Mumbai: The Union Finance Secretary TV Somnathan has justified not allocating more money for the education sector in the union budget 2023, claiming that the country has enough teachers and universities.
In an interview with The Hindu, Somnathan said that money is not the 'key problem' in education, going so far as to assert that allocating more money for education won't achieve anything. He also called into question the performance of teachers in schools and demanded 'depoliticisation' of universities.
While the budget allocation for education increased from Rs 1.04 lakh crore in financial year 2022-23 to Rs 1.12 lakh crore, the share of education in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remains stagnant at 2.9%.
"We have more teachers than we need in the teacher-to-pupil (PTR) ratio, and child population is declining demographically. It’s not quantity in education. It is quality, whether the teacher attends the school. Does he teach well? Does he make the child do homework? Does he not just pass the child whether the child has learned or not? These are not money," the Finance Secretary told the Hindu.
In the Economic Survey 2022-23, the PTR was recorded to be 26.2 at Primary, 19.6 at Upper Primary, 17.6 at Secondary and 27.1 at the higher Secondary level, well above the 30 required by the Right to Education (RTE) Act. However, the Pratham Foundation's Annual Survey on Education Report (ASER) 2022 found only 55% of schools in rural areas to be individually fulfilling the PTR requirements.
The Finance Secretary also denied any paucity of funds at higher education level. "Don’t we have enough universities, Don’t we have enough vice chancellors and are they not paid reasonably well? It’s not money, you have to depoliticise the university. Throwing money at it is a sop to the conscience of the intelligentsia that we are doing something for it," he told The Hindu.
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