Education is the prerequisite for systemic transformations in society and the key operator for sustainable development of present-day civilization. It is man that cause happenings around. Therefore, the quality of human resources in terms of their knowledge up-gradation understanding, analytical capabilities, and skill development for contributing to society become critical. Unequivocally, the path to well being and prosperity of any society treads through the excellence in education with access and equity.
India’s privilege of being the second most populous nation in the world entrusts it with the massive responsibility of ushering the world's humanity into a state of bliss. The education sector of the country being catered through primary, secondary, and higher education needs an honest introspection. The policy frameworks have existed since 1968 and acted as the fountain head of hope of excellence in education at all levels. Similarly, the recent National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) is another such framework with ambitious provisions to achieve excellence in education. Doubtlessly, none of the education policies have ever erred in administering relevant frameworks suiting the contemporary requirements. But, the most sought after excellence in education could not be achieved. However, the evidence of noteworthy improvement in gross enrolment ratio at all levels necessitates appreciations of the governance.
Among different focus areas of NEP 2020, the accordance of high priority to the achievement of foundational and literacy and numeracy to all students by grade 3 points towards the prevailing deficiencies of the mammoth education system of the country. Introspecting the detailed reasons for the plight of education in citizenry of the country, the weaknesses are apparently existing in the delivery systems i.e. in the education institutions.
All applaud to the NEP 2020 for being a ‘light but tight’ regulatory framework aiming to ensure integrity, transparency, and resource efficiency of the educational system through audit and public disclosure while encouraging innovation and out-of-the-box ideas through autonomy, good governance, and empowerment.
The moot point is how to reach the milestones set in the new education policy framework with the present set up having perceivable markers of inadequate infrastructure and human resources, questionable integrity, transparency, and resource efficiency along with various other limitations?
Brooding the downside of the country’s education system signals numerous factors responsible for it which can be majorly bracketed into financial, administrative, and academic domains. Each of these is to be contemplated well for translating the impressive promises of the policy into reality. The disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic and the adaption of distance mode of learning using digital technologies by the whole of the education system in the hugely varying socio-economic society of India heralds new normal in which the preparedness for both on-campus and off-campus modes of education is desired.
The ruminations of the limitations creeping in the education system on account of insufficient financial support are evinced through inadequate infrastructure, human capital, and the absence of various other enablers. The desideratum of spending six per cent of GDP budget on education as envisaged by Dr Kothari Commission in 1966 is an unfulfilled dream even to date. The statistics indicate that the spending of GDP on education has been hovering between 3-4 % since last decade. The proclaimed budgetary allocation on education in 2020 being at around Rs 99,000 crore sound noteworthy amount but with the vast population, the targeted aspiration of touching higher benchmarks of gross enrolment ratio, teacher-pupil ratio, bridging the digital divide, skilling, and overall access of good quality education to all interested citizens cannot be fulfilled with it.
With the Union budget 2021 in offing, the country’s academics are eyeing appropriate budgetary allocations for education.
Especially, in the tough times of Covid disruption, when the educators managed the crisis of education delivery even by investing their own resources, the expectations are upbeat due to the lessons learned by the government regarding the infrastructure requirements.
The urgency for eliminating the digital divide, facilitating IT tools to those who are unable to afford them, strengthening of internet backbone, removing obsolescence, refurbishment of dilapidating infrastructure, creation of newer infrastructure facilities, recruitment of teachers, and supporting non-teachers staff along with other sector-specific requirements are the high priority expenditures entailing the adequate budgetary allocation.
The well laid NEP 2020 has amply raised the aspirations of all stakeholders of education. The establishment of wide-ranging institutions for enabling the education system, upgrading of the institutions in terms of courses & subjects, upskilling of teaching and non-teaching human resource, creation of new institutions in the modified regulatory setup, etc. will ensue the compelling expenditures additionally in the upcoming year.
With the Prime Minister’s trumpet call for self-reliance in the country, another indispensable component of expenditure emanates as that on research and innovation. The education system of the country nurturing the most fertile minds in their campuses hold the potential to contribute to solving the local problems through their research acumen while carrying forward the global aspirations of contemporary research and developments.
Though the country has already spent a lot on tackling the Covid menace and the freebies, the education system of the country has all legitimacy in expecting elaborate and impressive budgetary allocation for itself.
In view of education possessing the capability of being the panacea for the overall good of the society, the relevance of spending a larger sum on education does not call for any justifications and should be the driving force behind the forthcoming budget allocation on education in the coming year. Let us keep our fingers crossed and wish to see the higher percentage of GDP being spent on education that is in tune with the Kothari Commission recommendations of 1966.
(The views expressed are the writer's own)