Monday, March 03, 2008

education in budget 2008

Overall, it has been a good budget for education.Total allocation for education sector including the NER region increased by 20 per cent to Rs 34,400 crore from Rs 28,674 crore.The FM has given a hike of 17% to higher studies and 20% to elementary and secondary schooling. But the biggest gainer is University Grants Commission, with a 36% hike for creating 16 new central universities. the emphasis on improving the quality and access to school education is welcome.The announcement of setting up 6,000 high quality model schools is an important initiative.Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas are quality schools, with comparatively good infrastructure set up by the Central government in rural areas.Thus, the decision to set up 20 such schools in districts with a large concentration of SC/ST populations is a small but welcome step.Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidhyalayas address the issue of equity in the education of girls belonging to disadvantaged and minority communities and the decision to add another 410 to the existing 1754 vidyalayas would also serve the same objective. FM enunciated the list of projects and schemes already on paper but yet to be implemented. This is particularly true for higher and technical education — three IITs (announced in 2006), new IIM in Shillong (2004), new School of Planning & Architecture (2006) and 16 new central universities in 2007.Set up three IITs, two IISERs and two schools of Planning and Architecture and Allocation of Rs 100 crore to the Ministry of Information and Technology to establish the National Knowledge Network are also part of budget. The budget has set aside Rs650 crore for a Model School Programme, with an ambitious target of establishing 6,000 schools. An additional 20 Navodaya Schools will be established, specially targeted at socially backward sections. However, for these schools to deliver the results, the government should formulate a programme to train sufficient number of teachers. Though they lack even basic facilities, we do have a large number of schools in rural areas. But, the number of well-trained teachers is well short of requirements and has prevented any improvement in our school system.The focus of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has been changed from access to and infrastructure at primary schools to improving quality of learning and retention. The allocation for the programme, which has been a rare success at such a large scale, has also been increased to over Rs13,000 crore for next year.The decision to extend the mid-day meal programme to upper primary classes should bring down malnutrition among rural children and curb the rate of school dropouts. The extension of the scholarship scheme for upper primary students is a welcome step and future governments should look at expanding the scope of this scheme. The hike in salaries of anganwadi workers was long overdue. The finance minister has also set aside Rs2 crore to upgrade the facilities of each of the 22 Sainik Schools. Sainik Schools are the best possible source of supply for future officers for the armed forces. When a career in services is becoming increasingly less attractive, and the forces suffer a high attrition rate combined with a shortage of suitable officer material recruits, the government should spare no effort to increase the number of Sainik Schools to expand the supply base. Just 22 schools to groom future leaders for the nearly 2-million strong armed forces is pathetic.The most significant initiative for higher education sector is the proposed establishment of 16 Central Universities across the country.

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