New Delhi: The budget allocation for school education is expected to rise by up to 14% in the 2019 fiscal year, with the focus on accelerating schemes already put in place and a special top-up likely for quality improvement.

The mid-day meal scheme and right to education are likely to get higher allocations than they did last year, two government officials said, requesting anonymity.

Innovation in schools, mapping of learning outcomes and school assessments like the national assessment survey are expected to find mentions in the budget to be unveiled on 1 February.

“It will be much less than what the ministry demanded, but higher than the previous year’s allocations in the range of 11-14%," said one of the two officials cited above.

In 2017, the school sector had a budget allocation of Rs46,356 crore.

India spends around 4% of gross domestic product on education—both school and higher education—despite a long-pending demand for raising it to 6% of GDP.

Expectations from this year’s budget have been heightened because it would be the last full budget before the 2019 general elections.

Given the financial constraints of the government, one cannot complain about the expected size of the increase in allocation, the second official said.

With the goods and services tax collection sliding month-on-month, it would be tough for the government to spend more, the second official cited above said.

In December, GST collection of the central and state governments, including taxes on inter-state supplies and the cess on certain items, added up to Rs80,808 crore, a 14% dip from August collections, Mint reported on 26 December.

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, (SSA, education for all), having achieved near 100% enrolment, will focus on teaching-learning outcomes.

The national assessment survey, which was allocated a meagre amount of less than Rs1 crore last year, may see a hike along with other programs to monitor school education sector.

The National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) is working to map the learning outcomes of students from district level upward, and a portion of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan money may be used to improve outcomes in districts that are lagging. Nearly 250 million students are pursuing education across 1.5 million schools in India.

“By next financial year, the SSA may be spending around 40% of its budget on improving quality of school learning," said the second official cited above.

Several international agencies, including the World Bank, have pointed to a chronic decline in the quality of school education. A structured plan may be implemented to improve quality, the official added.

Extra allocations may be in the offing for setting up Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas (JNVs).

“Since such schools are performing better than the even leading private schools, you may see more budgetary allocations for them," said the first official.

An impressive 3,563 JNV students cleared the prestigious joint entrance exam (JEE-Main) 2017 for getting admission to top engineering colleges, including the Indian Institutes of Technology.

Launched in 1985-86 with two schools under the human resource development ministry, the chain has around 590 schools across India.

Union human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters on 29 December that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government wanted to provide quality education to all and improve the school sector although he did not spell out the specifics.

“With higher education sector getting a lot of private investment, the government needs to focus on school sector with more funds. The school education sector needs to map classroom learning for better outcomes and policy making," said D. Narayana Rao, pro-vice chancellor of SRM University in Andhra Pradesh and a former scientist at the Indian Space Research Organisation.

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