Strengthening Financial Accountability towards Girl Education

A case for Uttar Pradesh.

By Arpit Arora, Upasana Hembram in Education Girl Education Open Data Public Finance CivicDataLab

December 23, 2020

Girl Education and India

Although education is a fundamental right in India, according to Census 2011, 1 in 4 children of school going age is out of school in our country and 99 million children in total have dropped out of school in the last 10 years. Out of every 100 children, only 32 children finish their school education age-appropriately (DISE 2014–15). The Govt. has achieved universal enrollment in primary school but dropout rate is 4% in elementary school, rising to 17% in secondary school. For girls, these dropout rates are higher in both the primary and upper primary stages. Reasons for drop out include lack of interest in education for both boys (24%) and girls (16%), domestic activities and marriage for girls, economic activities and financial constraints for boys.

When it comes to Secondary Education, girls face huge barriers in participation, including hostile public spaces, disparities in nutrition, burdened by household work and care related responsibilities, withdrawal around puberty or early marriage. According to Census 2011, 20% girls in the age group 15–19 are married. With a much lower teacher-pupil ratio, there is a reliance on a one-way lecture method, using more complex language drawn from the discipline. In the context of above mentioned issues that continue to challenge our education system, it is pertinent to examine the efforts being made to bridge such a gap.

The Power of Open Budgets

Budgets are one of the best government documents which can help draw the analogy between issues and efforts. Public expenditure determines government’s take on their promises and past decisions and details prioritisations across sectors through allocations. Budgets enable trust in the government’s financial activities by providing transparency on public funds and act as evidence of impact for public policies. The same holds true for the education ecosystem, a straight line can be drawn from the allocated expenditure to efforts towards education for any particular geography.

Even after the funds being allocated, there is always the challenge of improper allocation or utilisation. Often, there is a mismatch between allocations and requirements of a community. It is important to consider demographic compositions of a geography, when designing for solutions as these factors play an integral role in implementation of policies. It becomes essential to be mindful of representation from historically marginalised sections of the society, when considering the action and impact of public expenditure towards education in a particular geography. Not only do these factors help create a composite picture of the education landscape, they also help us identify the gaps in the ecosystem.

Budget transparency and budget literacy are also structural challenges as budget documents are often perceived to be complex and difficult to understand. It is important to simplify the budget data and put them into public spaces to enhance the knowledge and capacities of grassroots organisations, governments and the general public at large.

We, at CivicDataLab, believe in the importance of fiscal transparency to identify gaps in our governance systems and increase accountability of local administrations. In this regard, we developed OpenBudgetsIndia platform to make India’s Budgets open, usable and easy to comprehend. The platform contains various union, state and district budget explorers to enable fiscal transparency and accountability. We have also developed a state fiscal data explorer with information around budget allocations, spending and procurements of the state, covering all aspects of fiscal data at a granular level.

About The Project

CivicDataLab is partnering with HAQ: Centre for Child Rights (HAQ: CRC) to build Girl Education and Well-Being Spending Tracker, an online interactive portal to explore the fund flow towards girl education in two aspirational districts of Uttar Pradesh, Bahraich and Shravasti.

HAQ: CRC works towards the recognition, promotion and protection of rights of all children. It aims to look at the child in an integrated manner within the framework of the Constitution of India, and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which India ratified in 1992, and contribute to the building of an environment where every child’s rights are recognised and promoted without discrimination. The belief is that child rights and children’s concerns have to be mainstreamed into all developmental planning and action, and must also become a core developmental indicator. HAQ believes that the State is the primary duty bearer in the realization of the rights of all children. Children’s rights must therefore become an integral component of good governance.

The project’s objective is to examine and highlight the trend of financing for child education with specific focus on girls’ education in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The project also intends to build the collective voices of local CSOs to be able to advocate for greater budget transparency in allocation and expenditure for education related programmes by putting the budget data in public domain in simplified forms. The outcomes of the proposed project is likely to improve the implementation of education related schemes in the selected states thereby benefiting all the children who are part of the schooling system.

Union Budget

The Ministry of Human Resource Development consists of two departments: (i) school education and literacy, and (ii) higher education. In 2020–21, the Ministry allocated Rs 99,312 crore, the sixth highest allocation among all Ministries. The allocation constitutes 3% of the central government’s estimated expenditure for 2020–21.

The Department of School Education and Literacy under the Ministry is broadly responsible for education imparted between the ages of six to 18 years, i.e., school education. Under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 the government is mandated to provide elementary education to all children between six to 14 years of age. Secondary education is imparted between classes nine to 12 for children between 14–18 years of age. In 2020–21, this Department allocated Rs 59,845 crore, accounting for 60% of the Ministry’s total allocation.

Over the last six years, India witnessed a 9.35% increase in the overall spending on school education, from R. 45,722.41 crore in 2014–15 to Rs. 56,538 crore in 2019–20. However, during this period the percentage share of the education budget in the total Union budget fell from 4.1% to 3.4% during this time period. The commitment to the National Education Policy 2020 which hopes to double the Central government’s spending in the next 10 years, was not seen in the Union Budget 2019–20. The lack of sufficient financial investment in our school education system is reflected in reduced allocations for schemes, lack of minimum school infrastructure, insufficiently trained teachers, thereby resulting in poor learning outcomes.

The launch of the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SMSA) in 2018–19 saw the absorption of three major Centrally-Sponsored Schemes (CSS) i.e. the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and the Restructuring and Reorganisation of Teacher Education (TE), into one. Though the merger of the three schemes was aimed at providing a more holistic education from pre-school to Class 12, not seeing any fundamental changes in the structuring of the budget for SMSA, makes this less of a policy reform and more of a mere consolidation of schemes. In addition to the CSS such as SMSA, Mid-day Meal and Central sector scheme of Scholarship, there are several other schemes by different ministries that impact budgetary allocations to the education sector. The Ministry of Minority Affairs, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Ministry of Tribal Welfare, all have several schemes that provide financial assistance to students from various marginalized communities. Hence, it becomes pertinent to look at the fiscal data from not just the Ministry of Human Resource Development to paint a holistic picture of education related budgetary allocations and spending. This will further enhance our understanding and bring more nuance into the fiscal efforts by our government towards, quality, equity and access to education.

State Budget

Uttar Pradesh’s estimated expenditure for 2020–21 was ₹5,12,861 crore, a 13.5% increase over the 2019–20 revised estimate. With the Education budget ₹64,805 crore, also a 13.5% increase over the 2019–20 revised estimate.

The education budget allocation primarily flows through the Department of Education, with Primary Education grant amounting to ₹55,065 crore and Secondary Education grant amounting to ₹12,988 crore budget estimated for 2020–21. Some of the key schemes for education related expenditure was allocated were as follows :

  • ₹18,363 crore is on the books for the Samagra Siksha Abhiyan (SMSA), a scheme aiming to improve the quality of school education.
  • A budget provision of ₹2,660 crore was allocated for the Mid-day meal scheme
  • The government also allocated ₹783 crore for the improvement of education and basic infrastructure facilities under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram in minority-dominated districts.

Another thing to note about education related budgets allocations, they don’t always flow through the Department of Education. In case of the expenditure towards Schedule Castes and Tribal Areas the expenditure is routed through the Department of Social Welfare. The grants Special Component Plan for Scheduled Castes and Tribal Welfare account for ₹26,164 crore and ₹1,196 crore which also aid education expenditure in marginalised communities.

Girl Education related Schemes

Uttar Pradesh is already one of the focus states of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, along with Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Bihar and Delhi. With an intention to further boost the education of girl children in the state, in 2019, the UP government launched the Kanya Sumangala Yojana. The scheme promises a financial assistance of Rs. 15,000 to girl students through the various stages of their education like admission in class 1, 5 and 9 and graduation. Similarly, some other schemes implemented by the Uttar Pradesh government that cater to students from various marginalised communities have been listed below:

  • SC / ST Annual Scholarship in Uttar Pradesh
  • KG to PG Scheme
  • 10,000 Reward Scheme for Class 10th Pass Girls in Uttar Pradesh
  • Bhagya Laxmi Yojana
  • Free Laptop Scheme
  • Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG)

The Road Ahead

Tracking educational expenditure of the state is a tricky affair. The funds don’t flow directly through one route and the centre plays a big role in the funds available to a state for various public services. It becomes critical to track various avenues of fund flow and understand how they are adding up to form the final picture.

To achieve the same, we are procuring data from the Koshvani platform. Koshvani is Uttar Pradesh’s financial activities digital platform containing up to date information about the state budget and expenditure down to a DDO level. We are using this data to create a composite definition of education expenditure for the state of Uttar Pradesh and track the progress over the years. You can follow our progress on the work here.

Another important aspect of the project will be to view these expenditures in the right context. Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in the country and it will be useful to understand information like the per/capita expenditure, state school infrastructure, teacher competency and learning outcomes for the area. These factors will add much needed clarity to the expenditure and guide the way to suggest changes in fund disbursement to improve the state of girl education in the state.

Impact of Work

Through our work in the two aspirational districts of Bahraich and Shravasti, we hope to better track the flow of funds and strengthen financial accountability towards girl education in rural Uttar Pradesh. Given that the final output for the project will be the development of an interactive digital tool for tracking the journey of children’s education we hope that it will help enhance the knowledge and capacity of grassroots organisations, governments and the common public at large enabling them to make more informed decisions. We envision our work as a platform for collaboration between government stakeholders and members of civil society to enable better budgetary decision making in the education sector.

The Principal-Agent problem is a complex and persistent one which also besets the governance of public education in India. Due to mismatch in the allocations by the government and requirements of the public, there is always the challenge of improper allocation or utilisation despite funds being disbursed. Our work with HAQ attempts to bridge this gap by focusing on the demographic compositions of the two districts. By looking at budget data not just from the Department of Education, but also from the Department of Social Welfare, we hope to bring into the intersectionality of the socio-economic context of the geography along with gender to paint a holistic picture of the public finance landscape in the education sector in these two districts.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Arun Sudarsan for reviewing the work and CivicDataLab for publishing it.

Posted on:
December 23, 2020
Length:
10 minute read, 2092 words
Categories:
Education Girl Education Open Data Public Finance CivicDataLab
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