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BJP's 6% promise: India's education budget 04% of GDP, 'worse than Brazil, South Africa'

Counterview Desk  

Bahutva Karnataka (BK), a platform of organizations committed to justice, harmony and the promotion of constitutional values, in its new Guarantee Check’ report, has juxtaposed the Central government’s official claims with evidence from credible (oftentimes official) sources on education.
The report said, Despite its repeated promises to invest 6% of GDP in its citizens’ education, the education budget is just 0.4% of GDP, about a third of the city of New York’s education spend. It amounts to which amounts to Rs 700 per Indian per year, much lower than Brazil or South Africa, fellow BRICS nations, spend on their citizens.
The results is that 1 out of 2 senior school students in our country cannot divide a 3 digit number by a single digit number; 1 out of 4 cannot read at grade 2 levels in their mother tongues; 1 in 3 cannot even subtract, with things getting worse, it adds.


The issue that stands out most starkly is the massive underinvestment in education at the Centre. The funding that the Central Government apportions to its Ministry of Education (MoE) is so pitifully small that even the education budget of the city of New York is many times higher. 
Despite its repeated promises to invest 6% of GDP in its citizens’ education, the MoE has a budget that’s equivalent to approximately 0.4% of GDP (about a third of the city of New York’s education spend), which amounts to a highly inadequate contribution of around 700 Rs. per Indian per year (much lower than Brazil or South Africa, fellow BRICS nations, spend on their citizens).
The Centre’s contributions fall far short of the States’ (who altogether contribute around 3.4% of GDP). PM Modi had been stridently critical of the low education spend in the country in 2013 when in the opposition. He had then suggested that overall investment in education should be 7% of GDP and not around the 4% that it was (and where it still remains thanks to the Centre’s unwillingness to pony up the money).
The results of the underinvestment are there for all to see. 1 out of 2 senior school students in our country cannot divide a 3 digit number by a single digit number. 1 out of 4 cannot read at grade 2 levels in their mother tongues. 1 in 3 cannot even subtract. And it gets worse.
The World Bank’s Human Capital Index score for India reveals that 35% of Indians are at risk of cognitive and physical impairments as a result of poor Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), but the amount that India allocates to ECCE is 16 times less than several other countries as a percentage of GDP.
Likewise in higher education, half the graduates are found to be unemployable, and the percentage of engineering graduates who are unemployed upon graduation has been increasing. Despite this, the government has reduced its investment in higher education in its 2024 budget by 18%.
Now the situation for students belonging to underprivileged castes is definitely worse, because despite multiple promises of spending on post-matriculation scholarships for students considered to belong to SC, ST or OBC groups, the reality is that the scholarships are not being allocated the promised money.
Only half the promised amounts were paid out in 2021. Only a quarter was paid out in 2023. Even the full amount would have anyway only been a paltry 1000 Rs. per student per month. 
To add to their woes, students can only avail these benefits if their family income can be proven to fall below a cutoff of 2.5 lakhs per annum (or 1 lakh in some cases), compared to the 8 lakh income cutoff limit for economically weaker section (EWS) beneficiaries (the subject of a pointed question in parliament). Partly as a consequence the dropout rates in these groups are tremendously high (contributing to more than half the dropouts across institutions of higher education).
Moreover, abuse and harassment continues with students reporting being singled out for caste reasons in many institutions of higher education, with caste privilege being signaled by new vegetarian sections in messes in many IITs.
Meanwhile students from historically oppressed communities have died or been injured for drinking water, for touching things, for supplying incorrect answers and conversely even for studying well, and the number of caste atrocities recorded annually has increased 50% from 2014 to 2022, a state of affairs that the PM has maintained a deafening silence on despite calls to speak out about it.
On the subject of regional languages, the Centre allocates Rs. 200 crores per year for the promotion of Sanskrit but only Rs. 10 crores per year for all regional languages combined. Though the three-language formula was supposed to allow for Hindi to be taught as a third language in South India in return for ‘modern Indian languages’ (regional languages) being taught in North India, there have been no attempts to promote Southern or other regional languages in the North.
On the contrary, BJP ruled states have made Sanskrit compulsory as the third language, shutting out Southern languages entirely. Moreover, the Centre continues to appease Hindi, with the naming of laws in Hindi and the use of Hindi now in preparing cabinet agendas disadvantages Southern law students and civil service aspirants.
Moreover, the naming of prestigious scientific and engineering projects (such as Gaganyaan and Chandrayaan) solely using Hindi-belt names again pointedly excludes Southern languages despite their disproportionately high tax contributions to these projects.
Meanwhile, the Centre has dropped subjects such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, the periodic table, and the Pythagorean theorem from 10th Std. textbooks, with a BJP Minister of State for Higher Education famously saying “No one ever saw an ape turning into a human being”. 
The BJP Government in Madhya Pradesh has instead chosen to invest in astrology courses with the state’s education minister saying "Our country's ancient culture is getting affected by modernity. Astrology impacts human lives, the courses of events and climate change. We need to study astrology to understand these changes."
At the same time, 1 in 4 government schools in Madhya Pradesh have been closed down, disproportionately affecting the smaller schools serving tribal districts. All over the country, 1 in 6 teaching posts (about 10 lakh in all) lies vacant, with the percentage going up to 42% for reserved teaching openings in central universities. Innumerable scholars have been imprisoned, shot or suspended for their views (again with no condemnation whatsoever from the PM, and some still remain in jail).
Have things changed this year? Hardly, and the government has been quite misleading there. For instance, after the 2024 budget, the Government played up a claim that this year’s education budget had the highest ever budget for school education. It turns out that the number was only 0.7% more than last year’s (in other words, if you accounted for inflation, the allocation was less than last year).
And in the light of the noise made about this, it was conveniently forgotten that the size of the overall education budget has gone down 7% and the allocation for higher education has decreased 18%. In reality the budget for the Central Ministry of Education hovers at around 0.4% of GDP once again.
Excepts. Click here for full report



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