A research-based study of budgets of major Indian states by a top advocacy group, Accountability Initiative, has found that despite loud claims of the Gujarat government about its “rising budgetary allocation” for the social sector, things have failed to improve much vis-à-vis several other states, at least with regard to primary education. The study, titled “Do Schools Get Their Money? Paisa 2012”, released this year, has found that not only does Gujarat government allocate less funds in its budget for primary school education compared to other states, expenditure per student, too, has been going down. The result is, quality of education at the primary level has suffered badly.
Claiming to be the “first and only citizen-led effort at the national level to track public expenditure”, the study is based on a survey of over 14,000 schools across India (14,591 in 2012), and seeks to investigate how grants in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), which is Government of India’s (GoI’s) primary vehicle for implementing Right to Education (RTE) Act, are being utilized. SSA’s 65 per cent allocation comes from GoI, while the rest from state budget. Carried out in association with another advocacy group, Pratham, which had published Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) early this year to find out quality of education in India, giving all-India comparisons, the issues addressed include budgetary allocation, resource prioritization, allocations and expenditures towards teachers, schools, children, management and quality.
No doubt, per student budgetary allocation towards primary education in Gujarat increased – in 2011-12 it was Rs 13,562, which went up to Rs 14,607 in 2012-13, which was a rise of seven per cent. The allocation remained considerably lower than six other major states, apart from smaller states. While the average all-India allocation stood lower (Rs 11,509) than that of Gujarat, states which have been doing extremely well in education such as Kerala and Himachal Pradesh allocated Rs 37,667 and Rs 24,390 per student, respectively, in 2012-13. Yet, the fact remains, overall allocation on primary education does not tell the full story.
The “Paisa 2012” report gives sector-wise breakup of allocation per student, suggesting the priorities of the Gujarat government. Thus, in Gujarat, while on salary of teachers and school infrastructure, the allocation has increased, it went down in areas which affect the standard of education, including mainstreaming of out-of-school children, remedial teaching, creating resource centres for quality education, innovation and learning enhancement programmes, community mobilization and training.
Gujarat government allocated 15 per cent of the amount on school teachers, including their salaries, in 2010-11, which reached 34 per cent in 2012-13. On school infrastructure, including civil works and maintenance, the amount remained high – it was 52 per cent of the budget in 2010-11 and 48 per cent in 2012-13. However, it is the other three sectors – children, creating resource centres for better management of schools, and quality education – that have suffered. On children, the allocation went down from 14 per cent in 2010-11 to seven per cent in 2012-13; on creating resource centres it went down from 13 to eight per cent, and on quality education and community mobilization, it went down from six to three per cent.
Worse, the report’s analysis of expenditure of the budgetary allocation suggests that nearly 20 per cent of the budgetary amount remained unspent in 2011-12, the latest year for which figures are available, as against 18 per cent in 2010-11. Further, despite the fact that 86 per cent of the schools in 2011-12 received their maintenance grant (as against 88 per cent in 2009-10), 89 per cent of the schools received developmental grants (as against 88 per cent two years earlier), and 94 per cent of schools received teacher learning material (same as two years earlier), comparative figures show that a large number of schools failed to spend their allocation. Thus, between April 2011 and November 2012, 54 per cent schools failed to purchase furniture; 32 per cent of schools failed to purchase electrical fittings; 38 per cent schools failed to repair their buildings (roof, floor, wall); 78 per cent schools failed to repair boundary wall; 42 per cent schools failed to repair drinking water facility; 39 per cent schools failed to do whitewashing; and 32 per cent schools failed to put up black boards.
The report further suggests a dire shortage of teachers in schools. While under the RTE the pupil teacher ratio (PTR) norm for primary schools is 30, as many as 37 per cent schools in 2012 failed to maintain the PTR of 35, up from 29 per cent in 2010. At the RTE’s PTR norm of 30, there was a whopping 58 per cent shortage in primary schools in Gujarat in 2012, up from 54 per cent two years earlier. Then, despite a rise of 205 per cent in the SSA’s budgetary allocation between 2010-11 and 2012-13 for Gujarat’s primary schools, seven per cent schools lacked toilet facilities for girls in 2012.
An analysis of seven RTI requirements — headmaster’s office, drinking water, kitchen sheds for midday meal, playground, complete boundary wall and library books – suggests that in 2011, as many as 36 per cent of schools met infrastructure requirements, which went down to 34 per cent in 2012. As many as eight per cent schools did not have drinking water facilities in 2012, 11 per cent did not have kitchen shed for midday meal, 21 per cent did not have playground, 13 per cent did not have boundary wall, 14 per cent did not have library books, and 21 per cent did not have headmaster’s office.
All of it put together has told badly on the quality of education, despite the annual Kanya Kelavni drive by the Gujarat government to “improve” it. The student attendance in standards 1 to 5 (lower primary) went down from 87 per cent in 2010 to 84 per cent n 2012. As for the overall student attendance in schools from standards one to eight, the attendance remained stagnant at 84 per cent. As for teachers’ attendance, it went down at the lower primary level from 95 per cent in 2010 to 91 per cent in 2012. Overall, teachers’ attendance in standards one to eight went down from 96 per cent in 2010 to 91 per cent in 2012.
The net result of all this is that, the learning level of children has been constantly going down. Thus, in 2010, 82 per cent of children of standards 1 and 2 could read letters, words or more. This went down to 72 per cent in 2012, a fall of nine per cent. Then, in 2010, 80 per cent of children in standards 1 and 2 could recognize numbers 1 to 9 and more, which went down to 72 per cent in 2012. Worse, 37 per cent of children in standards 3 and 4 could not read standard 1 textbook in 2010, but in 2012, this rose to 41 per cent. And, if 52 per cent of children of standards 3 and 4 could not do subtraction in 2010, the percentage went up to 67 per cent in 2012 – a sharp rise of 14 per cent!