A Welcome Policy Shift in Education
Budget 2017 marks a major shift in the government’s approach towards education. The focus has shifted from funding and improving access — education’s share of the Union Budget remains stagnant at 3.79% of total budgetary allocations despite a 10% increase in funds — to improving outcomes across the board. This is a major shift. This is the first time that the Budget has outlined a transitioning of the government’s role as providers of education to enablers of learning.
From creating islands of excellence, the focus is moving to improving the general levels of educational outcomes, for which annual learning assessment for schools would be deployed. An expansion of the periodic learning outcome assessments undertaken by the NCERT over the past few years for classes III, V and X would be the logical next step. Annual assessments will help teachers, schools, policy planners, and curriculum developers to make the requisite changes. The government’s acknowledgment of the need for flexibility and local innovation to improve outcomes is also welcome. The proposed Innovation Fund for Secondary Education is a good initiative and should be so designed as to incentivise teachers and schools to transcend textbook learning and avoid any new bureaucratic boondoggle. The proposed National Testing Agency for entrance to higher education institutes will help improve standards across the spectrum of higher secondary schools. The promise of greater autonomy to higher education institutes based on academic outcomes completes the loop. The focus on outcome will give a fillip to innovation and research. The focus now must move to the difficult task of implementation, evaluation and recalibration of measures that will improve the educational experience of all.