Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is slated to present the 2021 edition of the Union Budget next week on February 1.
Several major, medium and small industries are yet to recover from pandemic-induced lockdown in India. Though the government has announced some stimulus package to help them stage a comeback, there is more to be done. Sitharaman has her tasks cut out to get the economic activity to the pre-covid era level.
Like other industries, the education sector too suffered massive disruption but thanks to technology, several schools and colleges in collaborations EdTech startups were able to deliver online classes to the students.
However, the same level of success could not be replicated with government schools as they lack proper infrastructure. EdTech companies have demanded some measures and also focus on areas that need immediate attention.
"2020 has changed the fundamentals of learning in India. Owing to the closure of physical schools and tutorial centers, online learning has witnessed massive adoption. LIVE online learning has helped students gain access to quality teachers and content and EdTech platforms have made education more personalized, fun, and interactive. Technology is the main pillar to democratise education and it can create powerful communities. It has played a vital role in enabling the shift, especially in cities and towns with high-speed internet connectivity, "said Vamsi Krishna, CEO & Co-founder, Vedantu.
"However, infrastructural issues in the form of internet access as well as smartphone and PC penetration owing to the lack of affordability has proved to be a major roadblock in the adoption of online learning in many parts of India," Krishna added.
"Digital infrastructure in schools, basic devices for students to access online education through PCs, tablets, and mobile phones as well as seamless internet connectivity, is the need of the hour. We are optimistic that the upcoming budget will deliver on these and bring hope to students and teachers in small-town India,” Krishna said.
"Given that government, schools are already lacking infrastructure and good quality teachers, the current shutdown of schools can have a long-lasting impact on children studying in these schools. A Public-Private Partnership to improve learning outcomes in government schools is desired so that the gaps in learning that students are currently facing can be closed at the earliest. A pilot fund can be set up that facilitates different state governments to work with private partners in helping government schools provide excellent learning accessible and affordable for all, " said Sumeet Mehta, co-founder & CEO, LEAD School.
"Hybrid learning which is a mix of offline and online schooling is here to stay and will help schools become future-ready. The government must provide at least one data connection in every affordable private school and government school so that they are connected to the digital knowledge ecosystem and no further loss of learning happens on account of lack of digital infrastructure in schools, " Sumeet Mehta added.
Others too, share a similar sentiment with regards to the PPP model to improve technological infrastructure for government schools
"Though the EdTech industry was witnessing consistent growth over the last few years, the pandemic has propelled the growth many times over. Given that there has been a significant surge in eLearning, Government must support us by allocating sufficient funds and devise strategies to make digital education accessible by ensuring the availability of internet connectivity, laptops, tablets, smartphones etc. either through direct government programs or through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model," said Charu Noheria, Co-founder and COO, Practically.
"With National Education Policy (NEP 2020) already setting the pace for enormous skill development, we would expect the Government to increase the education expenditure in the current Union budget for implementation. This will provide the impetus required for up-gradation of school infrastructure with state-of-art technology and will help to meet the demands of jobs in the future," Noheria added.
"To perceive India as one of the most preferred higher education destinations in the world, the government should also focus on reskilling of education fraternity to equip them use new-age eLearning solutions as well as providing tax benefits to schools and teachers who invest in such solutions," Noheria noted.