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Winners and losers of the 2018 education Budget

Posted by Bihar Equal Education Initiative
February 2, 2018

NOTE: This post has been self-published by the author. Anyone can write on Youth Ki Awaaz.

A widening gap between rhetoric and reality illustrates that the 2018-19 budget is mainly a collection of empty promises without financial backing. The Education Budget 2018-19 is the second lowest since the Modi government came into power. Underspending in public education usually has one winner and one winner only: private capital.


Dr. Vishwa Anand is the convenor of the Bihar Equal Education Initiative. He believes that only by strenthening and empowering the governmental education system, quality education for children from all sections of the nation can be ensured.


The Budget 2018 outcome for India’s schools

The last budget of this term under the Modi government was waited for by various diverse actors. Finally, on February 1, Arun Jaitley presented the budget for the financial year 2018-19. Prior to it, he had consulted with various actors such as industry and financial institutions, but also civil society groups.

The Right to Education forum has pressured the government to close the financing gap for the Right to Education Act and its implementing vehicle, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). However, the budget allocations in the 2018 budget are sobering and the Right to Education already condemned the abysmally low allocation stating that it is nowhere close to their expectations, as Ambarish Rai, National Convener of the RTE Forum stated.


A worrisome understanding of a fundamental right

Already before the budget, the Economic Survey 2017-18 made the questionable assertion that “Being a developing economy, there is not enough fiscal space to increase the expenditure on critical social infrastructure like education and health in India”. This is a counter-narrative to the government which likes to show India as a strong and uprising country. And indeed, the economic growth in the last years was steady, thus making the assertion of the Economic Survey even more questionable.

The main argument however must be that such a comment is entirely irrelevant when it comes to financing education for the six to 14 year-olds. Article 21A is not a right that shall be progressively realized. It is immediately realizable and enforceable in courts. The Right to Education Act, too, has made the fulfillment of minimum norms and standards time-bound. Until March 2013, all schools had to fulfill the norms. Yet, as the RTE Forum’s reports reveal, less than 10% of the schools in the country fulfill the norms, with even less in states like Bihar (Stocktaking Report of the RTE Forum 2016-17, p. 21).

Both, national and international legal frameworks necessitate an increase in spending in public education. The privatization of education has to be seen extremely critical as both, national and international experience shows that there are massive human rights issues, segregation, exclusion and diffuse accountability connected to the commercialization of education. Further, for the individual it turns out to be much more expensive with poor and lower middle class households often spending 20% and more of their income on elementary education of a single child while private education being out of reach for millions of the rural and urban poor who often lack a steady income.

The Kothari Commission and others suggest that at least 6% of GDP must be spent on education to have at least an acceptable spending. India is far away from this target. Even worse, an analysis by IndiaSpend reveals that using Union Budget data and the Economic Survey 2017-18 data, not only has education spending been falling in relative terms to the total budget and the national income, but also in absolute terms. In 2014-15 it was at Rs. 1,10,351.10 crore falling sharply under the Modi government to Rs. 79,685.95 crore in 2017-18, accounting to a decrease of more than 27%. The increase of 4%  now is therefore not even undoing the damage. Similarly, elementary education allocation through SSA has seen a relative decline in the last years.


How did the government end up at this meagre increase?

The question one might raise is how the Arun Jaitley arrived at the conclusion to allocate a meagre Rs. 26,128 crore for SSA in the 2018-19 budget. Indeed, the question is necessary to be asked as in theory, there should be followed the process that the budgets of the GoI and the States are based on Annual Work Plans & Budgets (AWP&B) which include all the things covered under SSA. However, as the Comptroller and Auditor General in his report of 2017 noticed, “The AWP&B was not used as an input for the budgeting exercise in GoI and States.” (p. 21) which is factually impossible because the budget is decided before the AWP&B is provided. This raises a serious question: If SSA is the implementing vehicle of the Right to Education and if the Right to Education as under Article 21A and the Right to Education Act is immediately, not progressively, realizable, how can such a mechanism ensure that enough money to fulfill all the binding norms & standards is allocated? The answer is: it isn’t. Less than 10% of schools fulfill the minimum norms all over India with states like Bihar having compliance rates that are significantly lower.


How much is the spending gap for Bihar’s elementary schools?

About how much money are we talking if we want Bihar to fulfill the binding minimum norms? The gap of the requirements for fulfilling the fundamental Right to Education as under Article 21A of the Indian Constitution and the Right to Education Act, 2009, viz. the budget allocations in Bihar in FY 2013-14 was Rs. 15,053.53 crore (Rs. 20699.10 crore per annum requirements vs.Rs.  5645.97 crore allocations (Source) ). With a gap of more than Rs. 15,000 crore in 2013-14 for Bihar alone, one can imagine that an allocation of Rs. 26,128 crore for 2018-19 for whole India is not even remotely close to what is needed to fulfill the very minimum (such as toilets, drinking water or a classroom per teacher).



Sri Sonelal Paswan is a resident of Chaumuk village of Muzaffarpur. In this picture, he is holding a blank placard. He wants to say that due to his illiteracy, he has to face many difficulties in his life. So, the government should provide good facilities of education to his grandchildren.



We want to encourage you to go to the schools of your villages and cities and to provide an infrastructure bill to the government about how much money they owe the children in your locality.

You can do that by three simple steps:

1. Take the Norms & Standards of the Right to Education Act and note down what your school lacks

2. Use the picture below to know the unit costs as per the financial memorandum of the Government of India is(Source).

3. Calculate the total


State and Center – who pays what?

In the case of Bihar, 60% of the funds for SSA should be provided by the Center and 40% by the state of Bihar. However, reviewing the utilitsation certificate of the FY 2015-16 and 2016-17, we found the following:

Financial Year

Total Share GoI and GoB (Rs. Lakh)

GoI release (Rs. Lakh)

GoB release (Rs. Lakh)









Data obtained from the Bihar Education Project Council by an RTI filed by us


This illustrates that the GoI share was below 50% in both Financial Years.


Merging elementary and secondary education – where are the safeguards for elementary education?

With the planned merge of SSA with two other schemes (Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan and the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Restructuring and Reorganisation of Teacher Education ), many are worried about a possible further decrease of the share on elementary education which is well known to be extremely relevant for first-generation learners and children from poor families. So far, the MHRD has claimed that as SSA is the vehicle for implementing the RTE Act, no separated allocation for the RTE Act would be required (Report of the C&AG, p. 7p). However, with the merge of schemes, Section 7(2) of the Act requiring the Central Government to prepare estimates of capital and recurring expenditure for the implementation of the provisions of the Act becomes relevant again.


Our take on the budget

To sum up, the budget has been a huge disappointment for those who hoped it would provide proper resource allocations to strengthen the public education system and the governmental schools in this country. We have not covered digital education or the increase of the number of special schools for tribals in this article as they are irrelevant for the bigger picture. The question remains about who profits from an underfinanced public education system. The answer is obvious: The more the public system deteriorates due to meager resources, the more space is created for private providers and for-profit companies to provide education for money (for a detailed analysis see Private Profit – Public Loss or Profiting from the Poor).


If India wants to use its greatest potential – its children, rich and poor – it must urgently change its direction of educational policy turning towards a strong public education system. Almost all developed nations (apart from for example city-states like Singapore) have a strong, public education system that caters high quality education to the vast majority (usually more than 90%) of the school-age children in these countries. A huge share of private schools is not a sign of progress and strength, but of weakness and decline.

India is a strong country. We can afford a strong public education system. And our Constitution of Independent India gives us the normative imperative to realize this ideal.

Shrimati Kailashiya Devi is a woman belonging to Dalit community whose children go to the governmental school. She lives in Chaumukh village of Bochaha Block, Muzaffarpur, Bihar. The daily wage of her husband is the only source of family income. She is saying that her children, too, are gifted and there should be a good provision of education for them, too.






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