Budget 2018: Higher education the main focus, very little in it for schools
In his final Budget in this tenure, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced various schemes for improving the quality of higher education in the country. The Budget allocation for higher education is clearly aimed further improving the infrastructure of premier educational institutions to place Indian institutes on the global map.While there was a huge budget allocation for enhancing higher education is encouraging many educationists feel that enough emphasis was not given to improving school education.
Here are some of the key announcements made by FM Jaitley:
- The FM hiked the existing 3% education cess on personal income tax and corporation tax with a 4% ‘Health and Education Cess’ to take care the education and health needs of poor and rural families. At present, a 3% cess, consisting of 2% cess for primary education and 1% cess for secondary and higher education, is levied on personal income tax and corporation tax. According to Jaitley, this will enable the government us to collect an estimated additional amount of Rs 11,000 crore.”
- The FM proposed to launch “Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE)” by 2019 with a total investment of Rs 1,00,000 crore in next four years. This scheme aims at stepping up investments in research related infrastructure in premier educational institutions.
- The Union Budget 2018 further mentions that the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) would be structured for funding the RISE initiative in the form of loans. The new initiative will work in cooperation between institutes and the government. Loans taken through the RISE initiative will be paid back over 10 years.
- Centrally funded institutions (CFIs) such as IITs, IIMs, NITs, IIITs and central universities will no longer receive Budget grants for expanding and building new infrastructure. Instead, all infrastructure financing will be moved to the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA), which was set up by the government last year to mobilise funds from the market and offer 10-year loans to CFIs. According to the Budget 2018, outlay on health, education and social protection will be 1.38 lakh crore.
- In his Budget speech, Jaitley also purposed to set up two new full-fledged Schools of Planning and Architecture. Eighteen new Schools of Planning and Architecture will also be set up in the IITs and NITs.
- To bridge the gap between doctor-patient ratio in the country, Jaitley purposed to set up 24 new government medical colleges by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country. The government aims to set up at least one medical college for three Parliamentary constituencies.
- The government would launch the “Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF)” Scheme this year. The scheme would identify 1,000 best B.Tech students each year from premier institutions and provide them facilities to do Ph.D in IITs and IISc, with a handsome fellowship.
- Rs 3073 crore has been set aside to develop “Institutions of Eminence”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship programme aimed at putting Indian institutes on the global map.
- The government also plans to set up a special Railway University at Vadodara in Gujarat.
- Jaitley also said that it has been decided that by 2022, every block with more than 50% Schedule Tribe (ST) population and at least 20,000 tribal persons will have an Ekalavya Model Residential School.
The government will also initiate an integrated B.Ed. programme for teachers. Jaitley said, “Training of teachers during service is extremely critical. The government has amended the Right to Education Act to enable more than 13 lakh untrained teachers to get trained.”
What experts say
- According to Ambarish Rai, national convener for Right to Education Forum, “There has been a significant investment in higher education and not enough in school education. The infrastructure of government schools clearly needs more improvement than higher education institutes. Schools are shutting down across the country due to low enrollment and the government is patting themselves on the back saying that they have increased student enrollment in government schools. Which isn’t the reality.” He further pointed out that despite the government promising to set up Eklavya schools in tribal areas, not one school has been set up.
- Nandita Narain, a professor at Delhi University and an educationist, said, “This budget is primarily focused at higher education institutes especially those that the government plans to make “Institutes of Eminence.” Financing of these premier universities and institutes have become easier. But not for the universities that come in II and III tier categories. On top of that, focus on school education hasn’t been anywhere close to higher education in the budget.”
- Rajib Ray, president of Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) said, “The Finance Minister reinforces scheme of replacing grants by loans. It ignores huge infrastructural deficit and increased student-intake accompanied by lack of teachers. It announces RISE to be funded through HEFA. That means that infrastructural needs of the institutions of higher learning will have to be met through loans, which, in turn, requires educational institutions to commercialise their activities toward revenue generation in order to raise revenue to repay loans. This will shift the burden of sustaining public funded higher education on parents and students, increasing their expenditure towards education.
- “By providing infrastructural inputs through loans through HEFA, it seeks to ensure that the outcome being measured is commercial success. Access to quality higher education will be crippled and standards as well as content of education will take a hit. Moreover, there is only a marginal increase in the fund allocation of Rashtriya Uchatar Shikcha Abhiyan (RUSA), which funds higher education in the states’ sector,” Ray further added.