School education is the most neglected social sector in Maharashtra despite the state government's claims to the contrary and the fact that education was made a fundamental right in 2002.
The Maharashtra government claims to have taken many initiatives to get every child into school. Only, statistics give lie to every claim it makes. A recent study conducted by the NGO Child Rights and You, or CRY, jointly with the Centre for Budgets, Governance and Accountability has found that budgetary spending on education has been stagnant for four years, leading to a deterioration in quality.
While the total spending on school education nationally has remained unchanged at 2.7% of GDP since 2012-13, Maharashtra has spent only an average of 2.3% of the Gross State Domestic Product on this sector. The CRY study covered budgetary spending on school education by central and state governments in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
"Maharashtra spends just Rs 28,630 per student as against Rs 32,263 per student at Kendriya Vidyalayas, which are run by the central government," said Kreeanne Rabadi, regional director of CRY. Rabadi urged the state to invest more to plug existing gaps and meet the standards on infrastructure, and quality of teaching and learning under the Right to Education Act.
Apart from inadequate funds, Maharashtra is also beset by a shortfall of secondary and higher secondary schools. "There is a huge gap between government and private schools and it's shocking. It needs to be bridged in order to address the dropout rate at secondary level and ensure that children complete their education," Rabadi said.
The study found that government schools have a 70% share in elementary education. But when it comes to secondary and higher secondary education, they lag far behind with 8% and 5% of the share, respectively, with the rest hogged by private schools.
Maharashtra spends only 0.4% of its school education budget on teacher's training. "While the share of contractual teachers in elementary education increased from 1.8% in 2009-10 to 6% in 2015-16, the percentage of teachers who received in service training decreased from 32% to 7.6% in this period," said Subrat Das, director of CBGA.
Further, while 24% of the school going children are from socio-economically weaker sections, the exclusive allocation of schemes for them is only 1.9% of the school education budget, Das added.
"The current quantum of national budgetary spending on education is inadequate not just because it falls short of the benchmark recommended decades ago by the Kothari Commission, but also because of the paucity of funds for almost all important areas of public provisioning of school education," Das further said.
Rabadi said, "Our experience of working in Maharashtra since 1979 clearly points to the need for greater investment in order to improve infrastructure, learning and teaching standards in government schools. We need to analyse and identify the gaps where deficiency of funds is visible."
"Maharashtra being a progressive state needs more state-run secondary and higher secondary schools and much greater emphasis in reaching out to the socio-economically marginalised children. Further investment in recruitment, training and capacity building of teachers need to improve significantly."