The Paradox Of Bihar's School Budget

The state scores high on inclusion, but low on per-student spending.

By earmarking one-fifth of its state budget for school education and allocating provisions for the most marginalised children, Bihar has shown positive intent. However, the state lags behind in per-student spending and school infrastructure, as revealed by a recent study done by Child Rights and You (CRY) and the Centre for Budgets, Governance and Accountability (CBGA) on the "Government Financing Of School Education in India."

In India, the total budgetary spending on school-education nationally has remained stagnant at 2.7% of the GDP since last four years (2012-13 to 2015-16). In comparison, Bihar budgets an average of 5.6% of the Gross State Domestic Produce (GSDP) on education. This was revealed in the recent study by CRY and CGBA, which looks at the overall scenario of budgetary spending (including central and states' funds) on school education (classes I to XII). The study examines in detail the composition of school budgets of 10 states—Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

While Bihar is among the top of the states in the study, spending 17.7% percent of its total budget on school education, it is concerning that this allocation has been reduced by 2% points over the last four years (from 19.3% in 2012-13 to 17.7% in 2015-16 [BE+SB]). With about 15% growth rate, Bihar's spending on school education remains stagnant around ₹25 thousand crore.

Worryingly, the state spends a meagre ₹9583 per student, compared to ₹32,263 per student spending by Kendriya Vidyalayas in the country. Per student spending of Bihar also remains way less than that spent by states such as Goa (₹67,041), Kerala (₹38,811), Tamil Nadu (₹23,617) and Karnataka (₹22,856). The study further highlights the poor emphasis given by the state on several parameters defined by Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE). Evidently, more investment is required for addressing existing gaps and meeting the desired outcomes for meeting RTE standards on infrastructure and quality of teaching and learning.

Bihar is home to nearly 34 million schoolgoing children in the age group of 6 to 18 years, yet there are two million teaching posts vacant, leaving Bihar's Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR) very high (one teacher for every 56 students); 63% of all primary schools in Bihar do not meet the mandated PTR ratio of 1:30 (Source: DISE 2014-15).

Bihar is home to nearly 34 million schoolgoing children in the age group of 6 to 18 years, yet there are two million teaching posts vacant...

The recruitment and training of duly qualified teachers have also not been given due priority which is evident from the study's findings that only 1.6% of the total school budget has been earmarked for teachers' training. The state also reports the lowest percentage of professionally trained teachers (52%) among the study states, implying that Bihar suffers from severe underfunding in critical RTE parameters, resulting in overcrowded classrooms attended by just a handful of under-qualified teachers. Incidentally, Bihar spends 51.6% of school education budget on teachers' salary which is the lowest among the study states.

On a positive note, the state is committed to marginalised children—it spends 22% of its budget on SC/ST children, who constitute nearly 30% of its population of school-going age.

The state spends a meagre ₹9583 per student, compared to ₹32,263 per student spending by Kendriya Vidyalayas in the country.

According to Subrat Das, director of CBGA, "India's prevailing quantum of budgetary spending on education is inadequate not just because it falls short of the benchmark recommended decades ago by the Kothari Commission but also because the paucity of funds for almost all important areas of public provisioning of school education—be it availability of teachers, their training, monitoring of schools, interventions for children from marginalised sections or those for strengthening community engagement with schools—is glaring in most of the poorer states."

Mohua Chatterjee, programme head, CRY East said, "We need to delve deeper in analysing and identifying the gaps where deficiency of funds is visible. Bihar is one of the fastest growing states, clocking a growth rate of 15+% over the last few years and allocating more in social budgeting. Over the past four years it has consistently spent almost one-fifth of its state budget for school education, and allocated budget for the most marginalised children, which is certainly an indicator of the state's positive intent. But at the same time, the state lags behind in per-student spending."

Chatterjee added, "Other education components like recruitment, training and capacity building of teachers, and development of school infrastructure need more significant investment."

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