Contrary to expectations, the allocation for education for FY 24-25 is 7 per cent lower than the revised estimates for the current fiscal. While the sector was earmarked ₹1.2 lakh crore, it received ₹1.29 lakh crore in FY 23-24, the biggest allocation ever.

The Department of School Education will receive ₹73,000 crore and the allocation is ₹47,619.77 crore for Higher Education. The higher education sector sees a 16 per cent cut this year, though the allocation for school education has increased. While the National Education Policy 2020 seeks to spend 6 per cent of the GDP on education, the Budget has yet to see that allocation level. According to experts, it may take some time too.

“Allocating 6 per cent of the GDP to education seems challenging in the current fiscal landscape. This allocation seems unlikely in the future unless the country’s economy undergoes exponential growth,” says Ramanand Nand, former adviser at the Ministry of Education and the founder of a think tank, Centre for Policy Research and Governance. 

Prince Gajendra Babu, General Secretary, State Platform for Common School System, was critical of the Budget. “By trying to implement the new National Education Policy, the government should have at least doubled its allocation for education, focusing on more government-funded education,” he said.

More varsities, IITs, IIMs

While delivering her Budget speech, highlighting the performance of the current government, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “A large number of new institutions of higher learning, namely 7 IITs, 16 IIITs, 7 IIMs, 15 AIIMS and 390 universities have been set up,” adding, “In STEM courses, girls and women constitute forty-three per cent of enrolment - one of the highest in the world.”

While a rise in the number of higher education institutions is a positive sign, experts say that the focus must now be to further increase their number and improve the quality of education. “To double the Gross Enrolment Ratio of 28.4 per cent in higher education, the government must focus on doubling the number of universities in the next decade,” said Sahil Gupta, Partner, Deloitte India. “There should also be a focus on updating the curriculum, and creating a new pool of faculty who can reach newer skills to students,” he added.