Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Education spending by government fails to keep pace with allocation

The poor utilization of funds allocated for education has resulted in little improvement in India’s school education system even as the education budget has almost tripled over the past five years. The government spent only 61% of funds allocated for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the main programme for implementing the Right to Education (RTE) Act, in the year ended 31 March 2012, according to a report by the Centre for Policy Research’s Accountability Initiative.

“Expenditures have failed to keep pace with the increase in allocations. In FY08, over 70% of allocations were spent; this dropped to 61% in 2011-12,” the report said. In 2010-11, the government spent about 70% funds allocated under the scheme, against 78% in the year earlier.

In the 11th Five-Year Plan, the government’s budget for SSA-RTE rose to Rs. 61,734 crore (Rs. 617.34 billion) in 2011-12 from Rs. 21,360 crore (Rs. 213.60 billion) in 2007-08. The per-student allocation tripled to Rs. 4,746 from Rs. 1,598 in the five-year period.

The learning levels of Indian students are quite poor, the survey said, citing a study by Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh, which represented India, were ranked just above Kyrgyzstan—which was ranked last—in mathematics and overall reading skills in the study comprising 74 nations.

The annual status of education report published by education non-profit Prathamalso painted a grim picture of the quality of elementary education. According to the report, students of Class V failed in second grade reading and mathematics aptitude tests. There are about 230 million students in the Indian school education system.

The Accountability Initiative study said there were a large number of vacancies in key posts of implementing officer in the district and block levels, hampering the implementation of the flagship scheme aimed at universalizing schooling for all children in the 6-14 age group. About 60% of such posts are vacant in Bihar, the study said.

The poor outcome is linked to the slow fund flow from the centre and states, said Yamini Aiyar, Director, Accountability Initiative. Non-adherence to technicalities stops the flow of money to district and block levels, Aiyar said. “Once, we found that a block did not have a junior engineer, so who will clear the files? There are many such issues,” she said.

An official of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) said the government is aware of the shortcomings. “RTE has certainly brought a lot of changes in school education, but we are not complacent,” the official said, requesting anonymity. The ministry is constantly in touch with the states to implement SSA-RTE more effectively, the official said. “We are definitely going to miss the 2013 RTE deadline looking at the pace at which our school education system is progressing,” Aiyar said.

The RTE Act became effective on 1 April 2010, and has a mandate to achieve targets including 100% enrolment, training untrained teachers in 1.3 million schools and better infrastructure ranging from classrooms to toilets and playgrounds by 31 March.

Pre-teacher trainings like the bachelor of education courses remain a key concern and the outcome of the national teacher eligibility test (TET) is not very encouraging, said the study. Fewer than 10% of those who sat for TET in 2012 qualified, according to government data.

Source: Mint, February 26, 2013

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