Class Divisions in Indian Education: Interim FY25 Budget Reflects Priorities Amidst Systemic Challenges

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The interim FY25 budget shows decreased spending on higher education while school education allocation increases, reflecting governmental priorities amidst India’s class divisions. Highlighted by “12th Fail,” it underscores systemic challenges like corruption and caste barriers hindering equal access to quality education and exacerbating socioeconomic disparities.

“If the citizens were educated, it could be a real problem for the leaders.”

-(12th Fail)

In the interim budget proposed for FY25, the government has decreased spending on higher education. From 1.27% of its budget to FY24, the allocated amount is 1% for FY25. Contrary to this, the allocation for the School Education Department increased from 68,804.85 crore to 72,473.80 crore. What does this tell us about the priorities of the government emerging on the grounds of the existing class division prevalent in India?

12th Fail, built upon the sentimental-driven idea of success in India, showcases the perpetual state of the caste system, the prevalent corruption, and attaining success by meritocratic means amidst disparities. Manoj Kumar Sharma, the protagonist of the story hailing from the infamous region of Chambal, is the middle child from a poverty-stricken household whose only earning member lost his job because of the existing corruption. Portraying the reality of the lowest-income class, the family struggles to arrange two square meals to feed the children and elderly.

The layers of stifling segregation in our society make it impossible for people of the lowest strata, in comparison with the elite and the middle class, to acquire the highly competitive job positions in the country. This population pyramid outlines the division of resources, where the top 10% holds 77 percent of the total national wealth. According to the available data, it would take 941 years for a minimum-wage worker in rural India to earn what the top-paid executive at a leading Indian company makes in a year. It is necessary to provide equal access to education for all to tackle the existing inequality. Even after the Right to Education Act of 2009, the increasing enrollments in the school are inversely related to the decrease in the quality of education. In government schools, absenteeism of teachers, unfair means of conducting exams, lack of basic study materials like proper pen and paper, and the motivation among students and authorities to improve are some of the challenges. According to a report by UNESCO’s International Institute of Education Planning, high rates of absenteeism (at 25%) show evident corruption and its negative influence on the vulnerable years of a student. The aspirations of the lower-income students are wiped out under these circumstances, forming a mass majority of the students in these public schools who cannot recite correct answers to basic questions. Painted through the movie ‘12th Fail’, Manoj exhibits to the interviewers the meek reality of his background when he says, “Our teachers helped us to cheat.”.

When compared with other South Asian developing countries, India is performing exceptionally well in terms of collective economic growth, whereas the human welfare indicators are struggling to meet the average measure. Turning into a melting pot and dealing with problems on multiple fronts, the government juggles to prioritise the spending of the limited available resources. In this year’s budget, we saw a sharp decline in funding for the Ministry of Education, which conflicts with the New Education Policy 2020, which seeks to spend 6 percent of the GDP on education. The allocation to education for FY 24–25 is 7 percent lower than the revised estimates for the current fiscal year. The University Grants Commission has received a cut as the centre reduced its grant by 60 percent. The funding to the IITs and IIMs faced a reduction of Rs 60 crore and Rs 119 crore. These narrowed avenues at the top-tier colleges increase the cutthroat competition to secure a seat. The budget for school education has received an increased amount of Rs 73,008 crore from Revised Estimates (RE), which is almost Rs 3,250 crore more than last year’s allocation and is the highest of all time. The government aims to use them to deliver quality teaching in a developed holistic environment for nurturing a future generation for the country’s future.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s ‘12th Fail’, a biopic, very accurately showcases the ground reality of our education system. Manoj gives up on cheating, but the environment he belonged to remains the same, where the Mafia is protected by political patronage, not only putting the lives of the young students at stake for the sake of personal monetary gains and regional control but also breaking the spirit of the man residing in these regions, the rural areas that comprise 70 percent of the Indian population.

India ranks 93 in the corruption index: ‘Ye jo fine ke naam par tu maang raha hai na…yeh ghoos hai’. This ailment is so severe and ingrained in our society in the form of privately owned, corrupt education institutions making extraordinary money with their skyrocketing fee structures to help students crack highly competitive examinations like JEE, NEET, and our very own UPSC. Contributing to the misery as demonstrated in the movie “2 lakh Hindi medium vidhyarthiyo mein kewal 25-30 hi ban pate hain IAS IPS,”  highlights the prevailing discrimination on the grounds of linguistic chauvinism, where the sophisticated Anglican tongue spoken by the elite draws a line that the people belonging to lower ethnic groups find difficult to cross to get to the respectable jobs.

This embedded segregation and socioeconomic inequalities are only widening due to the failure and lack of incentive to take up the righteous implementation of the policies. The drastic difference in access to education is a mole on the flags bearing the’socialist’, ‘justice’, and ‘equal’ society whose ecosystem aims to provide uniform opportunities to all. At this crucial phase, when the government wants us to aim high, it is also creating these loopholes that are only going to leave the nation-building roots hollow. Our Manoj made it to the top ‘without oxygen’ support, celebrating the UPSC struggle of an aspirate. The dehumanising reality of our times and the plight remain shrouded under ‘Ye hum sab ki ladai hai, ek ka jeet hoga toh karodon bhed-bakriyon ka jeet hoga.’, developing an ‘Indian Dream’ of millions of people aspiring to climb the social ladder.

Read Also: Just Looking Like a “How?”: Questioning SC’s Stand on Regulating Coaching Institutes

Image Credits: The Week

Divya Malhotra

[email protected]

Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.

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