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Budget 2014: Primary schooling and skill development, twin challenges in education sector

Thursday, 10 July 2014 - 3:21am IST | Agency: dna webdesk

Since India would have a large number of young persons in the 20-35 age group, it would be a great opportunity for India to have a huge skilled populace and the country needs to provide quality education for the same.

"This is a great opportunity for India. Taking advantage of such an opportunity is contingent upon progress on the human development front," the survey said, adding India has to provide quality education and develop the skills of its large young population to fully reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.

"As a percentage of GDP, expenditure on education has gone up from 2.9% in 2008-09 to 3.3% in 2013-14. There is need not only to increase it further, but also address quality issues," the survey said, adding skill development is vital not only for taking advantage of the demographic dividend, but also for more inclusive growth.

Stressing on the need to revamping mid-day meal scheme to attract children to schools, the Economic Survey 2013-14 said that proper measures are required to address issues related to elementary and secondary education system in the country.

There are concerns about the safety of children owing to poor quality of food, said the survey tabled by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament today. "Social audit has been introduced to monitor the scheme, including testing of food sample by NABL/CSIR/FSSAI accredited labs," said the survey adding that using teaching staff only for supervision of MDM is affecting teaching.

In 2013-14, Rs 10,927 crore was spend on MDM benefiting about 10.80 crore children. "The percentage of GDP expenditure on education has gone up from 2.9% in 2008-09 to 3.3% in 2013-14. There is a need not only to increase it further but also address the quality issue," the survey said.

To reform the higher education system, the government has started Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan to focus on access, equity, quality and innovation. "During the Twelfth Plan, RUSA will create 80 new universities by converting autonomous colleges in a cluster to state universities, besides creating other related infrastructure," the survey said. 

Gross enrollment ratio (GER) in higher education has nearly doubled from around 10% in 2004-05 to 20.4% in 2011-12 with the enrollment of 28.5 million students, the survey said. 

However, the elementary and secondary education system is struggling with problems as there is a decline in teacher classroom ratio in schools. It is also witnessing decline in basic reading and arithmetic levels and children's attendance. "There has been a decline in the proportion of schools with at least one classroom per teacher, from 76.2% in 2010 to 73.8% in 2013," the survey said. 

More than half of standard two and standard four classes sit together in rural government primary schools, it added. "Children's attendance (for standards I-V) shows a decline from 72.9% in 2010 to 70.7% in 2013 in rural primary schools with exceptions being Bihar, Karnataka, Odisha and Tamil Nadu," the survey said. 

In addition, there is a decline in the arithmetic level. "The percentage of standard III children to solve simple two digit subtraction problem fell from 39.1% in 2009 to 26.1% in 2013," it said. 

In 2013 education sector had received a 17% jump with an allocation Rs. 65,867 crore for 2013-14 fiscal, but the then HRD Minister MM Pallam Raju had termed it as a “little” increase and said he would be asking for more to meet the goals.

He said that with the RTE deadline coming to an end on March 31 for fulfilling all provisions, States would be asking for more the central share and the Government has to be prepared for that. “I think there has been little bit of increase. But the important factor is that the deadline for implementing the Right to Education (RTE) Act is coming up and subsequent to that, there will be a lot of demand from the States for Central share of money and I think that is what we should be prepared for,” Raju told reporters outside Parliament, reacting to the Budget.

Most of the States are reportedly yet to fulfil the RTE provisions. Schools face the prospects of being derecognised in the event of not meeting the norms.

Noting that capacity-building in secondary education and higher secondary education is also imperative, Mr. Raju said, “We will definitely be asking for more money” for that.

In his Budget speech, Finance Minister P Chidambaram had said as education is the other high priority for the Government, “I propose to allocate Rs. 65,867 crore to HRD Ministry, which is an increase of 17% over the revised estimate of the previous year. “The Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the RTE are firmly in place. I propose to provide Rs. 27,258 crore for SSA,” he said. The plan expenditure for Department of School Education has been kept at Rs. 49,659 crore while the plan expenditure for Department of Higher Education has been put at Rs. 16,198 crore.

In 2012-13, the school education department had got Rs. 45,969, which was scaled down to Rs. 42,729 in the revised estimate. Similarly, the higher education department had got Rs. 15,438, but it was also cut down to Rs. 13,479 in the revised estimate.

The Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan programme, which aims at universalisation of secondary education, had got Rs. 3983 crore for 2013-14, an increase of Rs. 25.6% over the revised estimate. The mid-day meal programme had been allotted Rs. 13,215 crore. The expectations for the Budget 2014 remain high.

Education allowance and hostel allowance expected to be increased. India Inc also hope that there would be more connectivity and development of infrastructure in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.

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