PM announces 400% hike in education budget for Eleventh Plan

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New Delhi, Sep 13 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced a four-fold hike in Central funding for education totalling Rs 2.5 lakh crores during the Eleventh Plan period, stressed the need for expanding private initiative in the field, hinted at fee hike in institutions of higher learning and called for time- bound action plan to achieve the targets.

In his closing remarks at the meeting of the Full Planning Commission here, Dr Singh said more work needs to be done to give a final shape to the Skill Development initiatives.

"The proposed scale of Central government funding for education in the Eleventh Plan amounts to almost Rs 2.5 lakh crores at constant prices, which is a four-fold increase over the Tenth Plan. The share of education in the total plan will correspondingly increase from 7.7 per cent to 19.4 per cent. This reflects the high priority being given to education by our government and represents credible progress towards the objective of raising public spending of the Centre and the States combined to 6 per cent of GDP," he said.

The Prime Minister asked the Planning Commission, the Ministry of Human Resource Development and other concerned Ministries to move quickly to operationalise the skill development initiatives outlined by the Planning Commission.

"We should seriously look at the proposal for fee increases to reasonable levels in a graduated manner accompanied by a scheme of extensive scholarships and loans which would ensure that no student is denied education becasue of financial constraints," he said.

"We cannot discuss options endlessly. We need to work with a sense of urgency and work to fixed timelines if we have to see action on the ground. Otherwise, we will continue with a theoretical exercise within these four walls for some more years," Dr Singh said.

The Prime Minister said the proposals for setting up 6,000 schools covering all blocks, having 30 Central Universities and providing large capacities in vocational education must be finalised within the next two months. Locational decisions too must be taken fast, he said.

Dr Singh also asked the Planning Commission and the Ministry of HRD to finalise the skill development initiatives before October 2 so that there could be some real action on the ground.

Stating that Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) has made a breakthrough in providing universal access in primary education in most parts of the country, he said it was now necessary to focus on improving its quality. "It could even be called the Second Phase of SSA," he said.

In this regard, he said special attention needs to be paid to districts with concentrations of Scheduled Castes, Sheduled Tribes and minority populations.

The Prime Minister said the Mid Day Meals scheme needs to be rapidly expanded to cover 60 million additional children at the upper primarly level by the end of 2008-09.

Talking about the goal of universalising secondary education, he said this would be the next step after universalising elementary education.

"While the goal is laudable much work needs to be done before we are in a position to launch the Scheme for Universalisation of Access for Secondary Education (SUCCESS)", he said.

The Prime Minister said it was necessary to recognise the role private initiative plays in universalisation of elementary education and stated that policy must factor this in. Besides, the recommendations of the Sachar Commitee need to be seriously considered while planning this programme.

He said expanding secondary education would run into capacity constraints on many fronts --in getting an adequate number of maths and science teachers, in ensuring better attendence of teachers, in ensuring high quality of education and in ensuring accountability of schools. This would require attention to be paid to teacher training and managerial control aspects.

He said there was a consensus on setting up central Universities in 16 States which do not have a university, 14 Central Universities in other States, 8 IITs, 7 IIMs and 5 IISERs. "I am already getting requests from a large number of States for locating these instiutions in their States. I am sure that with the large number of institutions we are considering, we would be able to satisfy every state to some extent", he said.

The Prime Minister said the role and functions of apex institutions like UGC, AICTE and MCI need to be reviewed in the context of large number of changes that have taken place in higher, professional and technical education in the last many years and the demands of a knowlege economy. He asked the Planning Commission to work in consultation with the HRD Ministry and other concerned ministries to set up a Working Group to suggest a specific reforms agenda in the area.

UNI

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