The Union Government decreased the budget allocation provided for the Ministry of Education by 6.13% when compared with the allocation made in 2020-2021. The announcement on the reduced allocation for the financial year 2021-22 was made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while she presented the Budget on Monday, February 1.
The education sector has been disrupted amid the on-going coronavirus pandemic with physical classes moving to digital platforms, giving rise to the digital divide. However, the government's proposed spending on education has been reduced by ₹6,087 crores this year.
According to The Indian Express, the proposed spending on education stands the lowest in the last three years. It was slashed to ₹93,224 crores from ₹99,311 crores in 2020-21. Most importantly, school education has been hit by the biggest cut of almost ₹5,000 crores. Allocation for higher education has decreased by roughly ₹1,000 crores to ₹38,350 crores in 2021-22
This reduced spending has come at a time when the education system is in dire need to upgrade with the COVID-19 pandemic causing disruption in students' learning and education. Interestingly, the Ministry of Education is also set to start implementing the measures listed under the National Education Policy, 2020, which advocates increased expenditure on education.
Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, a centre-run integrated scheme for school education, saw its budgetary allocation reduced to ₹31,050.16 crores from ₹38,750.50 crores.
The funds for National Scheme for Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education have been reduced to just ₹1 crore from ₹110 crores in the current fiscal year.
However, the government has increased spending on Midday Meals Scheme by ₹500 crores this year to ₹11,500 crores. Additionally, central schools such as Kendriya Vidyalaya and Navodaya Vidhyalas have also seen a rise in allocation by ₹1,284 crores and ₹500 crores respectively.
The most prominent announcement by FM Sitharaman concerning education in the country was to set up as many as 100 new Sainik Schools in partnership with NGOs, private schools and state governments and a Central University in Leh.
A sharp drop has been also noticed in allotting funds to Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA), ₹1 crore has been allocated to the agency this year, from ₹2,100 crores in 2020-21.
HEFA is meant for allocating funds sourced from the market and offering 10-year loans to central educational institutions (CEI) for infrastructure development. It was introduced by the late Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in 2016 and implemented in 2017.
The Finance Minister also announced the establishment of formal umbrella structures to bring research institutions, colleges and universities in nine cities. These will help institutions have better synergy and also retain their internal autonomy. A 'Glue Grant' will be set up for this purpose.