New Delhi: The Union government proposes to give more money to states towards improving primary education, reversing an earlier plan to reduce funding.
Over the next five years, the government may have to offer an additional Rs.15,000 crore to states lagging in human development indices such as health and education or that have other issues to deal with and are given a ‘special category’ status, said a government official aware of the development.
Under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the Union government contributes to states 65% of the cost of providing free primary education (except for north-eastern states, which get 90% funding). The government had been contemplating reducing the contribution to 50%.
Under the new plan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand are likely to get 90% of the cost spent on universalizing primary education (classes I-VIII).
This was “proposed in view of the special category status assigned to them, given their difficult geographical terrain,” says a draft document for the 12th Plan period (2012-17)
Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are set to get 75% central assistance, as per the Plan document, a copy of which Mint has reviewed.
“Apart from low literacy, these states are low in human development rankings and other social and health indicators. The additional financial burden on the states inmeeting the RTE mandate is high. A more favourable fund sharing pattern in the ratio of 75:25 for these states would reduce the financial burden… and lead to improved outcome,” the document underlined.
Vinod Raina, an independent education expert, said some states need more hand-holding than others. “One norm for the whole country is not a good idea. We should prioritize states based on need and the central government will do good by allocating more fund to them,” Raina said.
Worries over the quality of India’s school education system are increasing. Three reports issued in the past year have highlighted drawbacks in the education system, fuelling concerns that India’s long-term competitiveness may be at risk.
The 2011 Annual Status of Education Report, compiled by Pratham, an educational non-profit agency, found that fewer than one in two Class V students were able to read Class II level texts. The Quality Education Survey by Wipro Ltd and Educational Initiatives, an education assessment firm, found that high-end schools too lacked quality. Another international study in 74 countries ranked India almost at the bottom, with only Kyrgyzstan faring worse than India.
In the 2012-13 annual budget, the Union government allocated Rs.25,555 crore for RTE, which promises compulsory education to all children in the 6-14 age group. India’s schools have nearly 220 million students.
“The focus in the 12th Plan is to address the weakness in implementation. The approach in this Plan is to provide clear goals… and operational autonomy to states and invest in independent monitoring outcomes by the central government,” the draft document said.
A human resource development ministry official said that earlier this year several states had raised their demand for more central assistance for implementing RTE. “It is under consideration that a differential funding pattern be adopted to reduce burden on needy states,” the official said, requesting anonymity.