Punjab Assembly Election-2022: Absence Of the Issue Of Public Education From The Rhetoric Of Parties

Punjab Assembly Election-2022: Absence Of the Issue Of Public Education From The Rhetoric Of Parties - Sakshi Post

By Amar Jeet and Jaspreet Kaur

Punjab is going to hold assembly elections on February 20.  Almost all the political parties have issued their election manifestos in this regard. They are promising to give good governance and other populist promises of free services. But the issue of public education is almost absence in the rhetoric across the parties. The subject of this article is to evaluate the pledges of the contesting parties on public education in the state.

The Punjab Congress has failed in providing its due attention to education. In the years 2020-21 and 2021-22, the government has presented 9 percent and 13 percent of budget on government education respectively.  Under which the Congress government has started 16 new government degree colleges. These budgets are presented with the addition of 23% from the 2016-17 education budgets. However, Congress has not come up with a new model for promoting the education sector as a public sector and providing permanent employment in it. But Congress is trying to strengthen its weak position at the Indian level by restoring the public sector.

 The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) promised in its manifesto on higher education to open three new medical colleges for the training of nursing and paramedical staff, increased seats in old medical colleges; to open two new degree colleges; new colleges for engineering and management, and claimed to be opened one film media institute.  Older schools are claimed to be modernized and improved in school education. In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party is spending 24 percent of its budget on education. The Aam Aadmi Party's manifesto does not mention how much budget is to be spent on education in Punjab.  Overall, the Aam Aadmi Party is not going to make any progress in the areas of government education.

 BJP has released a manifesto for Punjab Assembly elections.  It called for opening government colleges in every tehsil, providing free coaching to all the unemployed between the ages of 14 and 30 for the job process, opening smarts in the state, and taking loans of Rs.5 lakh for students for higher education.  According to the new education policy 2020 passed by the BJP, 30,000 educational institutions which do not comply with this policy will be closed down.  There are a total of 40,000 educational institutions in India.  Colleges with less than 2000 students are to be closed.  The aim is to enlist the help of local private institutions for primary education.  Education is being centralized by creating new institutions like the National Education Commission. The authority of the state is being abolished. Contrary to this policy, colleges have been promised in every tehsil of Punjab.  The promise of a loan of Rs 5 lakh for higher education makes it clear that education will be private and not the government.

 The Akali Dal and the Sanyukt Samaj Morcha did not present any program on education yet.  In the last election, the Akali Dal had promised to make free education for girls from nursery to Ph.D.

 Let us examine the real situation of the public education sector in Punjab.  From which it can be cleared why all the parties are moving away from this area.  What is the role of domestic and foreign corporations and foreign financial capital in moving away from this sector?

 Privatization of the education system - Expenditure on public educational institutions has been steadily reduced over the last 30 years at the national level. There are a number of exemptions for private schools, colleges, and universities.  Since 1991, private schools, colleges, and universities have flourished.  With the growing population, there should have been an increase in government schools, colleges, and universities. It would also create more employment.  On the contrary, there are vacancies for teachers, clerks, librarians, peons, servants, and accountants in the former government schools, colleges, and universities.  In the last two years, the Punjab government has closed more than 500 primary schools and many more are on the verge of closure. There are more than 1800 vacancies in government colleges.  The number of vacancies in Aided and Grant in Aid colleges is different. Self-financed courses are being opened in government colleges and universities and they are being privatized. There are 19,138 government schools in Punjab. There are more than 29,000 vacancies in these schools.  In contrast, there are 8500 registered private schools in Punjab.  In addition, the number of those who are not registered is many times higher.  There are about 6 public and 16 private universities.  Government universities are facing huge debts due to non-receipt of financial assistance. There are 62 government degree colleges. In comparison, there are 75 DAV colleges.  The number of SGPCs and other private colleges is huge.

Out of a total of 40,000 educational institutions in India, 22% are government-owned and 67% of female students in India study in private educational institutions.  A total of 8% of students in India are pursuing higher education.  According to a DPIIT study, from 2000 to 2019, 2.47 billion USD foreign investments were invested in the higher education of Punjab.  All this money has been spent on private education.  Rs 27,000 crore goes abroad every year through Punjab students studying abroad. Private education is becoming a big business in Punjab.  Therefore, there is a consensus among all parties to gradually remove it from the hands of the government.

We have seen the growing monopoly policy of foreign and domestic corporate houses on education.  No party has the courage to stop this occupation.  The sector is directly related to the basic needs of the people.  People spend half of their earnings in these three areas.  The main reason for the loss of permanent employment is the emergence of the private sector.  The standard of living of the people is constantly declining due to a lack of permanent employment.  Therefore, it is impossible to raise the living standards of the people without the public sector.  The need of the hour is to make the demand for conversion of areas related to the basic needs of the people to the public sector a central demand of the political parties contesting in the Punjab Assembly election.

(Amar Jeet and Jaspreet Kaur are  Research Scholars from Punjabi University, Patiala. They are associated with Peoples Pulse, Research Organisation on Electoral politics. peoplespulse.hyd@gmail.com)

Also Read: BJP in Punjab Assembly Elections with ‘Eleven Sankalp’

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