholars in higher education and skills training for the youth.
“Our demographic dividend of a relatively younger population compared with developed countries is as much of an opportunity as it is a challenge. Over 70% of Indians will be of working age in 2025,” Pranab Mukherjee said while proposing the allocation on Monday.
Mukherjee said he is allocating Rs52,057 crore for the sector for fiscal 2011-12, including Rs38,957 for school education and Rs13,100 crore for higher education.
Total education outlay, including Plan and non-Plan allocation, rose 16% to Rs 63,363 crore from Rs54,548 crore in the 2010-11 fiscal year.
The minister stressed on providing universal elementary education (classes I-VIII) under the Right To Education (RTE) Act, which is being implemented jointly through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).
The outlay for RTE-SSA has been pegged at Rs21,000 crore, and is expected to benefit nearly 180 million children pursuing elementary education as well as 8.1 million more who are outside the ambit of school education.
Mukherjee said the allocation for RTE-SSA is 40% more than the Rs15,000 crore allocated in the last fiscal.
However, according to data available with the human resource development ministry, the government allocated Rs15,000 crore just to SSA in 2010-11. When the RTE Act came into force on 1 April, 2010, another Rs4,000 crore was allocated, taking the total outlay for RTE-SSA to Rs19,000 crore.
Taking this into account, the hike in allocation for the government’s flagship education scheme is only around 10%.
K.T. Chacko, director of the commerce ministry-run Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, said higher allocation would help implement the RTE Act and achieve the targeted gross enrolment ratio of 30% by 2020. “On the flip side, there is a marked dip in the allotment for upgrading existing facilities,” he said.
Mukherjee also announced a scheme to offer vocational courses to secondary school students. “A revised Centrally sponsored scheme, Vocationalization of Secondary Education, will be implemented from 2011-12 to improve the employability of our youth,” he said.
The 15 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will get Rs2,081 crore, while the 11 existing and two upcoming Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) will receive a total of Rs149 crore. The minister made a special one-time allocation of Rs200 crore to IIT-Kharagpur and Rs20 crore to IIM-Kolkata for research, as well as Rs50 crore each for upcoming centres of Aligarh Muslim University in West Bengal and Kerala.
Mukherjee said that to promote innovation and cross-institutional research, 1,500 higher educational institutions would be connected via optical fibre under the National Knowledge Network initiative. The network, which has already connected nearly 200 institutions, will complete its task in fiscal 2012, he said.
Anand Sudarshan, chief executive officer of Manipal Education, said allocation of more funds is good news, but he “would have liked to see additional policy support for individual and corporate contributions to endowments for scholarships, for enhancing faculty numbers and quality, and also for technology investments in furthering the cause of education”.
The budget proposed a fund of Rs2,179 crore for the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, which aims to promote secondary education, and Rs450 crore to boost the use of information and communication technologies in schools.
A pre-matriculation scholarship for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe students in classes IX and X was also instituted. “Pre-matric scholarship is good, but I was hoping for something concrete for vocational education and research at higher education,” said Narayanan Ramaswamy, executive director at consulting firm KPMG. “Education is a big space and I did not find anything, which will entice and incentivise investment and promote education entrepreneurs.”