Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part series on the state of government school education, based on the latest study by Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) and CRY. The study focusses on six states – Bihar, Maharashtra, UP, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu.
Sunny Vishvakarma is a 19-year old living in Sion Koliwada in Mumbai. His father is a taxi driver while mother owns a small flower shop. Despite having two brothers and a sister, and the need to financially support his family at an early age, Sunny has chosen to pursue a higher education.
“I have just completed my 12
th standard at a municipality school. I want to do BA now because my ambition is to be a teacher,” he says.
Sunny’s career goal may be a step towards resolving the massive shortage of trained teachers that government schools are facing today. According to a study by the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), there is a shortage of more than five lakh teachers in government elementary schools. The teacher crisis is more severe at the secondary level as teachers specialising in subjects become scarce. Teachers of Maths, Science and English are the fewest, says CBGA researcher Protiva Kundu.
More than 60 percent of the children in India depend on the public education system, so a teacher crisis has a deep impact on the future of the country. Is the government giving the problem the attention it deserves?
Education is a concurrent subject, meaning it is the responsibility of both the union government and states. Navodaya Vidyalas, residential schools for gifted students from underprivileged backgrounds, and Kendriya Vidyalayas are funded fully by the Central government. But other government schools are managed by the states also.
CBGA recently analysed the education budgets of six states – Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, UP, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal – to check if states are prioritising education. The study concludes that even though education may be recognised as an investment by the government, the allocation of resources for it “are far from satisfactory”.
The study goes on to say that teachers’ pay
constitutes more than half of a state government’s education budget. In Maharashtra, it is as high as 80%. The teachers of Bihar are among the worst paid.
“Teachers don’t get promoted, they don’t even get their salaries (in time). They often go on strike. There’s lack of infrastructure, hence there’s dissatisfaction,” says Bhola Paswan, General Secretary, Non-Gazetted Primary Teacher Association, Bihar.
Bihar’s Education Minister KN Prasad Verma of JD(U) says, “Bihar is a poor state hence its spending on education is relatively less. But the state is increasing its spending on the sector.”
The CBGA-CRY study shows that in last five years, the share of school education budget as a percentage of the total state budget has only reduced in Bihar.
As far as the per child spending goes, it was also the lowest in Bihar, at Rs 7920 in FY18, according to CBGA. The student in Uttar Pradesh is luckier, the state spends almost Rs 13,000 on him. Tamil Nadu is the best performing state among those studied by CBGA; it spent Rs 23,500 per student in the same year.
CBGA researcher Protiva Kundu says, “This study doesn’t cover Kerala but our research in the past shows that Kerala has the highest per child spending at 28,000 per child roughly.”
Kendriya Vidyalas’ per child spending surpasses that of other government schools because they are funded solely by the central government. “Kendriya Vidyalayas are a long-term policy of union government; the government has historically invested in Kendriya Vidyalayas,” says Kundu.
But we as a country are spending less on education in comparison to other countries. According to World Bank’s data, the Indian government spent 142 dollars per student in 2013. Our developing neighbour Indonesia spent 432 dollars per student that year. South Africa spent $1,290, Brazil $2417 and Thailand $1437 in the same year.
Increase the allocation to education – that’s CBGA’s message to states. But with several other sectors, of equal or perhaps more importance, vying for funds from a limited state budget, how can problems of government-run education schools be solved?
“I run a school in a remote area in Tamil Nadu. We spend a lot getting teachers who come from various parts of the country, but at the same time we charge low fees. The budget management strategy is to focus on creating a good environment for the teachers” says Francis Joseph, the former COO of a leading chain of international schools and co-founder of School Leaders Network.
He has been recently roped in by the Maharashtra government to work on their international board for government schools. Joseph says the government has experimented with the PPP model for teachers and it worked wonders. “Teachers from private schools are more than happy to collaborate with teachers from the government about teaching methods, for free of cost, only for recognition from the government,” he adds.CBGA, meanwhile, urges for community participation at schools. There is a minor budgetary provision under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan for the training of community members to help schools. But even that isn’t fully used, the CBGA study shows.