Public investment in education

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    In News :

    The Union Minister of Education  said that people should let go of the idea that universities must be funded only by the government. 

    • Remarks are  corollary to the General Financial Rules of 2017, which encourage all autonomous bodies to maximise generation of internal resources and attain self-sufficiency .

    Present Status 

    • The Union government’s expenditure on higher education as a percentage of revenue receipt saw a decline from 2.60% in 2011-12 to 1.85% in 2022-23 (Budget Estimates).
    • Higher education in India is already highly privatised. Most private higher education institutions are run on a self-financed basis, a euphemism for full cost-recovering institutions. 
    • Besides, private tendencies have also penetrated deeply into public higher education. The thrust for resource mobilisation, internal revenue generation, cross-subsidisation, resource use efficiency, cost reduction, accelerated cost recovery and enhanced user charges may further exacerbate the trend.  

    Issues 

    •  Consequence of privatisation would be a substantial increase in fees and other charges from students. 
    • Education would then become a costly commodity that only the affluent can afford. 
      • Most of the children from downtrodden and marginalised sections would completely be deprived of even primary education making the Right to Education a mockery.
    • The idea that higher education could be funded fully by the students or their parents out of their savings or through bank borrowings appears grossly misplaced in the Indian context.
    • Other Crisis : a financial crunch at the university level, a deficit in research opportunities for faculty, poor infrastructure and learning outcomes for students
      • Most Indian universities and colleges have overcrowded classrooms, poor ventilation and sanitation, and unsatisfactory hostel accommodation.

    Need of Public Funding 

    • Appropriate level of public funding is “extremely critical for achieving the high-quality and equitable public education system that is truly needed for India’s future economic, social, cultural, intellectual progress and growth.”
    • Home Minister Amit Shah had said that the public education system is the basis of a vibrant democratic society.

    Government Policies in this direction 

    • The National Education Policy(NEP) 2020: It would “promote increased access, equity, and inclusion through a range of measures, including greater opportunities for outstanding public education.”
      • It also provided an assurance that the autonomy of public institutions would be backed by adequate public funding. 
      • The NEP noted that public expenditure on education in India was nowhere close to the 6% of GDP envisaged by the 1968 policy and reaffirmed in the 1992 review of the policy. Against this backdrop, the 2020 policy endorsed a substantial increase in public investment by the Central and State governments to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest. 
    • Kothari Commission: It was the precursor to the 1968 policy, higher education should have been getting at least 2% of GDP.

    Suggestions

    • There is an urgent need to increase public funding, along with establishing dedicated funding streams for infrastructure grants/loans and financial aid.
    • Universities can also be freed up to utilise other revenue streams such as start-up royalties and advertising.
    • The education system needs an infusion of resources for multiple years and  also a strengthened focus on the needs of the poor and disadvantaged children. 
    • The government, in collaboration with the industrial sector, must invest in continuous skill enhancement and training to bring our teachers on a par with global standards. 
    • Higher education must indeed embrace and keep pace with the advancements in technology. Technology can be effectively leveraged as a quality-enhancement tool. 

    Mains Practise Question 

    [Q] Appropriate level of public funding is “extremely critical for achieving the high-quality and equitable public education system.Comment