Education doesn’t find due mention in Interim Budget 2019

Barely two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s  Pariksha Pe Charcha where he tried  to reach out to students, youth and parents over exam stress and related issues , the interim budget presented by his government on February 1 didn’t show a similar inclination as education has been almost omitted from budget vocabulary.   

Writing in the Indian Express, Ashok Thakur, former HRD secretary opines thatoOne could not but conclude by the end of the Budget-2019 speech that education was no longer the important building block in nation building that it was once considered.

The government has allocated Rs 93,848 crore-3.3 per cent of the total budget expenditure-for the education sector, over Rs 10,000 crore hike from the revised estimate Rs 83,626 last year. It’s a different matter, the actual spend last year, at Rs 80,215 crore, was less than the allocated. Despite the hike, the share of expenses on education sector remains the same as last year. Interestingly, despite the government’s repeated claim on its stress on improving higher education, 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. The actual spend by HEFA last year was just Rs 250 crore.

Education experts have called it big disappointment for education sector . A mere allocation of Rs 38,572 crore (only negligible increase of Rs 6,238 crore from previous year) under National Education Mission of which only Rs 36, 472.40  crore for school education under the Samagra Shiksha Abhyan is grossly inadequate to universalise education up to secondary level in the country.

Piyush Goyal announced developing the national Artificial Intelligence (AI) portal as a part of the National Programme on Artificial Intelligence. The government will also establish the National Centre on Artificial Intelligence and Centres of Excellence for AI programme. “National programme on artificial intelligence (AI) has been envisaged by the government. National centre on Artificial Intelligence as a hub along with Centres of Excellence has been established,” said Goyal in the parliament.

Piyush Goyal, acting Finance Minister presenting budget in Parliament
on Feb 1

Experts have been saying that for the country to touch 8% growth rate, it will have to increase the spending on education. India is positioned much lower than its neighbors in the human advancement list (HDI) which is a marker or indicator of the social sector, particularly education, employment and so on. New businesses or information overloads can’t be a guaranteed mode of prosperity or youth empowerment.  Information cannot be converted into knowledge without education. Education is needed to develop right kind of attitude, outlook, perspectives and how to learn for life.

Industry Reactions:

Puja Marwaha, CEO at CRY – Child Rights and You : “The Interim Budget 2019 has shown positive trends towards the vulnerable sections of our society, including farmers, small entrepreneurs and the tax-paying middle classes. Yet, for almost 40% of India’s population comprising of its children, it failed to address the expectations of the nation, as children were neither a part of the Budget Speech, nor were they visible anywhere in the 10 point vision for 2030.

“The first level analysis of the budget documents reveals that the overall budget outlay for children is just 3.25% of the total Union Budget, with a negligible 0.01% increase since last financial year. In gross terms it records an increase of Rs. 9,358 crores from Rs. 81,235.63 crores in 2018-19 (RE) to Rs. 90594.25 crores 2019-20 (BE) [Analysis based on Statement -12 uploaded by MoF].

“However, it is welcoming that some areas such as the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) has got an increased boost of 410 crores [from Rs. 2,990 crores in 2018-18 (RE) to Rs. 3,400 crores in 2019-20 (BE)], and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) witnessed an increase of Rs 4,227 crores, [from Rs. 23,357 crores in 2018-19 (RE) to Rs 27,584 crores in 2019-20 (BE)]. We hope that the huge vacancy gap in Angawadis as well as universalised coverage of ICDS services for children under six years sees a visible improvement with this additional budgetary allocation.

“There is also some increase in the area of protection of children in Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), which has received a boost of Rs. 575 crores over last year. However, the area of protection, especially prevention of crimes against children, is huge and it requires much more resource allocation. We can only hope that this is adequate enough to address the burning need of curbing violence against children.

“Last year, three major schemes across the child education sector have been consolidated with Samagra Siksha Abhiyan or Integrated scheme of education. In this budget, there seems to be nominal increase in the amount of money allocated for the Education sector, with Rs. 36,322 crores allocated for Samagra Siksha Abhiyan a simple replacement exercise for the combined sums under the erstwhile Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), the Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and the scheme for teachers’ education. Also, other areas such as educational scholarships for marginalized sections, both below and above the tenth standard have shown decline.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Vice-Chancellor, World University of Design:  “Overall, the Interim Budget is focused on people, progress & prosperity and that will lead to the rise of a #NewIndia by 2022. Being an election focused budget, there was no big announcement for the education sector which requires a long term focus. The reduction in the interest on education loans is a good move towards ensuring education for all. At the same time, 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. More focused announcements around skilling and higher education for youth would have made the Budget more holistic.”

Akhil Shahani, Managing Director, The Shahani Group :  “Unfortunately not much benefits offered to the education sector beyond what was done in previous years. However, the emphasis on internet connectivity and low data costs will increase access to online education to lesser served locations in India”

Rohit Manglik, CEO, EduGorilla:  “This year’s Budget lays down progressive measures which, if implemented well,  will certainly take economy onto a higher trajectory. The Budget is notable for its roadmap for 2030 focussing on ten dimensions which are key growth drivers of the Indian economy.  This year’s Budget gives a reason for SMEs to cheer considering various incentives announced by government to propel their growth. Various tax benefits and thrust on ‘Make in India’ is a testimony to the government’s intent of encouraging entrepreneurship; enabling India to emerge as the startup hub where “Job Seeker is now the Job Creator”. The move to source atleast 3% material from women-owned SMEs by Government enterprises will provide an impetus to women entrepreneurship.

In the education sector, the government has already implemented various policy reforms. With emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Realty already making a significant impact in every sphere, the move to launch the National Artificial Intelligence Portal is a commendable one. The education sector will receive a boost with the focus on strengthening the digital infrastructure. It can be a game-changer in making education affordable and facilitate access to education among youth in every nook and corner of the country.”

Tarun Bhalla, CEO & Founder, Avishkaar: Budget 2019 will prove to be a godsend for the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector in India. With over 200 AI start-ups currently innovating AI-based solutions in the country, they’ll help serve the society and help make a marked difference in the education, healthcare, transportation, infra and agricultural sectors of India.

 It’s great to see the government sending out a clear signal by launching National Artificial Intelligence Portal. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here to stay and will play a significant role in the future of the country. What’s more heartening is the fact that the government is willing to invest in AI in major sectors – education, healthcare, transportation, infra and agricultural in the country.

Prashant Gupta,  Executive Director, Sharda University : “Reflecting our Government’s great commitment to harness the potential of our students/youth and empower their future, the investment of Rs 38, 572 Cr under the National Education Mission, is indeed a welcome move. The initiative of deduction in the interest on education loans will make education accessible to all. Additionally, the government’s push towards new-age technologies like Artificial Intelligence will impart necessary skills and knowledge to the younger generation and will help in  preparing the workforce of future.”

Divya Jain,CEO, and Founder, Safeducate :  “With the scheme of modernizing the villages, and going digital will help in Skilling the youths in such villages, making them self-reliant and finding progressive careers for themselves while contributing to the household incomes as well. In most of the villages, women are still not allowed to go out of their homes – Digital villages will help to reach those women and skill them. Even though through various schemes such as PM Mudra Yojana, Government have been trying to educate women and work towards the cause of women empowerment, but still a lot of women have been deprived of it – Digital villages will likely ensure such benefits reach them faster now.

Kapil Rampal, Director of Ivory Education: “The Union Budget of this year is an interim budget focused at the election. For the education sector, it is a major disappointment. In order to incorporate the quota, there is a burden on Indian universities to increase their seats by 25% without allocation in the budget for enhancing infrastructure, faculty, and other resources required. In fact, no additional funds are allocated this year. The marginal increase in allocation is mostly for cost initiates such as fancy research projects like IMPRESS, RUSA and Uttar Bharat Program.

National Education Mission, which has always missed its targets, has been given an enhanced allocation of Rs. 38,572 crores from the total budget of Rs. 93,847.64 crores. For the private education sector, the government continues to bleed the sector with a very high GST rate of 18%, which they do not intend to bring down.”

Vineet Chaturvedi, Co-founder, Edureka: What could accelerate India’s skill development story even further and provide fodder to corporate growth is a ‘skilling allowance’ for all tax paying individuals. Such a rebate that rewards continuous learning will go a long way in creating an industry relevant workforce that can make India a skill hot spot. Continuous learning is a necessity and not just an option anymore and by treating it on par with necessary allowances such as HRA, LTA, DA & others, GOI would be doing India a great service. After all, India’s biggest strength is its human resource. Such an allowance will also be beneficial to IT, ITes industries which are subject to frequent skill churn and the ed-tech industry which has been working towards addressing this skilling need on ground. 

Speaking specifically of the ed-tech industry, a reduction in GST would greatly help boost a culture of up-skilling among Indians and this is indeed the need of the hour for India to maintain an edge in technical skills. Education and up-skilling is no luxury and it should not be taxed as such. It’s said that India lags behind even Sudan when it comes to its investments in education and healthcare mapped as a measurement of its commitment to economic growth, according to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. It’s time to change that.”

Aditya Malik, CEO & MD, Talentedge: “This year’s budget announcement of 1 lakh digital villages to be created by the government in the next five years is a very positive sign for us. With the availability of voice and data, digital platforms like Talentedge can reach these remote regions and provide a much wider access to world class education. Our technology enabled education platform can give a classroom experience of top universities across these villages.”

  Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO, and Founder, NextEducation India Pvt. Ltd.:   “India needs to integrate itself with the global big bang of technology, and the government has taken a welcome step towards it by declaring a nationwide programme on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Union Budget 2019. This programme involves the establishment of a National Centre for Artificial Intelligence along with other centres of excellence, and the development of a national AI portal for the advancement of 9 high-priority areas including education. This will help us catch up with the leading nations such as the US and China, who are using AI and data sciences to personalising education. Apart from this, the Digital India scheme, with more than 3 lakh common service centres, is aimed at bringing digital infrastructure to every nook and corner of the country. The government intends to build 1 lakh digital villages with an internet connection and digital devices in the next few years. This, in collaboration with EdTech companies like us, will help realise the national vision of ‘Education for All’.The National Education Mission has been allocated just 38,572 crores. However, we were expecting a better cut towards the education sector”.

Shobhit Bhatnagar, Co-Founder, Gradeup: “The budget announcement that the Government will set up a national centre for artificial intelligence to look into AI programmes is a welcome move. With this, we hope that we get the right set of people, agency and minds to lead this initiative. A policy was much needed from the govt. around usage of data and AI, so that India can lever on its own creation of data and not just be a digital colony. India is fast becoming the largest consumer of data in the world and we are generating a lot of data while innovating new products and reaching out to new audiences. If this policy is made and executed correctly with the right system design, it will also be a great value add for consumer startups.”

Prateek Bhargava, CEO, Mindler:  “While it is an interim budget, many important measures have been announced for critical sectors like agriculture and defence. Education meanwhile has not received the same attention. Though the FM has rightly put a lot of emphasis on harnessing youth energy through various government schemes aimed at promoting entrepreneurship and start up culture, one would have like to see more allocation for technology upgradation and teacher’s training, the two critical elements that will allow Indian schools to leverage the power of digital solutions and prepare students for new age jobs and careers. We at Mindler believe that  allocation for funds to drive career counseling and guidance initiatives, a critical need at the ground level, needing urgent attention, has been ignored yet again. We hope to see the same addressed in the full budget.”

Major features of the budget allocation for the higher education sector:

  • The IITs have been allocated Rs. 6,223 Cr. Apart from this, projects valued at Rs.12,028 Cr have been sanctioned from HEFA for the IITs. It is expected that there will be more projects that would come under HEFA in the coming year. Taking these into account, the fund availability for the IITs has more than doubled for 2019-20 as compared to the previous year.
  • The Central Universities have been provided Rs. 6,484 Cr.  UGC has been allocated another Rs.4900 Cr.  
  • There has been major increase in the flagship programmes such as RUSA where budget allocation has been increased by 50% from Rs.1400 Cr to Rs.2,100 Cr. 
  • There has been 245% increase in the allocation for quality improvement programme in Technical Education (TEQIP-III). 
  • The fund allocation for setting up new IIMs and new Schools of Planning & Architecture, World class institutions have been given very high increases in the budget allocations.
  • For research programmes such as IMPRESS, Rs.130 Cr has been allotted marking an increase of 37% compared to last year. 
  • In accordance with the commitments for improving skill levels among the students, the allocation for skill based programmes has been increased from Rs.40 Cr to Rs.125 Cr. 
  • Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, under which 10,000 villages have been adopted by the Higher Educational Institutions, has got 70% increase in budget allocation, reiterating the faith of Govt in linking educational institutions with Society.


What has  Narendra Modi government delivered over last four years on the budgetary promises in the education sector?

  • As promised in 2014, the school assessment programme has been initiated. India has also decided to participate from next year in the much-acclaimed programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is a test for secondary school students from across 80 countries and its outcome is considered the gold standard for evaluating the education system of a country. It assesses students in science, mathematics, reading and collaborative problem solving, and considers the collective performance of students from countries to rank them. The last time India participated in PISA a decade ago, it was placed second from the bottom in a league of 74 countries and regions. On March 28, the government approved an Integrated Scheme for School Education-Samagra Shiksha-extending Central support across all levels of school education from pre-school to Class 12 from 2018 to 2020.
  • As promised in 2017, the government has finalized learning outcomes for each class in Languages (Hindi, English and Urdu), Mathematics, Environmental Studies, Science and Social Science up to the Elementary stage have been finalized. National Survey of more than 20 lakh children has been conducted to assess the status on the ground.
  • In 2014, the government announced the “Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya New Teachers Training Programme” to infuse new training tools and motivate teachers. It was officially launched on December 25, 2015. The Union Ministry of Human Resource and Development has also launched Diksha Portal for providing a digital platform to the teacher to make their lifestyle more digital. The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) has introduced a four-year integrated professional B.Ed course on the lines of universities abroad. An Integrated Teacher Education programme has been conceptualised with an in-built specialisation for elementary, secondary, art education and physical education streams, coupled with a disciplinary core (B.A,/B.Sc.).
  • In 2014, the government announced that it would set up virtual classrooms. The SWAYAM online courses have emerged as a successful massive open online course (MOOC). A Committee has been set up, by the Department of Higher Education, to work out the modalities to support “Operation Digital Board” in all schools and to provide quality education by effective use of technology and telecom services.
  • In the last four years, seven IITs, seven IIMs, fourteen IIITs, 15 AIIMS, one NIT, and four NIDs have been set up or are in the process of being set up. But most of them are yet to be functional and suffer from serious shortage of faculty. However, allocations to the IITs have increased by more than 60 per cent since the budget 2014 allocation of Rs 3,896 crore. The allocations for the Indian Institutes of Management have increased four folds-from Rs 275 crore in 2014 to Rs 1036 crore in 2018. The allocations for the National Institute of Technology grew by 90 per cent between 2014 and 2017, compared to just 23 per cent between 2010 and 2013. Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Indian Institute of Science and Education and Research (IISER) have also received a higher allocation in last five years but it’s not a significant rise. In budget 2014, the allocation stood at Rs 1,067 crore and now in the current budget of 2018, the allocation has reached Rs 1,144 crore, marking a rise of only about 7 per cent.
  • The government has often talked about qualitative improvement of institutes of higher education. Last year, the HRD ministry came up with a plan for graded autonomy based on the performance of these institutes. In 2018, the University Grants Commission granted autonomy to 60 higher educational institutions, which maintained high academic standards.
  • In 2016, the government set up HEFA, as a non banking financial company with Canara Bank as its partner-Rs 250 crore from government and Rs 50 crore from Canara bank-for the purpose of mobilizing money through market borrowing and releasing them to government institutions as interest free loans.
  • The government last year announced granted Institutes of Eminence status to six universities, which resulted in a controversy for inclusion of Jio University which has not been set up yet.
  • In 2015, the government promised a student financial aid authority to administer and monitor all scholarship and educational loan schemes. On August 15, 2015, the Vidya Lakshmi Portal was launched as a gateway to banks for education loan and also with links to National e-Scholarship Portal. It also has the facility of tracking the process right from the time a student applies for a loan to the sanction or disapproval of the loan.
  • As promised the Government launched the ”Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF)” Scheme to 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. The scope of this scheme was later expanded to students from all universities. In the first batch, 119 fellows were admitted, out of 1,887 applications received.
  • To step up investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions, including health institutions, the government had proposed to launch ”Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) initiative by 2022. In July 2018, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the proposal for expanding the scope of Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) by enhancing its capital base to Rs 10,000 crore and tasking it to mobilise Rs 1,00,000 crore for RISE. HEFA has since given funds to more than 10 educational institutions to work on improving infrastructure.
  • In 2016, the government proposed to set up 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas. The progress report has not been made public yet but in January, Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar on Monday announced an increase of 5000 seats in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) for the Academic Year 2019-20.
  • The Union Cabinet, on October 27, 2016, approved the setting up of the National Academic Depository (NAD)-a digital depository for School Leaving Certificates, College Degrees, Academic Awards and Mark sheets to be set-up.
  • As proposed the government set up National Testing Agency (NTA) as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions.
  • In 2014, the government promised toilets and drinking water in all the girls’ school. Around 22.8 per cent rural school surveyed have unusable toilets, finds the 13th Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Rural 2018. However, the overall progress by all the states in toilet infrastructure development was impressive, especially Kerala, Punjab and Sikkim, which headed the list with 100 per cent toilet coverage in rural schools.
  • In 2017, the government announced that 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas would be opened. There has been little progress on that though Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar in January announced an increase of 5,000 seats in Navodaya Vidyalayas for the Academic Year 2019-20.
  • In 2018, the government proposed setting up of an Ekalavya Model Residential School by 2022 at every block with more than 50 per cent ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons. At par with Navodaya Vidyalayas, these schools will have special facilities for preserving local art and culture besides providing training in sports and skill development. No tangible progress so far.
  • The National Rail and Transportation Institute (NRTI), deemed university in Vadodara, has been set up with 103 students from 20 states joining as the first batch. It is India’s first railway university and only third such in the whole world after Russia and China.
  • Two agriculture universities have been set up in Jhansi and Imphal. Two horticulture universities have been set up in Haryana) and Telangana.
  • The National Sports University has been set up in Manipur.
  • However, the proposal to set up two new full-fledged Schools of Planning and Architecture, and 18 more SPAs to be attached to the IITs and NITs as autonomous Schools has remained on paper till now.
  • In 2014, the government announced that Jai Prakash Narayan National Centre for Excellence in Humanities would be set up in Madhya Pradesh. It’s yet to happen.
  • The National Centre for Excellence in Animation, Gaming and Special Effects to be set up in Mumbai has not come up yet though Maharashtra government has already allocated 20 acres for the project.