Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development Daggubati Purandeswari has urged the State Governments to step up their spending on education.

This was necessary to let the “fruits of education percolate down to the last child,” Ms. Purandeswari said after opening the 20th triennial convention of Xavier Board of Higher Education here on Friday.

She said that in view of the landmark Right-to-Education law and the need for expanding the education base of the nation, the education sector required a much higher fund allocation. While the Union Government had enormously increased its education allocation, the States’ contributions had actually declined over the past few years.

The Centre was now allocating close to 4 per cent of its budgetary pie to education and gradually increasing the share. She wanted the States to significantly increase their shares.

Ms. Purandeswari said the government wanted to set up an ‘Educational Finance Corporation’ to give financial support and loans to young people so that more of them could seek higher education.

She noted that the gross enrolment ratio in the higher education sector in India was “abysmally low” at 12 to 14 per cent which was far below the international average of 23. The Planning Commission had planned to raise the ratio to 15 per cent, but this was a ‘Herculean task’ now.

She said the government would dovetail the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan scheme to the Right-to-Education law. She noted that there was a 20-25 per cent shortage of qualified teachers in the higher education sector.

Ms. Purandeswari pointed out that research received poor attention in India.

For instance, though India was considered an IT power house, the research in the area was remarkably low. While the U.S. produced some 800 PhDs, India’s score stood at a poor 25. Children should be nudged into research while in school. Noting that a substantial section of higher education was outdated, she said the sector was “ripe for reforms.”

The three-day convention, being held at Rajagiri College of Social Science, has attracted authorities of some 200 Catholic higher education institutions across the country. It will discuss the qualitative changes that these institutions needed in the coming three years.

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