The Karnataka Economic Survey of 2021-22 states that the funding for education has declined from 14.7 percent to 11.8 percent in the past ten years.
Despite having many unresolved issues in the education sector, the state funding allocated for it has been declining. Teacher shortages and lack of infrastructure are a few examples of issues in the education sector which are yet to be resolved.
The Karnataka Economic Survey of 2021-22 says that 11.8 percent of the total state budget was spent on education in the financial year 2021-22. The average expenditure of all other states on education is 13.9 percent. In 2011-12, the expenditure was 14.7 percent in Karnataka and 16.3 percent average for all states. The survey states that Karnataka needs to invest more in the education sector as it is much needed for the overall development of the state.
An official, who has been working in the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for the past 15 years, said, “We do our best with whatever funding is allocated to us. Beyond that it is not in our hands.” She said that the education sector also receives donations from private entities, which is very helpful to the department.
In October 2021, the Karnataka School Education Department launched a portal through which any complaints regarding the department can be registered. There were around 300 complaints filed within a few days of its launch. It was reported that most of the complaints were about the teacher recruitments and lack of infrastructure in schools.
Mala Rani, Headmistress of Government of Karnataka Higher Primary School, said that the biggest challenge they face is the shortage of teachers. “We are operating with only three teachers for the entire school,” she said. She added that they have been complaining to the government to allocate more teachers to their school but have not received any response till now.
Another issue that continues to persist is the lack of infrastructure in most of the government schools. There are schools with no proper benches or not enough classrooms in many areas of Karnataka. Sunitha Kumari, a teacher at the Government Primary School in Sandur, said that their school does not have a proper supply of benches. The students of first to fourth standard do not have benches to sit on, only the higher standard students have them. She added that sometimes the owners of the local mining companies provide books and school bags to the students.
A Block Education Officer (BEO) said that many schools are receiving uniforms months later than they were supposed to. He said, “We did not get enough funds to acquire the uniforms so we delayed supplying them to the schools.” He said that there is usually a delay in receiving funds from the state, which affects their work. He added that sometimes there is less funds allocated than the required amount so they have to cut back in some areas like hiring guest teachers.
Though Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had announced that the funding for education will increase from 11 percent to 12 percent in the budget of 2022-23, it is still less than the estimated all states average allocation for education which is at nearly 15 percent.
“This is an investment on education, not expenditure of education,” said Dr. S. R. Keshava, Professor of Economics, Bangalore University. He said that whenever we spend on education, it brings lots of direct and indirect returns; so, it is an investment. He added when compared to states with high Human Development Index like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana; Karnataka is a little behind. “The million-dollar question is, why is it behind?”
Dr. Keshava said that the New Education Policy (NEP) mandates that 6 percent of the GDP at the national level should be invested in education. This applies to state governments as well. He said that though we introduced NEP, we are unable to invest the needed amount due to many reasons like the pandemic. “It is understandable that the investment for education went down during the pandemic, as the focus was on the health sector,” he said. He added that it is hard to understand why the investment was declining even before the pandemic. This has been the trend for almost a decade now. He said, “It is important to start investing in the education sector more as we need it for enhancing skills of students and improving school infrastructure.”