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Budget 2021 and Education: Breakthroughs and Setbacks

Budget 2021 in Education Sector Recieves Mixed Responses

In its Budget Estimate (BE) 2021-22, the Union Budget 2021 provided a 6.1 percent lower allocation (than Budget 2020) of Rs 93,224.31 crore allocation to the Ministry of Education. The overall allowance for school education stood at Rs 54,873.66 crore and for higher education at Rs 38,350.65 crore.
However, relative to the updated 2020-21 estimate, the allocation for the country’s education sector in the budget announcements made on 1st Feburary rose by 9.5 percent.
Here, for higher education allocation, there was a year-on-year (YoY) increase of 16.5 percent (compared to updated estimate 2020-21) while for the school education section, there was a 5.1 percent YoY increase from RE 2020-21. In her Budget address, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that several towns have separate academic centers, universities, and colleges funded by the Indian government. Here, for instance, Hyderabad has around 40 such big institutions.

Although it was predicted that a separate allowance would be declared for the 2020 National Education Strategy, during her speech on the budget, the finance minister did not make any such announcement.

The Rashtriya Uchtar Shiksha Abhiyaan (RUSA) obtained a Rs 3,000 crore allocation in BE 2021-22 as opposed to Rs 166 crore in the revised 2020-21 calculation among the different schemes.

RUSA is a centrally-sponsored mechanism aimed at improving the quality of universities, fostering self-autonomy, and ensuring the appropriate provision of quality teaching facilities in all higher education institutions. This scheme further encourages equity in the higher education sector, including the participation of SC/ST, minorities and women.

However, for BE 2021-22, other schemes such as Service Digital Board (ODB) saw no growth in allocations. Launched in February 2019, ODB is a programme aimed at supplying smartboards in all government-aided schools and institutions of higher education.

Similar to the updated 2020-21 forecast, the outlay for this ODB scheme was Rs 1 crore.
For a section named ‘Indian Information Systems’, a new allocation of Rs 10 crore has been set aside. This section will look at aspects of ancient India’s awareness and its contributions to modern India and its accomplishments and challenges. The spending budget, part of NEP 2020, said that this ancient knowledge of India will be integrated into the school curriculum in an authentic and scientific manner wherever appropriate.

Effective Implementations:

  • 15000 schools will initially be strengthened to fully enforce the National Education Program.
  • Ses schools will tutor and work around the country as a blueprint for applying the NEP.
  • The Minister of Finance also added that, in partnership with NGOs and private organizations, 100 new Sainik schools will be created.
  • For other NEP measures that would be considered by the government, see Annex 5.



Skill Growth under the 2021 Budget for Education

Realignment of apprenticeship for Diploma of Engineering students earns an allocated Rs. 3000 crore fund. The government will work with the UAE on successful completion of courses for professional creation and implementation.

Plan 2021 for Education: Research & Development

By partnering with several nations, government has taken the few creative step to preserve the science environment. To begin with, the Minister of Finance has announced a partnership with Japan to exchange technologies and expertise.

Setting up the Committee on Higher Education

A higher education commission responsible for the accreditation and routine funding of colleges and universities will be set up by the government. Institutes will get stronger synergies through this. A central university in Leh will be founded to make higher education available to the area of Ladakh.

Student Growth in SC/ST definitions

The government will create 750 Ekalavya residential schools in the Tribal Areas under the 2021 Education Budget. Rs. 20 crore is the fund allotted for the same and Rs. 48 crore for the Hilly regions. For the welfare of SC students for 6 years until 2026, a total of Rs. 35219 crore will be allocated.

Necessary funding to reduce learning losses

The decline in the education budget is not entirely unexpected, provided that the World Bank forecast in a May 2020 study that low- and middle-income countries will slash education spending in order to make room for the requisite expenditure on health and social security. The report also points out that “to implement new health and safety requirements, to undertake the outreach activities needed to persuade students to return,” increased financing is vital for institutions now.


While these are promising moves, certain serious issues should not be overlooked. The statistics above may provide a positive feeling, but India is sadly reducing its spending on education.

In 2021-22, R$ 93,22431 will be raised by the education ministry, which is Rs 6,086.89 crore less than the previous year. Somagra Shiksha Abhiyan’s budget, an important scheme to provide quality education for all school-goers, has been reduced from Rs 38,750 crore to Rs 31,050.16 crore. Contrary to the NEP plan to raise a gender inclusion fund, Rs 100 crore has been limited by the National Schome budget for Girls’ Incentives for Secondary Education.

For certain programs, there was also a reduction in allocation. The BE 2021-22 stood at Rs 11,500 crore for the flagship National Mid-Day Meal in Schools Programme as opposed to Rs 12,900 crore in the updated 2020-21 forecast.

No allowance was rendered by the government under the Madrasas and Minorities Education System in BE 2021-22. A amount of Rs 310.22 crore has been set aside for this reason in the revised 2020-21 budget. The scheme aims to increase the efficiency of Madrasas in order to enable Muslim children to improve their formal levels of education.

For Samagra Shiksha Abhyan (31,050 crores), the government’s flagship initiative for school education, the budget allocation for the coming year is much smaller than it was last year (38,751 crores). The mid-day meal allocation is also smaller (11500 crores) than last year’s updated figures (12900 crores) and the overall allocation of the National Education Mission, which also includes teacher education, is also down from 38860.50 crores to 31300.16 crores.

In addition, there is no talk of keeping schools safe to return to, or educating teachers to cope with a post-pandemic crisis, or getting children back to school, or resolving the potential food crisis.

In fact, for the vast number of students who have struggled to keep themselves going this past year, the finance minister did not have a word. Not a single word!

A new National Education Strategy (NEP) was also enacted this year, asking for a doubling in government funding over the next 10 years, beginning this year. But the “strengthening of 15,000 schools” in line with the NEP was all the finance minister stated. That’s just about 1 percent of the country’s overall colleges. Are the others not part of the NEP? And who are these 15,000 schools going to be?

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