Adequate budgetary allocation for inclusive and equitable quality education still a far cry for Indian children
The total budgetary spending on school-education has remained stagnant at 2.7 percent of GDP since last four years (2012-13 to 2015-16).This was revealed in the recent study by CBGA and CRY, which looks at the overall scenario of budgetary spending - including central and states’ funds - on education from classes I to XII. The study examines in detail the composition of school budgets of ten states such as Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
Of the 2.68 percent of GDP in 2015-16, elementary education accounted for 1.55 percent of GDP and secondary education was allocated 0.9 percent of GDP with the remaining amount spent more comprehensively on school-education as a whole where the elementary-secondary break up is not possible. The macro picture sketched by the study shows that the poorer and educationally under-performing states have accorded higher priority to school-education than the better performing states in the post RTE Act phase. Also, even in the poorer states, it is spending on secondary education that has received better attention in the incremental spending over these years.
“India’s prevailing quantum of budgetary spending on education is inadequate not just because it falls short of the benchmark recommended decades ago by the Kothari Commission” says Subrat Das, Director of CBGA, “But also because the paucity of funds for almost all important areas of public provisioning of school education—be it availability of teachers, their training, monitoring of schools, interventions for children from marginalised sections or those for strengthening community engagement with schools—is glaring in most of the poorer states,” Das adds.
According to the study, the per child, age-group 6-17, budgetary spending in the states varied from Rs 8,526 per annum in Bihar to Rs 18,035 per annum in Maharashtra in 2015-16; while the ‘per student’ budgetary spending across states varied from Rs 9,583 in Bihar to Rs 28,630 in Maharashtra in 2014-15. But Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas, which are considered as ‘model’ government-run schools in terms of providing quality education, spent Rs 27,150 and Rs 85,000 per student per annum respectively in 2015-16, which are much higher than spending by the states.
Protiva Kundu of CBGA, lead author of the study, explains that while teachers’ salary constitutes the largest share of school education budget in all states, ranging from 52 percent to 80 percent; states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, which have large numbers of vacancies of teachers, are spending less than 60 percent of their school education budget on teacher salary. She adds that “the average spending on teachers’ salary in the OECD countries is as much as 79 percent of the total recurrent (or revenue) expenditure on school education”. The study by CBGA and CRY, therefore, reveals that teachers’ salary is not the reason for under-funding of other important areas; rather, it is the overall deficiency of budgetary resources for school education in most of the states that is at the root of the problem.
The limited resource envelope available to states for school education hardly leaves them with any scope for paying adequate attention to different areas that would lead to better quality of education in government schools. For instance, despite the lack of trained teachers, spending on teacher’s training is meagre in most of the states analysed. Bihar is the only state, among the ten selected states, which is allocating a decent 1.6 percent of its school-education budget to teacher’s training; in the other states, it varied from 0.2 percent to 0.6 percent in 2015-16 budget estimates.
The issue of teacher shortage needs to be addressed by recruiting a cadre of qualified teachers and improving learning outcomes requires the states to provide larger resources for teacher training infrastructure and training of trainers for teacher education. Recruiting an adequate number of school inspectors to monitor and evaluate performance of schools regularly is also needed urgently, as inspection and monitoring is yet another resource-starved area in the school education budgets across states. The neglect of training for school management committee (SMC) members reflects in the dearth of funds for SMC training programmes and community mobilisation in most states; none of the study states spent even 1 percent of their Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) budget on this component.
Examining the priorities within the school-education budget from the perspective of children from SC, ST, OBC and minority community, economically weaker sections and children with disabilities, the study points that better funding of interventions targeted towards them would make the education system more inclusive. Likewise, the proportion of expenditure meant exclusively for girl children is less than 1 percent of the school-education budget in many states such as, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh; what is encouraging is this proportion is 5.9 percent of the school-education budget in Odisha in 2015-16.
The study calls for increasing the SSA allocations for mainstreaming out of school children and stepping up the budgetary priority for interventions to cater to children who drop out at the secondary level; the policy measures in this domain must be formulated in conjunction with the child labour law, especially with regard to the girl child.
Komal Ganotra of CRY (Child Rights and You) emphasised that “The overall deficiency in public financing of school education is not only responsible for the gaps in coverage and quality of education provided through government schools, it is also a major causal factor underlying the weak linkages between budget outlays and educational outcomes in the poorer states”. “Private schools too”, she added, “are an important beneficiary of government financing for school education; as the study shows how significant proportions of budgetary spending on school-education are channelised towards government-aided and unaided private schools”. This needs to be factored in while assessing the returns from government financing of school education, especially in states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
Subrat Das opined that “a mere re-prioritisation of the existing quantum of budgets for school education would certainly not help the states address the deficiencies in their government schools system; there is clearly a need for a significant enhancement of the overall resource envelope for this sector. But when a state does move towards an expanded budget for school education, it would need to allocate the additional resources across the various components / areas of provisioning in a manner that addresses the requirements more comprehensively.”