The Centre has allocated Rs 1.13-lakh crore for education sector in the Union Budget 2023-24, raising the projected expenditure on school and higher education by around 8.3 per cent compared to 2022-23, when the institutions of learning gradually came out of the shadow cast by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the budget allocation for school education, there has been an overall increase of Rs 9,752.07 crore (16.51 per cent), and for higher education, an amount of Rs 44,094.62 crore has been made as compared to Rs 40,828.35 crore in RE 2022-23, an increase of 8 per cent.
The Samagra Shiksha scheme, which is expected to be the major driver behind reversing learning losses, has registered a nominal hike of 0.18 per cent, with allocation under it increasing from Rs 37,383 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 37,453 crore in 2023-24.
The outlay for PM-Poshan has been increased by 13.3 per cent, taking the allocation from Rs 10,233 crore in 2022-23 to Rs 11,600 crore. While no new major sector-specific scheme was announced, Sitharaman said a National Digital Library will be set up for “children and adolescents” to provide a supply of good quality books at a time students are trying to cope with the learning losses during the pandemic.
“States will be encouraged to set up physical libraries for them at panchayat and ward levels and provide infrastructure for accessing the National Digital Library resources,” Sitharaman said. Moreover, to “build a culture of reading, and to make up for pandemic-time learning loss”, the National Book Trust and the Children’s Book Trust will be encouraged to provide non-curricular titles in regional languages and English to these physical libraries, she added.
However, no funds have been allocated for the library project in the 2023-24 budget, and there was no separate allocation for the National Digital University project announced in 2022.
Incidentally, the Centre had in 2016 launched the National Digital Library (NDL) pilot project under which IIT Kharagpur runs an online repository of texts and video lectures on various subjects, ranging from humanities to sciences.
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Its focus, so far, has been on making available resources to help students prepare for entrance and competitive exams. While Sitharaman did not specify if the government plans to expand the scheme, her statement that the library shall be “for children and adolescents…for facilitating availability of quality books across geographies, languages, genres and levels, and device agnostic accessibility” was an indication towards a shift.
In 2022-23, a sum of Rs 10 crore was earmarked for the project, which had received Rs 20 crore in 2021-22, Rs 12.4 crore in 2020-21, Rs 10 crore in 2019-20, Rs 10 crore each in 2018-19 and 2017-18, and Rs 5 crore in 2016-17. While total allocation for education was Rs 1.04-lakh crore in 2022-23, crossing the Rs 1-lakh crore mark for the first time, the revised estimate stands at Rs 99,881 crore.
Union Budget 2023: All you need to know
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