Education spending–is the focus right

Discussions with stake holders right now will begin to help present the Union Budget 2018-19 in February 2018. It would be good to review what was announced in the budget for
2017-18 and analyse whether these investments had the right focus. I would like to recall that the increase over 2016-17 was 9.9% taking the total to Rs79,685.95 crore.
The way government goes about with these consultations must be more transparent.
An active engagement is required with all key stake holders, including public and private educational providers, civil society, policy makers to understand each of their perspectives. There should be in-depth interviews and surveys conducted representing the diversity in geography and income.
The finance minister had in 2016 stated, ‘We have proposed to introduce a system of measuring annual learning outcomes in our schools. Emphasis will be given on science education and flexibility in curriculum to promote creativity through local innovative content.

The Government was planning to revamp higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) to allow more autonomy to higher educational institutions. The apex court has ruled that deemed universities are not on par with universities created by acts of parliament or state legislatures. The court order held that deemed universities are mere institutions with degree-granting power. It has ruled that deemed universities are not equal to universities.

With these challenges in school education and an unclear environment in higher education, the Finance Minister needs a lot of help in formulating his budget allocation for education.

FM should ask whether our education systems lead to improved employment prospects. Should the focus and investment be made towards achieving this goal? Tackling the youth unemployment challenge will require a dual focus on creating employment opportunities, including self-employment, and ensuring youth have the right skills for the jobs being created. Opportunities should be created for private sector participation by providing relevant and cost-effective education. The industry in India can easily work with existing universities and colleges. This can create an enormous opportunity, whether it is for-profit or a non-profit education entity.

Education and economic development move together. India should focus on providing the connection between the two. If education does not channel the energy of young people through better employment prospects, surely it has failed to deliver a major part of its promise.

There are many passionate people, both within and outside the government education systems, and they should voice their opinion. The challenge is huge. Let us spend the tax payer’s money for the betterment of our children and youth. I hope the Finance Minister is listening.