Economic Survey: Govt must take measures to maintain quality of education

The Economic Survey said the government must work to provide quality education to help families get good return on education investments. Photo: Sneha Srivastava/Mint

New Delhi: Corporate identity number-type tags for schools, co-location of institutions to better utilize resources, cash incentives to students via direct benefit transfer and greater focus on education outcomes is what the mid-year Economic Survey released on Friday prescribed for India’s expanding education sector.

The survey said the government must work to provide quality education to help families get good return on education investments. As India emerges as a knowledge-based economy, “quality and relevant” education will play a significant role in economic development, the second volume of Economic Survey 2016-17 said.

“The focus of school education so far has been on creating physical infrastructure, which is underutilized and needs to shift to improving utilization of assets,” the survey said, adding that there should be focus on reaping gains from the synergy and efficiency of co-location of schools at all levels of schooling.

“Each school that is being funded under any scheme/programme should have an identity tag/number, akin to a corporate identity number (CIN), that shall help to track resources received from the centre/state/other sources that have tax concessions under section 80G (and other sections) of the Income Tax Act,” it said, in a prescription aimed to bring accountability to the education sector.

The survey said though access to schools and enrolment have improved significantly, “the challenge of quality in terms of learning outcomes remains to be addressed”.

Again, while the number of higher educational institutions had expanded, the quality of students passing out had come under scrutiny, affecting their effectiveness in the labour market.

The survey pointed out that in addition to the rising costs of education in private institutions, private coaching had emerged as a major component of educational expenditure.

“The share of private coaching in the educational expenditure is around 30% in secondary levels in rural areas and around 45% in higher secondary levels in urban areas among the students attending government institutions”.

In order to ward off increase in costs of education, and “to incentivise households with financial constraints”, it is “imperative that the government take appropriate measures to maintain quality of education and impart skills” to ensure employability and returns on investment, the survey noted.

It admitted that merely “increasing the number of teachers, (and making) infrastructure improvements by providing buildings and computers” do not necessarily work.

“Remedial education, cash transfers to overcome gender/social barriers” are promising interventions for improving education outcomes, the survey underlined.

It said educational schemes should be brought under the “traffic lights” approach, that would highlight which interventions ought to get the go-ahead (“green box”), and which ought to be stopped (“red box”).

“And those interventions which are in the amber box should be continued in states/regions where they work and need not be adopted across the country,” the survey added.