Budget 2019: Wishlist for the Education Sector

By Rohit Manglik

The much-awaited full-fledged Union Budget of Modi 2.0 regime will be tabled on July 5, 2019.  The Union Budget has raised hopes for the education sector in the wake of the proposed New Education Policy (NEP) which suggests remarkable measures such as international collaboration and teacher training to reform the sector. The Indian education sector is among the largest in the world, however, the fund allocation to the sector continues to be meager. Hence, the foremost prudent measure would be to raise the share of education in the allocation of funds. Currently, the overall allocation to the education sector in India is less than 3% of total GDP, as opposed to 5-7% allocation in the developed countries. 

As highlighted by the recent ASER report, the quality of education continues to be a stumbling block to the Indian economy. Special attention must be given to teachers’ training and strengthening infrastructure in educational institutions in the allocation of funds. It also makes a case for facilitating the enhanced role of private-public partnerships for augmenting the social infrastructure in education.   

Along with improving quality, there is also a need to ensure equity in access to education. The scholarships to the economically weaker section of the society based on the criteria of annual income will increase the retention rate in schools and encourage more students to pursue higher education. Reducing the interest rate on the education loans and slashing the GST rate on educational products and services will further provide an impetus to the sector. In the higher education sector, the HRD ministry has already devised a vision document called EQUIP (Education Quality Upgradation Inclusion Programme) which underlines the need of strategic interventions in the sector for the upcoming five years and takes cognizance of major inadequacies in the sector such as decline in public investment in higher education, skewed teacher-student ratio among others.  While much will hinge on the on-ground implementation of policies, the upcoming budget needs to focus on providing thrust to research and innovation and strengthen capacity -building in educational institutions. 

In line with the objective to provide a fillip to Digital India, special incentives must be given by the government to propel the use of technology in the education sector. Tax incentives should be given to users on the purchase of computer software and other tools to encourage digital education. To ensure that everyone is able to reap the benefits of the digital wave, banks should provide consumer loans for the purchase of such tools to economically weaker sections of society. The FICCI’s proposal of Rs 10,000 crore annual allocation on making the smart device available to each student and teacher free of cost under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan will provide a fillip to e-learning and usher the transition towards a digital economy. 

Ed-tech startups and entrepreneurship have been a catalyst for innovation in India. While initiatives such as Digital India and Startup India have provided a thrust to both, much more can be done in terms of improving the ease of doing business in India. Recognizing the role of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, the Interim Budget 2019 did propose some progressive measures such as National Artificial Intelligence Portal among others. The forthcoming budget is expected to sustain the momentum. 

Unemployment and skill gaps also present formidable challenges to the Indian economy. The World Economic Forum announced the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2016, and predicted 'major shift about the future of jobs'. Disruptive technologies are already redefining the future of the jobs and demand the new set of skills.  Hence, with the objective to prepare a skilled workforce, the Union Budget needs to provide special tax incentives to institutions offering vocational training with defined course curriculum and apprenticeship arrangements with local industries. 

Placed better in every manner than it was in its earlier stint, we expect that the Modi 2.0 budget will lay down progressive measures with the potential of taking the Indian economy onto a higher trajectory. 

Rohit Manglik is the CEO of EduGorilla. 

 

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