The 2015-16 Union Budget slashed funds for the education sector by 16.5% with schools hardest hit by the move as the government announced a raft of new schemes and initiatives to boost learning in the country.
The government proposed to set aside Rs 69,075 crore for the sector, a sharp drop from Rs 82,777 crore in the previous budget. The school sector was especially affected with an almost 25% cut -- Rs 39,038.5 crore, down from Rs 51,828 crore in 2014-15. India has one of the highest dropout rates in the world with poor quality of primary education, said a recent NGO report.
The government planned to upgrade over 80,000 secondary schools in the country, the budget said, adding that the government’s target was educating India’s youth to make them employable.
“To ensure a senior secondary school within a 5 km reach of each child, we need to upgrade over 80,000 secondary schools and add or upgrade 75,000 junior or middle schools to the senior secondary level. We also have to ensure education improves in terms of quality and learning outcomes,” finance minister Arun Jaitley said.
The industry welcomed the announcement with Rohin Kapoor, senior manager at Deloittt India, saying the establishment of a senior secondary school within 5 km of each child will go a long way in addressing problems of equity, access and quality in the education sector.
An integrated education and livelihood scheme called Nai Manzil will also be launched to enable young people from minority communities without a formal school-leaving certificate to obtain one and find better employment.
The education and the secondary higher education cess would be subsumed in the central excise duty as the government moved towards a unified goods and services tax regime, the government said.
The budget also announced the setting up of an authority to administer and monitor scholarships and educational loan schemes though the Pradhan Mantri Vidya Lakshmi Karyakram.
"The impetus on research and development, incubation and entrepreneurship is heartening. So is the support for innovation through the Atal Innovation Mission. If administered well, these can act as a force multiplier for both Make in India and employment generation,” said Prof. Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.