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Thrust area? Gujarat spending on education 'fails to improve' vis-à-vis other states

By Prof Atman Shah*, Abhishek Mishra**
Gujarat is one of the economically developed states of India, but when it comes to human development, particularly education and health, its performance is quite poor. In 1999-2000, Gujarat’s rank in the per capita Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) was 5th, but 9th in Human Development Index (HDI) among major states of India. The ranking in HDI deteriorated between 1999-2000 and 2007-08, reduced to 10th in 2007-08. There is little evidence to show it has improved thereafter.
One of the reasons behind this is lower spending on education and health. It is now a well-established fact that higher spending on social services like education and health help poorer sections of society to avail them. Education spending of the Gujarat government is the main focus of this article.
The Kothari Commission, in 1966, recommended spending 6% of the national income on education. The Subramanian Committee also recommended the same proportion. However, mere allocation does not help to improve the quality of services. Quantity and quality both matter in order to reach out to the needy.
For example, this year the Gujarat government allocated Rs 200 crore to distribute tablets. How can tablets improve the quality of education, God alone knows. According to Census 2011, the literacy rate in Gujarat was 78.03 % and its rank among states was 12th. Other high-income states Goa, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra had a higher literacy rate than Gujarat. These states are also spending more on education than Gujarat.
According to a report by the PRS Legislative Research, the average allocation of the budget of 27 states for education during 2015-20 was 16.0%, while Gujarat is much below the national average with 15% allocation. Other low-income states like Assam, Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and West Bengal also spend more than Gujarat on education.
The performance of Gujarat in other education-reason related indicators is also dismal. According to the Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) 2018, only 43% of students of government schools in standard V could read standard II level text. This clearly shows the quality of the education of government schools in Gujarat. Gujarat’s education department survey admits that 12,000 government schools have only one or two teachers. 
Gujarat’s finance minister announced the thrust areas of this year's budget, and education is one of them. But the numbers of the state’s education spending do not match with the narrative.
The state government has proposed a new Schools of Excellence Scheme. Under the scheme, the state government is aiming to develop 500 state-run schools as Schools of Excellence by March next year, and Rs 250 crore is provided for it, which means, Rs 2.5 crore for each school for all the modern infrastructural facilities, smart classrooms, computer lab, stem lab and sports facilities. The step appears quite good. But it seems difficult to provide these services with the allocated financial resources.
The share of education expenditure in GSDP is quite disappointing in Gujarat. It has been between 1% and 2% during 2016-17 and 2019-20, one of the lowest
Overall, the Gujarat government has allocated Rs 31,955 crore to the education sector in this budget, which is 14.7% of the size of the budget, slightly higher than 13.07% of the previous fiscal year allocation. The proportion was 14.1% in 2017-18 and 13.9% in 2018-19.
Indeed, this time the government has increased the budget allocation on education, yet it is not sufficient to get the favourable results. The chart below shows the proportion of the Gujarat government’s education expenditure in total budget allocation and the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) at constant prices.
Prepared by the authors, based on PRS and Socio-Economic Review 2018 data 
The share of education expenditure in the size of the budget is in the range of 13% to 15% between 2016-17 and 2020-21. This means the education expenditure share in budget allocation remains almost stagnant over the last five years. However, education expenditure has been increasing continuously, because the size of the budget has been increasing over a period of time.
The share of education expenditure in GSDP is quite disappointing in Gujarat. It has been between 1% and 2% during 2016-17 and 2019-20. The fund allocation and the percentage share of education in GSDP is one of the lowest in the country. For the fiscal 2019-20, the percentage share of education in GSDP was only 1.55%, which is a matter of concern.
Even states like Rajasthan and Bihar have been allocating more than 15% of the budget on education for the last five years. Maharashtra also spends around 17% of its total budget on education.
Focus of quality without monetary support wouldn't help. Similarly, rather than just allocating extra budget for education, necessary steps should be taken to improve the quality of spending. Infrastructure is necessary, but in the longer run education and health are the two pillars which strength for a state.
---
*Lecturer, **student, department of economics, St Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Ahmedabad

Comments

Rita shah said…
A well wtityen piece on education scene in Gujarat state. But certainly this is not a over night development, the scenirio has been dismal because of the age old education policy of the state. and the mindset of the where commerce and religion dominate and not education and health. It is sad that we lag behind in both fields and cut a sorry figure when compared to other states. I wish we open our eyes and priotrise both.

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