The draft New Education Policy 2019, thrown open for discussion by the government, appears ambitious on target setting but is largely silent on funding. It seeks to build a ‘robust education system’ in the coming years with the extensive use of technology in classrooms, early enrollments of children and free education to everyone under the age of 18 to improve dissemination of education. However, there is no elaboration on the source of funding to execute these otherwise well-intended plans. Many of these targets require the government to expand infrastructure, hire more teachers and professionals and improve the efficiency of school management. For all this, the government would need additional capital. India’s spending on the education sector has always been low. In 2017-18, the public expenditure on education was close to 3% of the GDP, much below the global average of 4.7%. The education system — public and private — has been deteriorating rapidly and this has affected the quality of human resources. The draft policy, prepared by the Kasturirangan Committee, pledges to increase the public spending on education to 6% of the GDP. However, it must be pointed out that this is not the first time the government has set such a target. In the first National Education Policy in 1968, the committee had recommended that public expenditure in education must be 6% of the GDP, which was reiterated by the second NEP in 1986. Overall, the draft aims at not only focusing on improving the quality of education but also improving the pupil-teacher ratio (PTR), better implementation of RTE and building better infrastructure. But, the absence of any road map on how to raise funds to meet the ambitious targets raises questions over implementation.
Acute shortage of professionally qualified school teachers is one of the major problems plaguing the education sector. On average, the PTR stood at 21 in 2016, according to an HRD Ministry report. The report also stated that the PTR had remained unchanged for the past five years, indicating a shortage of teachers as India’s student population is growing. The government plans to replace the existing BEd programme with a four-year integrated BEd programme that combines high-quality content, pedagogy, and practical training. This means the government will have to pump in more money to train them. The funds for training teachers have been declining over the years — by 87% in the past six years (from Rs 1,158 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 150 crore in 2019-20). The government has listed plans to transform classroom teaching by including technology-based interventions. One such proposal is to set up virtual laboratories to provide remote access to laboratories in various disciplines. Setting up these technologies would require additional government funds.