The Indian education system cannot be equated in the rural and urban parts of the country. It still needs to come of age. Till now, mid-day meals are used as a way to attract students to school.
The Covid-19 has unleashed a slew of challenges and the government had to impose nationwide lockdown that included closure of all educational institutions. The Indian education system is still dominated by classroom training and this closure of educational institutes posed a serious challenge. As schools reopen across the country in India, the rate of dropouts has surged – with students forced out of education in this period due to economic challenges.
To boost the Covid-hit education sector, Budget 2022-23 has focused on this sector. An allocation of `1,04, 277 crore has been made for the education ministry which is nearly 11.86% more than the allocation of the previous fiscal. The previous year’s budget had seen a drastic cut-off in funds for the department of school education and literacy as compared to the allotment of 2019.
Nirmala Sitharaman has emphasised on the digital mode of learning to cope for the losses incurred by students during the pandemic. These students are mostly from rural areas, go to government schools and mostly hail from low-income families. Budget 2022 will provide `63.449.37 crore for school education which is approximately `9000 crore more than the previous year. The fund allocation for higher education has also increased by `2400 crore - making it reach `40,828.
The severe damage to the education sector can be somewhat eased by improvement in digital technology. To support this, more funds have been booked for educational infrastructural improvements like e-Vidya, one class one channel and digital labs. There is also a proposal of establishing a digital university to provide education across the globe - where content will be available in all Indian languages. This network hub will help students living in remote areas to get access to education. Schemes like the National Education Mission or Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan will have a positive effect on school level education for which `37,383.36 crore has been allocated in Budget 2022-23. The government has also felt the need of improving educational infrastructure starting from the state level and going further. It's scheme of Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS), that includes a loan from the World Bank can turn out to be fruitful. This initiative will enhance classroom instruction techniques and learning assessment systems. Six states fall under this scheme namely - Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. Budget for this scheme has increased from `485 crores in 2021-22 to `550 crores in 2022-23.
The educational allotment of this year has majorly stressed on upskilling technology and engaging it in digital learning. The programme of "one class, one channel" is a unique programme to facilitate students in remote areas who are more comfortable with regional languages. The number of channels under this scheme will be increased from 12 to 200 across states for classes 1 to 12. Students will get content and study materials in their own languages and this will help in creating interest and enthusiasm among them. Moreover, teachers will also get an independent avenue of creating content that will naturally be easy for students to learn and easy to teach for teachers. There are a number of places where accessibility of educational materials like notebooks and books are limited. The proposal of providing education through various mediums like internet, television and radio will be supportive. The sector of higher education has also been given special care. The allocation for central universities has been raised to ₹9,420.00 crore from ₹7,643.26 crore of the last fiscal year. IITs and IIMSs have also been ensured higher allocations.
According to many educationists, Union Budget 2022 has omitted critical issues like literacy and has not focused adequately on them. The National Students Union of India (NSUI) points out that there were expectations regarding fee cuts in educational institutions and increase in expenditure on scholarships and fellowships – which have remained unaddressed in this year’s Budget. On one hand, the government is emphasising on girl child education and on the other hand, there is no fixed fund allotment to incentivise girl child education in the secondary segment. In a country like India which still depends on mid-day meals for calling in marginalised students to school, funds have been slashed from `11,500 crore to `10,233 crore for the mid-day meal scheme.
NEP and research
The New Education Policy (NEP) that was approved by the Union Cabinet on July 29, 2020 promised quality education for India's development. A change in the education policy was needed in the Indian education domain and the NEP was approved in 2020 after 34 years. It has emphasized to transform India's education sector by 2040 and stated that 6% of GDP should be fixed for spending in education. This was 3% as per the Economic Survey of 2018-19. The NEP holds a plan of setting up a higher education commission and making the digital education infrastructure of our country stronger. Research, innovation and teacher training projects are important components of NEP. However, Budget 2022-23 has overlooked these requirements. The teacher training and adult education sector saw a massive drop of 49% in the 2022-23 Budget as compared to the previous allocation. This year's Budget saw a cut in funds for research and development for institutions and laboratories. It is `14,217 crore for 2022-23 which was `14,793 crore during FY 2021-22. According to statistics provided by UNESCO this month, expenditure on research and development (R&D) has crossed $1.7 trillion globally whereas national indicators show that India is spending only 0.66% of its GDP in comparison to developing countries and other emerging countries of East Asia. Budget 2022-23 has done nothing to improve allotments for research.