Lower Middle-Income Countries (Including India) Cut Education Budget: Says World Bank Report

According to a report compilation by the World Bank and UNESCO‘s Global Education Monitoring (GEM), about 65% of the lower-middle-income countries and about 33% of high and upper-middle-income countries cut their education budget after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report, the spending by the lower-middle-income countries on the education sector is running low of the requirements set forth as of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The countries that are included in this are:

  • Low-income countries such as Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Uganda,
  • Lower-middle income countries such as India, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Egypt,  Myanmar, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, and Ukraine,
  • Upper-middle income countries such as Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, Turkey Colombia, Jordan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Peru, and
    High-income countries like Panama and Chile.

The important thing to notice here is that India is also included in this list of countries that have cut their spending share on the education sector. It is a known fact that the pandemic has affected us all in some way or the other and as for the nation’s economy, every sector has seen an impact as well. However, when we are talking about the education sector, in particular, the impact became visible to us only when the government announced a nationwide lockdown when all the schools and colleges were shut down to stop the spread of the deadly pandemic.

In India, the schools and colleges have remained shut for more than a year now, millions of students do not have access to education that they deserved or don’t have the means to access the education through online methods. Moreover, there has also been a decrease in the number of teachers as some do not have the means to access the technology, the reason being them living in remote areas where the internet facility is rarely effective, some are simply just not trained enough to teach through an online method. Also, the money allocated for the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (A flagship school education program introduced by the government of India) for the coming year is 31,050 crores which are lesser than the money allocated last year that was about 38,751 crores. Moreover, the budget allocated for mid-day meals is also reduced to 11500 crores from an amount of 12900 crores and National Education Mission has also come down to 31300.16 crores from 38860.50 crores.
A New Education Policy (NEP) was also passed this year which aimed at doubling the expense of the government on education for the next 10 years, beginning from this year itself but the Finance Minister of the nation talked about this policy only considering about 15,000 schools in India, which constitute about only 1% of the total number of schools in the nation. Now the important question to ask here becomes what happens to the rest of the schools in the country? Why are they not a part of this policy?
As the data show, the budget allocation for Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas have seen an increase from 6437.68 crores in 2020-21 to 6800 crores this year and from 3480 crores to 3800 crores, respectively. At the same time, it should be noted that these schools are already receiving a huge amount of support in terms of better infrastructure, high expenditure per student, and a good amount of financial support to teachers. It is the many other schools that need this extra support. Furthermore, the Finance Minister has also announced 150 Sainik schools accompanied by private and NGO support. This evokes a sense of criticism in all of our minds as to why are the Sainik schools being given so much importance during a pandemic when there are a plethora of problems in term of the education in the country that needs to be worked upon.
The education crisis has happened even before the pandemic but again it all comes to a point how much the government is willing to work. The notion: “the government has no business to remain in the business” has come down to “no government and private governance”. All that the government is concerned about is the privatization of various sectors of the economy, be it the privatization of the PSUs or the establishment of Sainik schools with NGO and private sector support.
As of 2019, the country spends about 3.1% of its GDP on the education sector. The ideal amount of spending should be 6% of the country’s GDP but the country spends almost half of the ideal requirement which is one of the reasons why the education sector is not growing. There is an urgent need to increase the amount of funding done on education but despite this, the government has been seen to reduce the total spending on this sector which will have an immense impact on the future of India. The reason for this cut in this sector is the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. Till now there have been about 11.1 million COVID-19 cases in India, out of which 10.8 million have recovered and 1 lakh 57 thousand have died.

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