OPINION: Budget 2019 & education sector

Prof. Sushma Yadav

Agartala-Students-Exams-02032017Presenting an interim budget for 2019-20 in Parliament on Friday, Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs Piyush Goyal proposed the launch of a scheme named ‘Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022′ with a total investment of Rs 1 lakh crore in the next four years to step up investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions, including health institutions.

The Centre earmarked Rs 93,847.64 crore for the education sector for 2019-20, an increase of over 10 per cent from last budget allocation. While Rs 37,461.01 crore has been allocated for higher education, an amount of Rs 56,386.63 crore has been earmarked for school education. Last year, then finance minister Arun Jaitley had allocated Rs 85,010 crore for the education sector.

The government allocated Rs 608.87 crore for research and innovation, a massive increase from previous allocation of Rs 350.23 crore. Goyal also proposed the setting up of two new full-fledged ‘Schools of Planning and Architecture’ (SPA) to be selected on challenge mode. Additionally, 18 new SPAs would be established in the IITs and NITs as autonomous schools, also on challenge mode.

He said technology will be the biggest driver in improving the quality of education and proposed to increase the digital intensity in education and move gradually from “black board” to “digital board”. A dedicated digital infrastructure for teachers, DIKSHA, has been developed with the aim to empower school teachers with access to innovative tech-based solutions.

This year government plans to invest Rs 38,572 cr under National Education Mission. In 2018-19, Budget Education was 56,619 crore made for welfare of SCs and STs, increased to 62,474 crore in RE 2018-19 has been further increased to 76,800 crore in BE 2019-20. List of four prominent schemes under National Education Mission, includes:

1. Sakshar Bharat
2. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
3. Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha
4. Teacher training programs

Another highlight of the Interim Union Budget 2019-20 is setting up of the 22nd All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Haryana. The Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, under which 10,000 villages have been adopted by the higher education institutions, has got 70 per cent increase in budgetary allocation, the HRD ministry said. While there is a boost for IITs and NITs in terms of the establishment of SPAs, there has been a decline in the budget outlays for IITs, IIMs, IISER, UGC and AICTE.

The HRD Ministry has said it will implement 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections of the general category from the 2019 academic session and has directed to increase around 25 per cent seats in higher educational institutes and universities across the country.

The government’s intents to develop a National Centre on Artificial Intelligence and National Artificial Intelligence portal in order to take the benefits of Artificial Intelligence and related technologies to the people. Nine priority areas have been identified. A National Artificial Intelligence portal will also be developed soon. (without making any budgetary allocation for this futuristic development). The allocation for Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) has been reduced from Rs 2,750 crore last year to Rs 2,100 crore this year as the actual expenditure by HEFA last year was just Rs 250 crore.

The Union Minister also allotted an additional 4227 crore towards Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) i.e. from Rs 23,357 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 27,584 crore in 2019-20 to provide food, preschool education, and primary healthcare facilities to children under 6 years of age along with their mothers.

The Interim Budget 2019 allocation to the education sector stood at 3.3% of the total budget expenditure, which needs to be enhanced in coming year. However, it can be easily said that the central government has not done any vote-bank politics while presenting the Budget, it is a measured and “pathbreaking” budget which has provided a narrative of India’s continued development growth.

- Prof. Sushma Yadav, Member, UGC