What ails pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion

States need to fo­cus as much on qual­ity as quan­tity, says a re­cent re­port

The Hindu Business Line - - INDIA INTERIOR - AKHILA NA­GAR VIKRAM RAGHUVANSHI

When one thinks of the coun­try’s growth, one must think of not just quan­tity, but also qual­ity. One of the most cru­cial fac­tors de­ter­min­ing this qual­i­ta­tive — and in­clu­sive — growth is pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. As many as 60 per cent of In­dia’s chil­dren are de­pen­dent on pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, both at the el­e­men­tary and sec­ondary school lev­els, and there­fore, closer scru­tiny of this cru­cial as­pect of ed­u­ca­tion is re­quired.

The or­gan­i­sa­tions Child

Rights and You (CRY) and Cen­tre for Bud­get and Gov­er­nance Ac­count­abil­ity (CBGA) have done pre­cisely this. Apart from re­sources for ed­u­ca­tion, they have ex­plic­itly fo­cused on learn­ing out­comes and the ser­vices that should be ide­ally de­liv­ered to stu­dents.

In light of the 14th Fi­nan­cial Com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tions, there was need for in-depth con­sid­er­a­tion of the school ed­u­ca­tion bud­get by States. CRY and CBGA used their in­di­vid­ual ex­per­tise to study var­i­ous facets of school ed­u­ca­tion and re­cently re­leased a re­port ti­tled ‘Bud­get­ing for School Ed­u­ca­tion: What Has Changed and What Has Not’.

The study was car­ried out in six In­dian States — Ut­tar Pradesh, West Ben­gal, Bi­har, Ch­hat­tis­garh, Ma­ha­rash­tra, and Tamil Nadu — by putting un­der the mi­cro­scope the De­tailed De­mands for Grants of state bud­gets in the pe­riod 20142015 to 2017-2018.

The re­port high­lights two cru­cial pil­lars of school ed­u­ca­tion — teach­ers and in­fra­struc­ture. With re­gard to the is­sue of teach­ers, it iden­ti­fies the short­age of pro­fes­sion­ally qual­i­fied teach­ers, both at the el­e­men­tary and sec­ondary level, as a great im­ped­i­ment to growth. Even after eight years of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Right to Ed­u­ca­tion Act, States are still lack­ing in this area.

And though salar­ies of the ex­ist­ing teach­ers ac­count for a large There is a short­age of qual­i­fied teach­ers

pro­por­tion of the bud­get of the six States, their ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ments have not cor­rected the short­age of pro­fes­sion­ally qual­i­fied teach­ers. In Ch­hat­tis­garh, for ex­am­ple, salar­ies ac­count for 62 per cent of the bud­get, while in Ma­ha­rash­tra it is 82 per cent. Out of the 66.41 lakh teach­ers at the el­e­men­tary level, the re­port points out that 11 lakh are still un­trained.

This, how­ever, is not the only is­sue im­pact­ing stu­dents and schools in the six States. In­fra­struc­ture is also se­verely want­ing. Only 57.3 per cent of el­e­men­tary schools have elec­tric­ity, and in Bi­har and Ut­tar Pradesh the fig­ure is be­low 40 per cent. All this, in spite of these States in­creas­ing their share of bud­get ex­pen­di­ture on in­fra­struc­ture. The re­port iden­ti­fies a huge and con­tin­u­ing deficit ever since the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the RTE and em­pha­sises the ur­gent need for a tech­nol­ogy-driven ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, which would help in im­prov­ing learn­ing ef­fi­cien­cies.

The re­port ad­vo­cates widen­ing of in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion, pos­si­ble only with com­pre­hen­sive need­based plan­ning, bud­get­ing, and mon­i­tor­ing. Achiev­ing this goal in­volves ac­tive in­volve­ment of the com­mu­nity it im­pacts.

The re­port con­cludes that in spite of an in­crease in bud­getary spend­ing on school ed­u­ca­tion, the funds pro­vided to erad­i­cate ma­jor pain ar­eas such as lack of pro­fes­sion­ally trained teach­ers and qual­i­ty­driven in­fra­struc­ture are still very low.

Ad­e­quate pub­lic spend­ing

As Priti Ma­hara, the Di­rec­tor of Pol­icy Re­search and Ad­vo­cacy at CRY puts it, “To en­sure bet­ter school en­vi­ron­ment and qual­ity learn­ing out­comes, ad­e­quate pub­lic spend­ing is vi­tal…States should come to­gether to con­sid­er­ably in­crease and sus­tain school ed­u­ca­tion funds longer than usual to trans­form the cur­rent pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem”.

She fur­ther adds that, “a sub­stan­tially im­proved process of plan­ning, smoothen­ing fund flows, ad­dress­ing bot­tle­necks in the fund util­i­sa­tion process, mu­tual co­or­di­na­tion be­tween cen­tre and state and con­stant mon­i­tor­ing can help bridge the gaps be­tween re­source needs, bud­get al­lo­ca­tion and ac­tual spend­ing”.

The writer has just com­pleted her post-grad­u­a­tion from South Asian Uni­ver­sity, Delhi

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