The budget for education presented by the central government neglects to address the critical issues of equitable development and fails to meet the needs of marginalised communities. It also fails to fulfil the significant gaps in knowledge created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused extended school and college closures, making the past few years challenging for students across the nation.
It is appreciated that there was an increment in the education budget, but it was less than the Kothari commission and NEP 2020’s recommendation of allocating 6% of GDP to the education budget. Since 2019, the GDP proportion of education has been unchanged at 2.9%. However, the government actually spent less on education during the last two fiscal years than it had anticipated.
Regarding minority education scholarships, there was a massive cut of funds in merit-cum means scholarships from 365 to 44 crores, showing a callous attitude even after dropping the pre-metric and MANF scholarships. This was an onslaught on education and the dignity of minorities. After allocating Rs 900 crores for pre-metric scholarships in the previous budget and then cancelling them, it demonstrates a bias against minorities. The whopping cut of funds to Madrasas from previous budgets shows the clear agenda of the government towards minorities and their upliftment in terms of education.
The budget for skill development programmes like USTTAD and Nai Manzil declined from crores to a mere amount of Rs 10 lakh.
The budget allocated for research programmes and free coaching for minorities also saw a drop of 50% from the previous budget, which shows the apathetic behaviour of the government.
Although the increase in funds allocated to school education is appreciable, the amount allocated to higher education, research and development has not been addressed properly, which is crucial in shaping students and also leading to the migration of a large number of students and youth abroad.
The amount allocated to kendriya vidyalas is 200 times greater than the funds allocated to normal government schools, which shows a clear dichotomy and raises a question of equality and equity in education.
SIO welcomes the decision to increase nursing colleges, but provisions should be made for strengthening the existing colleges with modern equipment. The district training centres for teachers and digital and physical libraries are good steps, but a question about their level of implementation arises. And there were no concrete measures in the present budget towards raising the question of unemployment.
SIO believes that the minority education budget is a clear injustice to minorities and that the central government has taken no stand for its upliftment. This myopic vision doesn’t bode well for the equitable development of the country.