Education remained the focus of the Union budget for the third consecutive year with increase in allocation of 20 per cent for the sector.
The government also announced schemes to start pre-primary education in government schools, scholarships for higher education as well as science education. The budget also includes funds for opening 6,000 schools, 16 central universities, three IITs and two schools of planning and architecture.
A slew of scholarships have been announced to check dropout rates. There would be a new central scheme to extend scholarship to at least two per cent of students passing out of schools for pursuing higher education in colleges and universities.
Students from Classes IX till XII will also get scholarships from the next financial year for which Rs 750 crore has been earmarked.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram also announced a programme under which a student interested in science can go for a government scholarship from 10 years till 32 years of age. Called Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research, or Inspire, the scheme will have separate scholarships for young learners in the age group of 10-17 years, scholarship for continuing science education from 17-22 years and opportunities for research careers from 22 to 32 years.
The HRD ministry got a 20 per cent increase in its budget to Rs 34,300 crore for the financial year with the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan getting Rs 13,100 crore and the mid-day meal scheme Rs 8,000 crore.
There is also allocation of Rs 2,011,221 crore for two new schemes - the Universal Access and Quality at the Secondary Stage and Incentive to Girls for Secondary Stage.
The budget for higher education has been increased by about 90 per cent from Rs 6,397 crore to Rs 10,852 crore with allocation for opening of the 16 central universities, three new IITs - in Bihar, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh - two Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, at Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram, two schools of planning and architecture at Bhopal and Vijayawada.
The government has taken a leaf out of private education by announcing nursery classes in government schools. Chidambaram has allocated Rs 90 crore for this.