Education is a Prime Imperative Says PM

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New Delhi, Feb 28:  One extra per cent cess, spending on schooling up Rs 6,000 crore and Rs 50 crore for vocationalisation were among the Budget 2007-08 offshoots announced today to take advantage of the so-called ''demographic dividend.'' ''We can take advantage of demographic dividend thrown up by an increase in the working age population only if our young men and women have the required skills,'' Finance Minister P Chidambaram said in the Lok Sabha.

In an interview aired after the Budget presentation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a reporter that education was a prime imperative ''as far as this Budget is concerned.

''Also we need to improve the skill level of the youth. Therefore we need lot more emphasis on secondary education, or on those who leave the primary education and at the same time, strengthening the vocationalisation of education.

''We need to expand the facilities that are available through the medium of ITIs.'' The Prime Minister cited plans to modernise hundreds of Indian Technical Institutes to enhance the skill level of Indian youth.

''Finance Minister mentioned modernisation of 500 ITIs. He also mentioned about 1400 additional ITIs which need to be modernised... the focus is on improving the skill level of our young people.'' Officials said an additional cess of one per cent on all direct taxes has been levied to fund secondary and higher education.

This would also be used in expanding capacity by 54 per cent for reservation for socially and educationally backward classes, they said.

They said the existing two per cent education cess to fund basic education would also remain.

Chidambaram has proposed to make an initial provision of Rs 50 crore to begn work on Vocational Educational Mission.

The Mission was announced by the Prime Minister during his Independence Day address last year.

He told the House that to sustain a high level of economic growth, it is essential to have a reservoir of skilled and trained manpower.

Shortages have already emerged in a number of sectors.

He said, ''We can take advantage of demographic dividend thrown up by an increase in the working age population only if our young men and women have the required skills.'' Chidambaram said a Planning Commission Task Force is chalking out strategies for VE programme. Alternative models may be adopted but the approach will be based on public-private partnership, he said.

The government has proposed to increase the allocation for school education by about 35 per cent.

In 2007-08, an amount of Rs 23,142 crore has been allocated as against Rs 17,133 crore in 2006-07.

Here are some proposal highlights: -- Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan to be provided Rs 10,671 crore; -- The provision to strengthen teachers training institutions up from Rs 162 crore to Rs 450 crore; -- As many as 200,000 more teachers to be appointed next year; -- As many as 500,000 more classrooms to be built; -- Mid-day Meal Scheme to be provided Rs 7,324 crore next year; -- The transfer to Prarambhik Shiksha Kosh to be up from Rs 8,746 crore to Rs 10,393 crore; and -- Doubling the secondary education from Rs 1,837 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 3,794 crore in 2007-08.


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