By Krishangi Singh:
Education is something that most of us who are reading this, have just ‘had’. We haven’t had to give a second thought regarding whether we will be ‘able’ to go to school or not. However, 80 million children are not completing the full cycle of elementary education, while eight million are out of school over a period of years (source). They may or may not find an employment, and they will never reach their true potential.
Each financial year, when our budget is released, we hear some big numbers depicting the financial investment by our government to promote education in basic blocks and villages. Then where does all that money go? Why is our country struggling to achieve a decent literacy rate, let alone upper primary and secondary education levels?
With the world’s largest youth population, India has the great challenge to not only get children to school but to also provide them worthwhile education. The price of such education is significantly higher than current costs and it is an investment our government does not seem to be willing to make.
When viewed in isolation, public investment in education sounds to be a staggeringly huge number. However, when viewed in relation to our population’s need and in comparison to what other countries’ are investing, the number is miserable.
The increase in education budget for the current fiscal year was a mere 4.3%. With rising global inflation, the investments in public welfare sectors need proportionate increment. As we can see in the graph, the increment in education has been extremely low if viewed in relation to rising global costs.
India’s investment in education sector seems even more deplorable when viewed in juxtaposition with other countries.
While countries like Malaysia, Netherlands and U.S.A. spend above 5% of their GDP on public investment in education sector, India suffices with a meagre 3.2%.
Our country needs major investments not only to open new educational institutions but too promote quality education as well.
India was the only BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) nation in 2012 that did not have even one university among the top 200 on the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) list, which is the most reputed global ranking of institutes for higher education. Even the high-profile institutions like IITs and IIMs, which are a part of the fantasy of many middle class households, failed to match international standards of education excellence.
India’s public expenditure on higher education, which is currently availed by only 10% of school students, is at an extreme low of 0.6% of the GDP. USA invests 2.7% of its national GDP on higher education alone to support its world-class higher education system.
It is absurd to expect RTE, or any other policy for that matter, to work effectively when there is not enough monetary allocation for it. It’s as if the government is expecting a structure to construct itself out of thin air by merely providing a blueprint for it.
We are about to end the fifth year of RTE and the current investment in education sector is not particularly high in accordance to the national-level free and compulsory education motto of the Act. This stage certainly requires us to introspect on how a well-planned education act has failed to achieve its full momentum due to lack of economic investment.
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
This year’s military budget saw an increase of around 12.5 percent from the last year (source). Wouldn’t it be a smarter investment to provide such financial increment to the weapon of education?