The Union Budget of 2016 is a mixed bag of disappointments for education, being inadequate to meet some of the real needs of the sector. This year the budget for education is focusing on the financing aspect of the sector. As per the United Nations Human Development Report, 2015 India ranks 130th out of 188 nations in education. It is also the lagging nation in the BRICS group of countries.
The proposed higher education funding agency HEFA with a seed amount of one thousand crores will manage education loans as a specialised task. An amount that is only one fiftieth of the total education loans outstanding. As per Indian Express the nationalised banks have crores worth of education loans outstanding that have become non performing assets or NPAs. This type of classification denies the student seeking an education loan as they now have to compete with large corporations for low EMIs.
Further the Government has chosen to delineate education from public funding by opening the sector to privatisation. The goal is to transform ten public and private institutions into world class standard. It is well known that an institution is only as great as its staff and alumni. The budget however does not address the need for quality education. In higher education the core of teaching should be oriented towards the majority needs of the student which is not necessarily research but a need to prepare for careers in the industry.
The budget has proposed to open fifteen hundred skill development certification institutes in an effort to address employment need of the skill based industry across both private and public sector. This will provide opportunity to those opting out of higher education and yet having a formal certificate to enter the work force.
This budget does not address the problems that exist in the current school system. It proposes to open 62 new schools but does not fix teacher to student ratio nor a basic standard of teaching. The core of the school system is stagnating lost in a morass of academics that does not promote the spirit of discovery, adventure and entrepreneurship.
There is a great need for empirical studies to quantify the shortages in the Indian education system with the aim of identifying problems their causation and the prioritisation of the requirements. These studies should not be a mere exercise in cost benefit analysis of a much haloed government expenditure rather it should investigate and predict the type investments required in the education sector and if they will meet employment needs in projected job growth in various sectors of the economy.