By Mitra Ranjan et al*
The Right to Education (RTE) Forum in collaboration with Save the Children and other civil society organizations held a roundtable consultation in Delhi on February 7 with Members of Parliament to voice the concerns on budgetary allocations given to education in this year’s budget. The consultation was Chaired by Prof Muchkund Dubey, eminent educationist, former Foreign Secretary and President, Council for Social Development.
The Members of Parliament present at the roundtable included Senior leader and MP, Oscar Fernandez of Congress, Ravi Prakash Verma of Samajwadi Party, Pradeep Tamta (Congress), Sanjay Singh (Aam Aadmi Party), Geetha Kothapalli (YSR Congress), C. P. Narayanan of Communist Party of India-Marxist, D. Raja, Communist Party of India.
Besides Save the Children and RtE Forum, a range of stakeholders including civil society organizations, educationists, social activists, representatives from State RTE Forums, Teachers Associations, student organizations and media participated in the consultation. Ms. Bidisha Pillai, Advocacy Director, Save the Children, shared a presentation on the financing of school education.
Members of the RTE Forum apprised the MPs over the state of school education, RtE implementation and Budgetary allocations for children. They urged to fully implement right to education Act 2009 and to make education a prime agenda in the election manifesto of all political parties in the forthcoming general elections.
Raising the concerns over insufficient budgetary allocation for elementary education, Ambarish Rai, National Convenor, RTE Forum said, “The budget again fails to provide the much required investment of 6% GDP on education. A mere 11.19% increase of Budget of SSA (from Rs. 23,500 crore in year 2017-18 to Rs. 26,128 crores for year 2018-19), and 7.61% increase (from Rs. 3,915 crores in year 2017-18 to Rs. 4,213 crores for year 2018-19) is still far below the required adequate resources for universalisation of school education. Instead of increasing the GDP share, education cess has been increased to 4% to collect an additional Rs. 11,000 crores, which is again shifting the state responsibility on education. Till last year, 65% was financed through education cess, 29% as gross budgetary support and 6% through externally aided projects. Shrinking Government’s responsibility towards school education and non-implementation of RTE Act 2009 will not serve any good.”
Prof. Muchkund Dubey, Chair of the Consultation, remarked that the government must bring a concrete roadmap with a new timeline to implement all the norms and standards mentioned in the RTE Act. He said, “No country can become a superpower ignoring the right of education to its children. It must guarantee an inclusive quality education to the millions of children in the country and bring all out-of-school children into the school. He asserted that a strong public education system based on common school system is the only way to ensure education for all and realise the goal of universalisation. Also, the Act be extended to include a 12-year uninterrupted schooling.”
Prof. Parveen Jha, JNU questioned the government’s intent with regard to the complete implementation of the RTE Act and asked how the government plans to make the education system work without adequate finances. He also urged on the need to have a financial memorandum with the Act, which never happened.
Agreeing to flag the issues in the parliament as pointed out by the civil society, Oscar Fernandez said, “The recommendation of the Kothari Education Commission (1964-66) to make allocation towards education of 6 per cent of GDP is still to be realized. Moreover, till now less than 10 per cent schools have been made RTE compliant since the Right to Education Act was enacted more than 7 years ago on 1st April, 2010. Due to apathy and inadequate resource allocations the future of India as a knowledge hub is therefore at risk. Falling learning levels, sub-standard meals, and children’s safety are just some of the issues that need urgent attention. Also, universalization of Secondary Education (Goal 4 of SDGs) is possible only through extension of the RTE Act from pre-primary to higher secondary”.
Geetha Kothapally added, “Corresponding increase in state allocations have not met the gaps. There is a need to increase budgetary allocation in implementation of the Right to Education Act, 2009 and in Secondary Education to achieve universalisation of education for Children up to 18 years. Budget for children has been the lowest now (4.56 in 2013-2014 and 3.32 in 2017-2018) despite almost 40% of the total population being children”.
Pradeep Tamta said that we must see education holistically and associate it with other issues affecting the masses like livelihood, environment, health and employment. Only then we may do justice to the downtrodden and disadvantaged sections of the society. We must make an inclusive society having access to the opportunity equally. The role of education is great in this sense to make an egalitarian society.
D Raja also raised the issue of several category of schools within the public education system including the mushrooming of private schools and asserted that this is widening the gap within the society.
Some of the concerns and recommendations from member organizations included:
- Ensuring Availability of adequate numbers of trained and qualified teachers
- Need to Increase Budgetary Allocation in Secondary Education and Universalise Education for Children Up to 18 Years
- Addressing Infrastructural gaps
- Identifying number of children out of school
- Ensuring quality inputs
- No Detention Policy during the course of elementary education.
- More in terms of education for the girl child
- Concern over school closure/merger leading to commercialization of education
India continues to spend below the global average on education (4.7% GDP, 2013). The need for increased allocation to education remains critical despite devolution of finances to the States.
The share of education within child budget has increased by 0.93 per cent but within the union budget it has reduced by 3.69 per cent. It is a serious concern that allocations on education has decreased continuously and it has remained below 4% of GDP as against the continuous demand of increasing it up to at least 6% of GDP reiterated in all previous policies and government commitments through their manifesto. This has been adversely affecting all aspects of public education system, particularly school education.
*Right to Education Forum