CHANDIGARH– The amount spent per student varied in states across the country, from Rs 9,573 in Bihar to Rs 59,499 in Himachal Pradesh. On average, states spent more per student at the secondary level (grades 9 to 12) as compared to the elementary level (grades 1 to 8), the study conducted by Delhi-based think-tank Accountability Initiative found. These eight states were chosen to cover different areas of the country, the study said. States spent between one percent and six percent of their education budget on school infrastructure in 2017-18.
As per the analysis of eight states conducted by the Accountability Initiative, Bihar had the largest number of students around 21.6 million in government and government-aided schools in 2017-18. Himachal Pradesh, the smallest of the eight states analyzed has the least number of students with nine lakh students.
The study further stated that elementary and secondary school expenditure per student increased in some of India’s poorest states including Bihar, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Rajasthan and Odisha in 2017-18 as compared to 2014-15, but school enrollment in government schools fell in the same period.
Of these eight states, Rajasthan has recorded an increase in enrollment o students. More students enrolled in government schools in 2017-18 (8.3 million) compared to 2014-15 (7.6 million). In the other seven states enrollment fell during the same period.
However, these enrollment figures are expected to change in the coming year due to an increase in enrollment at government schools due to reverse migration and economic distress caused by the COVID-19 lockdown.
But on the other hand, the study also found that there was no evidence that increasing per-student expenditure improves learning outcomes, such as basic literacy, numeracy and cognitive skills.
“Even though expenditure per-student is an important indicator to understand how much a state government invests on a student on an average, there is no research evidence that shows any direct causal effect of expenditure on learning outcomes,” said Mridusmita Bordoloi, co-author of the study and senior researcher at Accountability Initiative. “Learning outcomes of students are generally found to be directly associated with indicators such as availability of trained/qualified teachers, interventions in pedagogy, economic status of the district/state etc.,” Bordoloi explained.
The study identifies eight areas of school expenditure: administration, school infrastructure, teacher salaries, equity and inclusion, monitoring and inspection, teacher training, incentives to students, and quality.
In all eight states analyzed, teacher salaries made up the largest share of school expenditure but spending on teacher training, which is important to improve learning outcomes, has been poor, the study said.
In six states, the second-largest share of expenditure was on ‘incentives to students’ such as uniforms, textbooks, mid-day meals, scholarships, transportation, etc. Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan spent a similar proportion of the budget on ‘incentives to students’, ‘administration’–which includes rents and taxes–and ‘equity and inclusion’, which includes scholarships and aid for minority and disadvantaged communities.
The study also paints a gloomy picture in respect of infrastructure in schools. But even after a decade has passed since the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, only 28 percent of government schools in Bihar have libraries, 22 percent in West Bengal have a boundary wall and 27.5 percent in Odisha have a playground, according to the latest data from the government.
For the six states for which quality was analyzed (excluding Maharashtra and MP), the share of total school education finances dedicated to ‘Quality’ ranged between 1% to 3% in 2017-18. In the wake of COVID-19, with schools shut, and the government pushing remote learning through online classes, the lack of ICT both at the school’s end and in households might impact student learning, the study noted.
(Reported by India Spend)