Following Punjab government’s 8% allocation of the state budget to education in 2020-21, the Congress party tweeted terming this allocation as setting a precedent for the rest of the country. Is such an allocation to education unprecedented? Here is a fact-check.
On 28 February 2020, Finance Minister of Punjab, Manpreet Singh Badal presented the annual state budget for the year 2020-21. This is the fourth budget of the government led by Captain Amarinder Singh of the Indian National Congress. Following the announcement, Congress party took to Twitter the next day, on 29 February 2020, to praise the government for prioritizing education. The tweet had a video along with the following description.
‘the Congress government in Punjab has set the precedent for the rest of the country when it comes to prioritizing education. Captain Amarinder and his government have ensured that every child has the right to quality education’.
In the video, it has also been mentioned that the Punjab government has set aside 8% of the total state budget for education. But has the Punjab government really set a precedent in budget allocation for education?
In this story, we do a detailed analysis of the claim, by looking at the trend in Punjab for the last few years. Further, we compare the budget allocation for education in a few other states with that of Punjab to ascertain whether Punjab has really set a precedent for the remaining states of the country.
Claim: The Congress government in Punjab has set a precedent for the rest of the country when it comes to prioritizing education by allocating 8% of total budget to education.
Fact: While the Punjab government has allocated substantial amounts for education, it is not unprecedented in terms of the share of allocation to education. Punjab’s 8% allocation is lower than many other states which allocated more than 8% to education in 2020-21. Hence the claim is Misleading.
Punjab allocated 8% of budget for education in 2020-21
In his budget speech, the finance minister of Punjab stated that the government had allocated a total of Rs. 13,902 crores for the education sector alone. This constitutes almost 9% of the total estimated expenditure for 2020-21. Of this, for the promotion of School and Higher Education, a total of Rs. 12,488 crores have been earmarked, which amounts to 8% of the total state budget of around Rs. 1.54 Lakh crores. He further added that this is 23% higher than the budgetary allocations for the sector in 2016-17, during the previous government led by Akali Dal. In addition to this, budget has also been allocated for the construction of classrooms, digital education, upgrading infrastructure, skill development, water harvesting in schools, and a lot more.
Budget Estimate for education includes expenses on staff, youth services and sports as well
It has to be noted that under the budget estimate for education in Punjab, the major heads of pension and recruitment benefits, general services, general education, sports and youth services, art and culture and, social security and welfare are included. The education budget split for 2020-21 is given below.
Amount allocated and utilised by Punjab government for education has increased
Since 2015-16, it is evident that the budget estimate, that is, amount proposed to be allocated for education sector has increased. In 2019-20 and 2020-21, the budget estimate for education was Rs. 12,236 crores and Rs. 12,488 crores respectively. The actual spending has also increased during the same period.
Allocation for education as a percentage of total budgetary expense shows a drop
While the spending on education has increased, the percentage allocation to education compared to the total state budget expenditure has decreased over the years. While 11.6% of the budget was earmarked for education in 2015-16, this dropped to 7.7% in 2019-20 and has increased slightly to 8.1% in 2020-21. Or, in other words, from when Congress formed the government in 2017-18, the percentage allocation for education has reduced. The amounts taken into consideration are for school & higher education.
Education is allocated the lion’s share under expenditure on human development
Allocations made towards the various sectors of education, health, and water supply and sanitation, which aim to improve the well-being of citizens and simultaneously aid in the creation of human capital are generally termed as expenditure for human development. Between 2015-16 and 2017-18, on an average, states spent about 24% of their budget on human development as per a report on state finances by PRS Legislative Research. Education was allocated the highest with around 16% followed by health (5.3%) and WASH (2.3%). While Delhi spent 43% of its budget on human development, Punjab has spent only 19% on these items.
Punjab reported an underspending of 9% in the education sector between 2015-18
As per the PRS report, during this period, states have recorded an average underspending on revenue expenditure of around 7%. However, Punjab’s underspending stood at 12% during this period. Sector-wise analysis of underspending during the same period revealed that in the education sector, there was an underspending of 9% by the Punjab government.
During the 2015-20 period, states have spent 16% of their budget on education. Revenue expenditure on education includes expenditure on schemes such as Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and Midday-meal scheme, construction and maintenance of school buildings, and payment of salary and pension to staff. Delhi spent the highest with 27% of their budget on education followed by Assam which spent 22%. Punjab spent only 14% of its budget on education. Telangana spent the least of around 10%.
Most states have allocated a substantial budget for education
The budgetary allocation for education by a few other state governments which introduced the 2020-21 budget is both, in terms of amount and percentage allocation, higher than that of Punjab. Education received a substantial share in most of the states.
AIADMK led Tamil Nadu government announced their annual budget on 14 February 2020 in which School Education was given Rs. 34,182 crores and Higher Education was allocated almost Rs. 5052.8 crores. Together, this amounts to 13% of the total budget of the state.
Bihar, where legislative assembly elections are proposed to take place in October this year, more than one-tenth (10.1%) of the total budget has been earmarked for education by the JDU- BJP alliance. Rs. 21,264 crores have been allocated for education.
The Jharkhand government, formed in December 2019 by JMM- Congress alliance presented its maiden budget on 03 March 2020, in which they had assigned around 15.4% of the budget of Rs. 86,370 crores, amounting to Rs. 13,301 crores for education.
In West Bengal, the TMC government presented the 2020-21 budget on 10 February 2020. The allocation for education in the state is Rs. 37,058.54 crores, which is 14.5% of the total budget of Rs. 2,55,677 crores.
Punjab government has announced various schemes to improve education
Free education for all students up to class XII is one of the proposals announced in the budget. Earlier, education was free only for girls. In order to enrol more children, the government has also made allocation for free transportation to schools for primary students. A substantial amount has also been set aside for improving the infrastructure of schools. Plans are also been made to start new colleges for law, agriculture, and veterinary. To enhance the employability of graduates, the government has also made allocations for skill development programs and employment generation.
NITI Aayog’s SEQI shows Punjab’s overall performance in school education has dropped
NITI Aayog’s School Education Quality Index evaluates the performances of states in school education sector in 2016-17 and helps in identifying the strengths and weaknesses. The report was released in 2019. Index is arrived at by taking a weighted average of 30 indicators which are broadly categorized into two categories- Outcomes and Governing processes aiding outcomes. Various parameters are taken into consideration for arriving at the index. Data is taken from the National Achievement Survey of NCERT
Punjab was ranked 9 out of 20 larger states in this index with respect to performance of school education in the state. Punjab has a score of 59.06 while Kerala was on top of the list with a score of 82.17.
The overall score for education is 41.14 for Punjab while Kerala topped the index with a score of 76.63. Score wise, Punjab’s overall performance lags behind five smaller states and four union territories and it ranks 18 out of the 20 larger states. However, it has to be noted that the index was based on data for 2016-17 before the current Congress government took over.
PGI Index classifies Punjab in Grade II with respect to school education performance
Performance Grading Index 2018-19 released by the Department of School Education and Literacy, is based on the data available with UDISE, NAS, NCERT, Midday Meal Scheme, and other portals created and maintained by the same department under MHRD. This study is based on predominantly five factors including access, infrastructure and facilities, learning outcomes and quality, equity and governance process. Total weightage is calculated based on 70 indicators. As per this index, Kerala and Gujarat are Grade I states with an index score above 800. Punjab is in Grade II with a score of 753, on par with its neighbouring states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, and Tamil Nadu.
AISHE report showed Punjab’s GER has dropped
Further, the All India Survey on Higher Education of 2018-19 conducted by MHRD presents data on the enrolment of students in higher education in India. Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is calculated as a percentage of the specific age group of population, 18- 23 years of age who are enrolled for higher education. India’s GER has been on an increasing trend since 2014-15 and reached 26.3 in 2018-19. Punjab had a GER of 29.5 in 2018-19 which is above the national average. Nevertheless, Punjab, UP, and Tripura are the only three states which have witnessed a negative change in GER in 2018-19 as compared to 2017-18. Punjab’s GER dropped from 30.3 in 2017-18 to 29.5 in 2018-19.
While allocation is substantial in Punjab, it is not unprecedented
All the available data indicates that while the allocation to education in Punjab is substantial, it is not unprecedented. Other states have allocated a greater share of the state’s budget for education. Further, the percentage of budget expenditure allocated to education in Punjab has reduced over the years.