ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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GDP in Education or Education in GDP?

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Public attention in India has for long been focused on the target of public expenditure on education to be equivalent to 6% of the gross domestic product (GDP). This celebrated benchmark was recommended by the National Commission for Education (Kothari Commission) in 1966 and adopted in the National Education Policy, 1968, setting a target of 20 years in 1988. This target has remained ever elusive, and even the Economic Survey 2019–20 reported only 3.1% of GDP or `6.4 lakh crore as the combined centre and state expenditure on education. Even then, there has not been a single attempt so far to look at the financial relationship between the GDP and the education sector in some alternative way, say in terms of a reverse measure of how much should the education sector contribute to the GDP. It is to highlight this alternative perspective that we flag how the brain drain of our STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—students leads to a potential dip in our GDP, and how measures can be taken to prevent it.

The Indian students in STEM fields have been migrating abroad, especially to the United States (US), for higher qualifications like master’s, PhDs and postdoctoral research, after completing their bachelor’s or master’s degrees in India. Subsequently, when they entered the foreign labour market, it led to loss of not only their skills but also of foreign exchange, both leading to reduction in education’s contribution to India’s GDP—a concretely quantifiable evidence of brain drain from India.

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