Union Budget 2021 India: It’s also time to raise investment in education to 6-7% of GDP
By Manoj K Arora
Indian Union Budget 2021-22: The National Education Policy (NEP) focuses on improving the quality of higher education at all levels, increased use of technology in education, bringing about equity in education, orchestrating more robust teacher education programmes, and cultivating research for the social good. But one of the biggest impediments in the way of successful implementation of this plan is getting the funds.
The government expenditure on education is meagre. As reported by the World Bank, the public expenditure on education was around 4.4% of GDP in 2019 and only 3.4% of GDP in 2020.
According to the 2020 IMD World Talent Rankings, which capture the capacity of an economy to attract talent, Switzerland and Denmark have been ranked first and second, respectively, for the last five years consecutively. These two countries have consistently allocated significant percentage of their government expenditure on education since the last many years. The report concludes that the top performing countries in terms of talent development and retention are the ones investing holistically in education at all levels (primary, secondary and tertiary). This offers a substantial case for India to increase investment in education to 6-7% of GDP, with combined contribution of central and state governments.
Similarly, investment in research and development (R&D) is an important parameter manifesting data-driven and research-backed policymaking. It also supports creation of intellectual property rights and competitiveness. So much so that as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals, countries have pledged substantial increase in public and private spending in research and to also increase the number of researchers by 2030.
If we wish to give the due importance research deserves, investment in research and innovation in India, which currently stands at about 0.7% of GDP as compared to 4.3% of GDP in a small country like Israel, needs to be significantly enhanced. From a stagnant range of 0.6% to 0.7% of GDP since last two decades, it is high time India allots at least 2% of GDP to R&D.
In Covid-19 times, we have seen the importance of indigenous research in different sectors, be it agriculture, healthcare, IT or manufacturing. The National Research Foundation (NRF), meant to fund, mentor and build quality of research in India, will indeed give a boost to the society and community relevant research as envisaged in the NEP, and also Atmanirbhar Bharat programme. The NRF will surely act as a robust and efficient support system to facilitate research in higher education institutions and is being eagerly awaited.
The author is vice-chancellor, BML Munjal University