Citizens' Issues
Primary Education Spending Declines, So Does Quality
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) -- a national programme for universal elementary education -- has seen Rs.1,15,625 crore ($17.7 billion) spent on it over the last five years -- but the quality of learning has declined.
 
For instance, only a fourth of all children in standard III could read a standard II text fluently -- a drop of more than 5 percent over five years, according to the 2014 Annual Status Report on Education (ASER).
 
The SSA received more than half the money (52 percent) in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s school-education allocation in the latest budget, but over the last five years, the SSA budget declined 6 percent -- from Rs.23,873 crore ($4.4 billion) in 2012-13 to Rs.22,500 crore ($3.3 billion) for 2016-17.
 
Education is primarily the responsibility of states, but the central government directly finances 60 percent of education, through programmes such as the SSA. As many as 66 percent of India’s primary school students attend government schools or government-aided schools -- the rest going to costlier private schools.
 
Of the money set aside for the SSA during 2015-16, only 57 percent was released till September 2015, according to an Accountability Initiative report.
 
While presenting his third budget earlier this week, Jaitley said nothing about the quality of education. The quality declines may be correlated with reduced funding, but they may not be caused only by a lack of money.
 
Less than one in five primary school teachers is adequately trained, IndiaSpend reported last year. The consequence is a marked decline in learning ability, in government and private schools.
 
The learning levels in government schools plummeted to a low of 41.1% in 2013 but recovered slightly to 42.2 percent in 2014, as IndiaSpend reported.
 
Similarly, with math, a quarter of children in standard III could not recognise numbers between 10 and 99, a drop of 13 percent over five years.
 
As much as 99 percent new elementary schools have been constructed of the 400,000 sanctioned since the launch of the programme in 2000-01 till September 30, 2015, according to this reply in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament) on December 7, 2015.
 
About 23 percent of schools surveyed by Accountability Initiative in 2015-16 needed to build at least one classroom in order to meet Right-to-Education norms. However, only 1 percent of schools received money from SSA during the financial year to construct new classrooms.
 
There are other gaps in the programme. The enrolment of girls has gone up from 48.12 percent in 2009-10 to 48.19 percent in 2014-15 at the elementary level. Many more girls clearly need to be enrolled. As many as 52 percent of boys are enrolled in primary schools.
 
The good news: Dropouts are down, highest in six to 14 age group
 
A 55 percent decline in dropouts was reported in the age group 6-14 years, from 13.46 million in 2005 to 6.1 million in 2013. The annual average primary school dropout rate declined from 6.8 percent in 2009-10 to 4.3 percent in 2013-14.
 
Mid-day meals in schools received Rs 9,700 crore ($1.4 billion), next only to SSA. About 102 million children across India in 2014-15 used the mid-day meal programme, the world’s largest school-feeding scheme.
 
As part of its rural initiatives, over the next two years, the government is also planning to open 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas (New-age schools) in the districts without them.
 
The Navodaya Vidayalaya scheme was launched under the National Policy on Education 1986 to educate the best rural talent. There are 591 Navodaya Vidyalayas across India, according to data tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 7, 2015.
 
Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, which runs these schools, was allocated Rs.2,471 crore ($400 million) -- an increase of 8 percent over last year.
 
Focus on higher education to strengthen infrastructure, but enrolments are low. The finance minister proposed setting up a Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) with an initial capital of Rs.1,000 crore ($146 million) to strengthen infrastructure in higher education.
 
The HEFA will be a not-for-profit organisation, which will use funds from the market and supplement them with donations and corporate social responsibility funds.
 
Higher education-including central and deemed universities-received the most money, Rs.7,997 crore ($1.2 billion), followed by the Indian Institutes of Technology (Rs.4,984 crore) and University Grants Commission (Rs.4,492 crore).
 
About 80 percent students were enrolled in undergraduate programmes, but only 0.3 percent (84,058 students) were enrolled for PhDs in 2012-13, a sign that research is weak and faltering, as IndiaSpend has reported.
 
Only 21 percent of young men and women aged 18 to 23 are enrolled for higher education. India’s enrolment rate in higher education is 18 percent below the global average of 27 percent and low compared to 26 percent in China and 36 percent in Brazil, a 2014 British Council report pointed out.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Budget impact: Car prices go up
Chennai : Promptly passing on the "infrastructure cess" proposed in the union budget 2016-17 to car buyers, several manufacturers have hiked the prices of their models effective March 1.
 
Honda Cars India Ltd on Friday said it has revised the prices of its various models effective from March 1 onwards after the levy of infrastructure cess.
 
The price hike by Honda Cars ranges from Rs.4,000-6,000 on its Brio model to Rs.66,500-79,000 on its CR-V model.
 
The price hike on Jazz model ranges between Rs.5,000-19,500 while for Mobilio, it is Rs.21,800-37,700.
 
India's second largest car maker Hyundai Motor India Ltd also hiked the prices of all its models.
 
"The new levies in Union Budget 2016 have led to price increase across the models ranging from Rs.2,889 to Rs.82,906. Today's customers are discerning on net off value offerings. The change in price value equations could alter the overall demand, from with-in the segment to across the segments and fuel types," its senior vice president, sales and marketing, Rakesh Srivastava, was quoted as saying in a statement.
 
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd too hiked the prices of its passenger cars ranging between Rs.5,500-Rs.47,000 depending on the model.
 
On Thursday Maruti Suzuki India Ltd increased prices of its models would go up in the range of Rs.1,441 to Rs.34,494 across its models.
 
Tata Motors too increased the prices of its models in the range Rs.2,000-35,000 depending on the model.
 
The central government had announced levy of one-four percent infrastructure cess on cars depending on the fuel on which they are powered and their engine capacity.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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More trouble for 'Freedom 251,' Adcom to sue Ringing Bells
New Delhi : In a yet another blow to Noida-based startup Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd. that last month launched with much fanfare the world's cheapest Rs.251 (less that $4) smartphone, domestic feature phone brand Advantage Computers' (Adcom) on Friday announced it would take legal action against Ringing Bells.
 
During the launch last month in the presence of veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Murli Manohar Joshi in the capital, Ringing Bells unveiled “Freedom 251” and distributed some “prototypes” to the media which turned out to be Adcom handsets, Adcom's founder and chairman Sanjeev Bhatia said.
 
Later, Ringing Bells president Ashok Chadha told IANS that they only gave Adome handsets as “samples” to a section of the media and the real “Freedom 251” will be a new product with all promised features.
 
“We are deeply grieved by this incident where our mobile phone has been presented to masses for Rs.251, and therefore, would not hesitate from taking any legal actions against the company, in case the entire fiasco impacts Adcom's brand name or subsequently we face any other kind of losses," Bhatia said in a statement on Friday.
 
"Yes, it is true that although we sold the handsets to Ringing Bells earlier, like we sell Adcom mobiles to lakhs of users, we were absolutely unaware of the reselling plans of the company in question," he added.
 
"Furthermore, we still haven't been able to evaluate their pricing policy as we sold the handsets at Rs.3,600 per unit (to Ringing Bells),” Bhatia said.
 
Earlier, the Noida offices of Ringing Bells were found shut on Thursday over land ownership issues with Noida Authority.
 
Ringing Bells issued a statement on Friday that they should not be dragged in any controversy over this issue.
 
“While speculation is rife regarding the legitimacy of our occupying the premises we operate from, i.e. our corporate office at B-44, Sector 63, NOIDA 201301 in Uttar Pradesh, we wish to make it clear that the current dispute regarding the nature of business conducted at the property is between NOIDA authority and our landlord,” the company said.
 
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) also questioned Mohit Goel, CEO of Ringing Bells, this week over the pricing of the smartphone.
 
Ringing Bells has also claimed to have paid back the money it generated from the first 30,000 pre-booking orders on the first day of the sale this month.
 
Chadha had announced that the Rs.251 (less than $4) "Freedom 251" smartphone customers will be required to make payment only when the smartphone is delivered to them.
 
"The company has decided that we will, henceforth, offer 'cash on delivery' mode of payments for those who have placed an order for the 'Freedom 251' smartphone. This will ensure further transparency and clear any misgivings," Chadha said.
 
The company plans to give 25 lakh handsets in the first phase before June 30.
 
Taking the world by surprise, Ringing Bells launched "Freedom 251" smartphone that, it said, has been developed "with immense support" from the government.
 
As the makers of the smartphone went to town with claim of being part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India" and "Digital India" initiatives in the last few days, a top government official clarified on Thursday that the government has nothing to do with the "Freedom 251" smartphone.
 
"This is not a government project. 'Make in India' team has nothing to do with this," wrote Amitabh Kant, secretary of the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP), in a Twitter post.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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