Recent years have seen significant changes in the landscape of elementary education (EE) in India. Yet, updated estimates on public and private expenditure on EE are not available. This paper fills the gap by providing a methodology and estimates of per student public expenditure on children enrolled in government schools, and per student private expenditure on children enrolled in private unaided schools, for major states in India for the year 2011-12. The paper also provides estimates of total (public and private) expenditure on EE.
Our findings indicate that India spent 1.75% of the GDP (centre and states combined) on EE, while private expenditure was at least 0.71% of the GDP in 2011-12. Richer states spent less on EE as a % of their GDP but more in terms of absolute amounts, compared to the poorer states. Preliminary analysis indicates a strong relationship between per student public expenditure and learning levels. But this does not mean that more expenditure is needed to improve learning levels because government expenditure on EE is highly inefficient. It produces low levels of outcomes at high expenditure. Changing this requires prioritising learning outcomes and demanding accountability toward learning outcomes from all officials, above everything else.