AT a time when the basic structure of the education system, right from the primary school to the higher education level, needs a significant budgetary push, the Budget’s sole focus is on vocational training.
By AJOY ASHIRWAD MAHAPRASHASTA
Much like the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s Budgets, Union Budget 2016-17 has failed to address the concerns of the education sector. According to experts, the slew of new announcements Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made in the Budget yet again focusses on vocational training and not on the systemic issues that plague the education system. Vocational training has been one of the priorities of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government to complement Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Skill India and Make in India campaigns, and much of the allocations in the last two Budgets have given primacy to this aspect. While vocational training of youth may be an important socio-economic need, the sole focus on it can at best be described as a cosmetic step to address the structural problems that the education system faces at present.
A sluggish growth in literacy rates, inadequate infrastructure, shortage of teaching staff and schools and colleges, and limited access to education in rural areas are some of the problems that need immediate attention, education experts say. Since the Indian Education Commission, popularly known as the Kothari Commission, of 1966, many government committees have stressed the need to allocate at least 6 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to education. However, successive governments in the past two decades have chosen to decrease public spending on education in their bid to control fiscal deficit. This has led to further qualitative and quantitative deprivation of the education system. To offset this, the governments have been trying to privatise the system gradually, at the cost of alienating a large majority of the people from education.
The need of the hour is to strengthen the public education system, with the focus on making quality education accessible to the majority of the people. Experts feel that at a time when the basic structure of the education system—right from the primary school to the higher education level—needs a significant budgetary push, the sole focus on vocational training seems more like an apology for a Budget.