For past few years, people constantly have been speaking up for progress in publicly-funded higher education and it has been an object of intense criticism in sections of the media and general public. They are opining that education condition of our country would become considerably worse than today if the education policies would not be taken for reconsideration. They suggest that India needs to sketch out new policies and plans to provide higher education to a large extent.
The ongoing Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) protests against fee hike should be a matter of concern for every individual and should not be a subject of criticism. It is obvious, when it comes to publicly funded institutions of higher education, fee hikes are always a volatile matter and a simmering volcano.
I think people are not realising the serious consequences of such rapid increase in fees of publically funded institutions or universities. It is not only about JNU or its students but it is now about our education system that will cause to deprive the next generation of education. While we all understand how crucial education is to shape our lives, it has also been a major problem in our country for financially backward families.
It is fact that the Indian government and institutions have taken many initiatives to reform the existing education model, but still there are several issues including financial ones that Indian education system needs to grapple with and should be resolved soon.
Many people think that only JNU students are making a hue and cry to dustup the system. But it should be clear for every one that protest was not only in JNU campus in last but in many other universities and colleges of the country. Only JNU got caught in media floodlights. It seems to be clever move to divert people’s minds from more pressing issues.
However, there have been protests against fee hike in many states such as some M Tech and PhD students of IIT-Bombay staged a protest against recent reforms approved by the IIT Council which recommended a 300 per cent hike in annual tuition fees. In Haryana’s Karnal, Bengaluru, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and Delhi University also witnessed students-led strikes, sit-ins and protests over the same issues. It shows how students are suffering from financial burden for gaining education in our country.
According to a report the percentage of GDP expended on education has remained stagnant at around 3 per cent during the past few years. The expenditure on social infrastructure like education is a critical indicator of the commitment towards social infrastructure.
As the government aims to make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025, there is a need to gear up the education system to address the requirement of a technologically and digital advanced society. It is also ironical to know that the government is not able to spend the allocated budget.
The Ministry of Education, renamed as Ministry of Human Resource Development, failed to spend over Rs 4 lakh crore made available to them between 2014-15 to 2018-19, and failed to meet budgetary targets.
Citing countries across the spectrum of economic development, the New Education Policy (NEP) panel suggested that central government expenditure on education has to double, and the state expenditure will also have to increase significantly to achieve the 20 per cent of their overall spending on education.
If we look at public expenditure of other countries’ GDP on education in 2017-18, it is surprisingly higher than India. Bhutan, Zimbabwe and Sweden spent 7.5%, Costa Rica and Finland 7 %, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa and Brazil 6% UK, Netherlands and Palestine 5.5% Malaysia, Kenya, Mongolia, Korea and US 5% while India spent only 2.5% which is now 3%.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)