The decision of the Government to allocate a near Rs.4500 crores more to the education sector and capping it at Rs. 99300 crores in addition to an allocation of Rs.3000 crores for skill development is certainly indicative of a concern and interest to address to some essentialities of the Indian education. This marginal increase of around 3.4 % over the previous year appears substantial on a face value. However, when one considers the increasing costs in infrastructure, establishment and inflation, this increase is only to neutralize these requirements leaving very little room for expansion, innovation and development that would meet the needs of the future. As such, one could consider the investment by the Government more as a seed money to trigger some basic and futuristic engagements education sector should address to.
Given the dynamics of social changes impacted by scientific, technological, digital and cultural intercourses between nations across the world, the speed and scale of engagement with change in educational thought dynamics and its pursuits is on a scale which cannot be matched with such meagre allocations. It requires extensive participation from non-governmental sources, be it corporate or others. The acknowledgement of the FM in Budget that ECB and FDI in education would be necessary for further expansion is the case in the point. But before any FDI could be gravitated, some ground realities existing in the education sector needs to be examined.
1. Governance in education should encourage more mutual trust. We appear to be still in the “Inspection-Raj” mode in dealing with educational institutions. With a lot of non-academic, non-research work as a routine, the institutions of learning, both higher or lower, are bogged down with ‘pleasing the people who govern’ locally or hierarchically. Completing the clerical procedures becomes a greater priority in the established atmosphere of fear and punishment. The system of educational administration needs a radical rethinking with less intervention, but with ‘broader dimensions of governance.”
2. There appears to be an increasing evidence of corruption at all levels of educational governance, which is neither good for the country nor for the process of education. While rules and regulations need to simple, non-coercive, facilitative and progressive, its implementation has to be transparent, fast and pragmatic. It is important to understand that given the diversity of the country in all dimensions, the same rule cannot be successful or relevant through the entire country. Flexibility to facilitate growth, enterprise, investment and results in education has to be addressed.
3. The concept of ‘quality in education’ – in terms of content, delivery and certification has touched newer low. Grant of permissions to poor and non-existing infrastructures, promotion and support to fake entities in delivery systems, poor quality of teachers retarding meaningful educational transaction, assessments focusing on pushing numbers to pass grades without basics, evaluation systems which lack credibility and reliability are some of the horrors one could witness in the field of education. Credible private and corporate interventions with a non-profit outlook could possibly help to eliminate some of these challenges.
4. Privatization is not necessarily a threat to a good governance. As such, effective private role play could help in achieving the purpose and objectives of governance. It is high time that the Government examines the possibility of competitive educational delivery processes by allowing private sectors with repute to have level playing grounds in school education as independent certifying authorities under the guidance of the Government. This could help in furthering quality, accountability and growth in the school education sector. This would certainly a need of the future, as the growth dynamics in school education, both formal and informal, is fast and becoming globally sensitive and competitive. Further, it would be contextual with the floated idea of gravitating FDI for Indian education.
5. A number of auxiliary and support services for education work in this country with a turnover of several thousand crores. Such systems exist in – school infrastructure development, technology supports, publishing industries, school management systems, school transport systems and security systems. A few lakh people are engaged with a continuous investment and turn over. Entrepreneurs, technologists, researchers, innovators and the like do invest a lot of time, money, energy and passion for contributing to the field of education. In a number of cases, they do see a global market without any support at local levels. With growth in the number of educational units, both at the school and the higher level, there will be extensive demand for their active role. The Government should recognize these sectors as partners in progress and facilitate, empower and allow them to contribute to growth in a positive manner. Their contribution to economy cannot be detailed in the parameters of an articulated budget.
6. Education is a social construct. In a world where knowledge is getting constructed and re-constructed periodically, the ivory-tower approaches to education delivery will not work for long. It is time that the governing institutions at all levels understand that stake holders have a great role to play in this social construct and drop the ‘big-brotherly’ attitudes to let all stakeholders function individually and collectively in the process. This could also relieve quite a lot of wasteful expenditure in delivery systems, when engagements become participatory with mutual trust and respect.
7. Research in education needs a parental care. It is an open secret that a lot of research done across the country have neither goals nor purposes. A large number of cases of fake engagements in research, poor quality of the outcomes, repetitive exercises, dominance of authoritative hierarchies, poor time-schedules, non-research engagements in research institutions, lack of due acknowledgement to passionate researchers are some of the issues haunting our educational institutions Budgetary allocations alone is not going to improve the quality unless government works on addressing these issues to ensure greater accountability. The load of research papers released by any single individual is only one indicator of their performance, but non-engagement with global dynamics and living with the past glory is a curse to a living system.
8. The Government should address to the process of teacher education with the seriousness it deserves. The draft NPE has said enough about the prevalent evils in this area. Streamlining the Teacher education sector has to be a priority. Further, it calls for a fresh thinking appropriate to current socio-psychic environment with inputs which are relevant, useful and timely. Unfortunately, the content and style of our teacher education process has not been modernized. Partnering with private initiatives with proven track records in teacher training could help in re-engineering the thought dynamics of teacher empowerment. Third party assessments of teacher quality periodically could possibly facilitate in redressal of the challenges from time to time.
9. While “Skill India” is a passionate government proposition, it calls for strong bridges with private sector. Standalone practices of the government in skill encapsulation and delivery will again lead to lack of employability with the given certificates. It is important to involve organizations like FICCI, CII and other industrial lead groups to partner in management and certification of such processes to make them current, relevant and contextual.
10 .For long, Indian education system has suffered for want of people with specialized skills in education management. The call for “Indian Education Service” has fallen only in deaf ears. While no one would underplay the role of other services, it is important to induct people with special focus and expertise for education management.
Budget, 2020-21, is an annual exercise for setting a direction to what exists and what is intended. But, education as a concept and social construct, operates beyond the limitations of any financial constraints and compulsions. For educators, it is important to think beyond the budget.