Pre-Budget Expectations from Union Budget 2019: Given the widespread inequality and poverty in India, education needs to play a critical role in bringing about intergenerational social and economic mobility with primary public education standing out as the most important area of focus.
By Ravi Sreedharan
India Union Budget 2019 Expectations: Within this being an election year, one can expect announcements that appeal to large sections of society. And, by definition, this would mean programs, if not just announcements, that appeal to underserved segments of our society that live on the margins and are at or below lines that define poverty, basic nutrition, basic health, basic education, basic safety, basic opportunities, etc..
While this might sound like good news, often times, these announcements tend to be more headlines making than real drivers of change. The sums of money that gets committed for these programs end up being far less than required and mere tokenism.
There is enough understanding of the amount of monies that needs to be allocated to public education, public health to have a chance of ensuring basic opportunities, basic safety and basic dignity of every citizen of this country. While it might sound ambitious, there is a need to double the current levels of spending in these two areas as a percentage of GDP. Spend on Education as a percentage of GDP is still less than 3% versus the aspirational goal of 6%. Lots of developing and developed countries in the world have already been earmarking and spending close to this ballpark (as a percentage of GDP) on education. India’s inability to do so must be highlighted more as a question of intent rather than resources.
Given the widespread inequality and poverty in India, education needs to play a critical role in bringing about intergenerational social and economic mobility with primary public education standing out as the most important area of focus. Without a good quality government schooling system, it’s impossible to envision us moving towards a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society. Without that the potential demographic dividend we could benefit from (with India soon to become amongst the youngest nations in the world) is nothing but a pipe dream. Without that, crores of first-generation school goers in our country will struggle to reach their potential.
Our experience across nations in the world has more often than not reinforced the importance of developing and strengthening a strong public/government education system as a necessary condition for economic and social transformation in a country. We will need to find our direction and intent to make this happen for India.
The author is founder and director of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM)