Even after according high priority, the share of education and health in total expenditure by the Centre is yet to reach the high of FY19-20, data from the Controller General of Accounts showed.

Data from the Economic Survey (2022-23) show that the share of education in General Government (Centre and State together) expenditure during 2014-15 to 2022-23 has come down to single digit. Though expenditure on health is also in single-digit, it has shown some improvement.

ASER findings

Findings of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2023 released last week said the thrust on schooling in regional languages notwithstanding, nearly 25 per cent of rural youth in the age group of 14 -18 cannot read a class 2 level text “fluently”, even if it is in their regional language. The report also added that more than half struggle with division (3-digit by 1-digit) problems. Only 43.3 per cent of age-group are able to do such problems correctly. This skill is usually expected in Standard III and Standard IV.

businessline analysed five-year data (provisional for first four years and Budget Estimate for the current fiscal) and found that expenditure as a share of total budget expenditure was 3.3 per cent on education in FY20 and this dropped to 2.11 per cent in FY22. Though in the next two years it did see some rise but only to 2.5 per cent. It is believed that it first recorded a sharp decline on account of the pandemic in FY21 which continued during the next year.

The Government maintains that one of the fundamental principles of the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) is ‘substantial investment in a strong, vibrant public education system as well as the encouragement and facilitation of true philanthropic private and community participation’. Accordingly, NEP 2020 unequivocally endorses and envisions a substantial increase in public investment in education by both the Central Government and all State Governments.

“The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in education sector to reach 6 per cent of GDP at the earliest. NEP 2020 provides different timelines as well as principles and methodology for its implementation. The Ministry, its implementing agencies, regulatory bodies, State/UT Governments, other stakeholder Ministries/Departments, etc have started taking initiatives towards implementation of NEP 2020,” Subhash Sarkar, Minister for Education, said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

Health expenditure

Expenditure on health did see some rise on account of pandemic, but here too the picture is not so encouraging. This is despite the National Health Policy (NHP), 2017 envisaging raising government health expenditure to 2.5 per cent of GDP in a time-bound manner. It also envisages that States should increase their health spending to at least 8 per cent of their Budget. However, data sourced from the Economic Survey showed that General Government expenditure did rise to 6.9 per cent in FY23 from 4.5 per cent in FY15, but is yet to reach close to the set target.