Public education in Delhi has received a huge fillip, with the state government allocating 26 percent of its Budget on the education department this year. However, experts doubt if additional funds would bring about a fundamental change in the capital city's human resource development scenario.
While tabling the 2018-19 Budget, Delhi finance minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio, had said funding to education increased by 2.5 percent compared to last year's allocation. He said an amount of Rs 13,997 crore has been set aside for the education department this year from a total Rs 53,000 crore Budget.
Delhi's education spending dwarfs the ratios set aside by the municipal corporations of Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru towards this sector — which have allocated 9 percent, 1.5 percent, 5 percent and 0.6 percent respectively. It's also 13 percent higher than the spending on education under the previous Delhi state government, led by the Congress.
Speaking to the media after the Budget presentation, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, "This Budget reflects the emphasis laid on education and health sectors by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi."
However, experts said that while it's heartening to see an increase in the state government's expenditure on education, the spending is not directed towards a permanent change.
Ashok Agarwal, an activist who has been working on the education sector in Delhi, said, "The government's expenditure has certainly increased but it's a vision-less expenditure as the Budget lacks any clear direction."
He said that the Budget has no clear emphasis on how to enhance the quality of education in the city's municipal schools. "Most of the students in government-run schools in Delhi study in MCD-run schools till Class V. The Budget makes no efforts at enhancing the quality of education in these MCD schools," he said.
A study in 2016 found that 74 percent of Class XI students in state government schools couldn't read a paragraph out of their Hindi textbook. Most of these were students who studied till Class V in MCD-run schools. This compelled the state government to launch a separate programme called 'Chunauti', which was to teach these students reading and writing again.
But the state government has shied away from enhancing the quality of education in MCD-run schools. Elaborating on why it didn't want to interfere in the plans and programmes of the civic body, a source in the education department said, "Municipal corporations in Delhi are autonomous bodies under the 74th amendment of the Indian Constitution, which grants them the right to decide on their own as a local self-government. The state government cannot interfere in their running as per law."
However, Agarwal, who is also a lawyer in the Delhi High Court, said there is a provision in the law which could allow the government to regulate the running of MCD schools, but accused the AAP government of not availing of this.
MCD schools provide education till Class V after which students switch to government schools.
Professor Janaki Rajan of the Jamia Milia Islamia University said it was high time the government critically examined its policies, saying it was a "proven fact" that increased expenditure in education has not resulted in enhancement in learning. "The National Achievement Survey (NAS) has indicated that Delhi students are far less competent than the national average in subjects like English, Science and Mathematics," she said.
The NAS is conducted every year among students of every state in India, and Delhi students have fared the worst in three out of five subjects. In English, Science and Mathematics, Delhi students' scores were 241, 240 and 250 respectively, while the average was 250.
Professor Anita Rampal of Delhi University told Firspost that even the education department's records show that money spent hasn't enhanced learning. "Last year, more than 60,000 students failed in their Class IX exams and they were pushed out of the regular classrooms to correspondence courses. Even there, only 1,500 of them passed," she said.
She added that setting up of CCTV cameras in schools is not going to help enhance the learning environment. Budgetary proposes to set up CCTV cameras in classrooms came with an expenditure bill of Rs 175 crore.
Significantly, however, Agarwal asked exactly what does the Budget have in store for children who have already dropped out of school. As per a study conducted by Praja Foundation, 85,000 students dropped out of schools in Delhi in 2016. "Every year, nearly one lakh students drop out of schools. Over the years, more than 8 lakh students have dropped out. The Budget proposes no plan to bring them back to school," Agarwal said.
He also added that children with special abilities too did not receive any attention in this Budget. "They need special attention and equipment in school to prove themselves, but the government has turned its back on them," he lamented.
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Updated Date: Mar 28, 2018 14:16:33 IST