Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday increased the overall financial allocation for the education sector for 2022-23 to Rs 1.04 lakh crore from Rs 93,224 crore (Budget estimate) in 2021-22 as she laid emphasis on digital modes of learning to reverse learning losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic
The revised estimate for 2021-22 is Rs 88,001 crore. A closer look shows that the rise in allocation for the education sector owes mainly to the jump in the amount earmarked for samagra shiksha (school education sector)—from Rs 31,050 crore in 2021-22 to Rs 37,383 crore in 2022-23.
The mid-day meal scheme, which was rebranded as PM-Poshan last year, has seen a drop in central allocation from Rs 11,500 crore in 2021-22 to Rs 10,233 crore in 2022-23. The revised allocation for 2021-22 was also Rs 10,233 crore, indicating that the total fund earmarked for the scheme could not be spent during the ongoing financial year amid long closures of schools.
In her Budget 2022 speech, Sitharaman also underlined that children, especially those from weaker sections, have lost nearly two years of formal education due to the disruptions. The announcements made by Sitharaman to further digital learning mode include expansion of the PM e-VIDYA initiative, proposal to launch a “digital university” and development of e-content in all Indian languages.
“Due to the pandemic induced closure of schools, our children particularly in the rural areas and those from SC and ST communities and other weaker sections have lost almost two years of formal education. Mostly these are children in government schools. We recognise the need to impart supplementary training and to build resilient mechanisms for its delivery,” Sitharaman said.
Towards this end, she said, the “one class-one channel” initiative under PM e-VIDYA will be scaled up from 12 channels to 200 channels to enable all states to provide supplementary education in regional languages to children for classes I o XII. The initiative was launched in May 2020 to provide quality education material to students who do not have access to the internet.
The finance minister said a digital university will be established to provide students across the country access to “universal education with personalised experience”. The content therein will be available in all Indian languages, she said, adding that the university will come up under a “hub and spoke model”.
It essentially refers to a network design in which a centrally located network hub will branch out to connect to remotely located network pockets, also called hubs.
Incidentally, in the Economic Survey tabled on Monday, the government said that long spells of school closures due to the pandemic and a stark digital divide have had a “significant impact” on the education sector affecting lakhs of schools and colleges across the country.
However, its observations were based entirely on findings of the Pratham Foundation-led Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) with the government acknowledging that official data that could throw light on the impact of the disruptions were not available.