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Experts Welcome Congress' Promise to Bring School Education Under State List, Express Scepticism

Protiva Kundu, research officer center for budget governance accountability, said the manifesto's implementation ability will depend on the resource mobilisation by the states.


Updated:April 2, 2019, 5:24 PM IST
Experts Welcome Congress' Promise to Bring School Education Under State List, Express Scepticism
Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi release their party's election manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in New Delhi. (Image: Reuters)

New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi released his party’s manifesto titled Congress Will Deliver on Tuesday which among many promises, has proposed that school education will be transferred to the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution while retaining the subject of higher education in the Union List.

The manifesto also promised that the school education from Class I to Class XII in public schools will be made compulsory and free, if Congress is voted to power. The party said that their focus will be on learning outcomes, ensuring adequate infrastructure and qualified teachers. The manifesto has said that it plans to achieve the targets by doubling the allocation for education to 6% of GDP by 2023-24.

News 18.com spoke to experts on the proposal that transfers school education to State List and higher education on Union List. Here’s what they said.

Krishna Kumar, former NCERT Director

By and large, that is how the system is working even today. Education as a portfolio is in the Concurrent List of the constitution. In the implementation of school level education, it is mostly looked after by the states. The only new suggestion in this proposal is that all institutions imparting higher education will be part of the Centre’s responsibility. This means the Centre would take responsibility of state universities. Right now, the University Grants Commission’s direct mandate is for the central universities. With this proposal, UGC would cover state universities too.

Protiva Kundu, Research Officer Center for Budget Governance Accountability

Education earlier was in State List. In 1976, it was transferred to Concurrent List. This meant that both the legislature and finance are joint responsibilities of Union and states. However, given the over centralisation of education, as a policy probably it is not a bad idea to shift back education to State List. Then the State would get more autonomy to design policy according to their own needs.

However, there is concern about adequate resources. Currently both Union and states together spend around 2.8% of GDP on school education (I-XII) and out of that, around 1.9% comes from the states and 0.9 % from the Union government.

If school education comes under State List, there is a chance that the funds flowing from the Centre to states through centrally sponsored schemes or central sector schemes might decrease. So, even to maintain the current level of investment (which is much below than what Kothari Commission proposed in 1966, 4% of Gross National Product), states need to put more money.

As a result, everything will depend on the resource mobilisation by the states. If states truly intend to provide public provisioning of education from class I- XII, the country needs to increase the tax-GDP ratio substantially (currently 17.8%, one of the lowest among developing countries). Otherwise, there is a probability that there will be more privatisation of school education.

Ambarish Rai, National Convener of RTE Forum

The manifesto is disappointing because it has left out pre-school or nursery education. Education is a fundamental right and cannot be transferred without the universalization of education, which is the responsibility of both Union and state governments. Union government cannot keep themselves away from this. They have to take the responsibility. The unfortunate part is that they left the pre-school out of the purview of Right to Education. If they want quality education they must start from pre-school, and should have thought of bringing it under RTE. It was the demand of the civil society. Six million children are out of school. You can’t strengthen higher education without pre-school education.

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