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A big bang budget for education?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Finance Minister will present the Union Budget 2019 on Friday where experts claim that this would be a breakout budget as it will be the second presentation of the budget after GST was implemented as well as the last budget before the country goes for  assembly polls this year. People from all walks of life including the education sector comprising of students, teachers, and parents, educational-entrepreneurs have big expectations from this year’s union budget for the education sector.

Here's what their expectations are...

Divya Jain, CEO and Founder, Safeducate
"In the previous Budget 2018 Government took key steps in skilling and also increased the funds. In this Budget 2019, we expect that the Government should take key steps in raising the quality of skills to levels demanded by a potential employer or even required for a person to start one’s own business. The focus should be on integrating strategies to increase skilling outcomes and sustain economic growth. Current skill development initiatives should be integrated with nation-building mission programmes. As an Organization which provides skilling and get funded from the Government to execute the Skilling programme, we seek some tax benefits.
Constructing the Skilling centre requires a lot of physical material which is being charged along with GST. We are not being able to reclaim the GST we had paid in the Inward supplies. Also, we have various certification and degree programmes in Logistics and Supply chain management where we are not being exempted from GST. Support in terms of medical allowance for students that are being trained in skilling programmes. As technology is changing, the Government needs to allocate more funds to improve the quality and develop excellence in Skilling centres.  The government has promised and initiated schemes in Skilling such as PMKVY 2.0, DDU-GKY, NAPS, Bharatmala and Sagarmala, PMKK etc. These schemes have helped us to reach the rural parts of India “The real India”. The government has been successful in implementing these schemes through strict monitoring and have been able to skill the rural youths of India".

Amol Arora, Vice Chairman & Managing Director - Shemford Group of Futuristic Schools
"For any country, the most significant returns are those garnered from investments made in its children. The next generation is going to enter a globalized world and will be competing for jobs not just against other students but also innovative technologies that are quickly replacing human jobs. In order to keep our children in the competition, we need to ramp up our Ed-Tech sector in the years to come. To that end, Budget 2019 should give certain tax breaks to Ed-Tech startups to enable them to reach sustainable levels. The government should also grant financial incentives for organizations setting up educational institutes in rural and underserved areas. Currently, the private sector in education is viewed with distrust which is why concrete steps should be taken to show that public-private partnerships can be a win-win for all – delivering quality without fleecing the parents. The government has made significant strides in the direction of technology-enabled learning with the launch of SWAYAM, which offers free online courses by teachers from reputable institutions. Another notable achievement was giving more autonomy to institutions of higher education. The Prime Minister Research Fellows (PMRF) program has helped meritorious students tremendously. However, the promise to boost education expenditure to 6% of GDP is still a distant dream and quality of education in schools and colleges is still a worry. Most importantly, the implementation of policies & programs still remains a key challenge. We hope to see more from the government this year for this most vital sector of the economy."  

Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO, and Founder, NextEducation India Pvt. Ltd.
"The budgetary allocation for education in 2018 stood at 3.5% of the entire budget, with a special focus on digitized classrooms, ICT-enabled learning, and quality teacher training programmes. However, the overall improvement of the education sector requires more prioritized attention and funding. With the General Budget around the corner, we have high hopes from the government and expect that a substantial amount would be set aside to the education sector so that we can lay a stronger foundation for new-age learning strategies. The prerequisite for quality education becoming available to all is the free and easy access to quality e-learning resources. This can be initiated by the government through technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality and cloud computing. It is also important to ensure that internet access provided to rural areas is functional so that students from those parts can use it for effective self-learning. Training teachers on the latest pedagogies and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the need of the hour as they are expected to employ innovative teaching methods and make use of digital tools in the classrooms. However, there is a dearth of 11 lakh adequately qualified teachers in the K–12 segments. Even though the government is trying to tackle the situation with initiatives such as Teacher Professional Development courses on the digital platform Diksha, this issue also needs prioritizing in the upcoming budget. We also hope that the government provides the right kind of infrastructural support for a system of education that is on a par with global standards, and help Indian students face the challenges of tomorrow".

Akhil Shahani, Managing Director of Shahani Group
“The Union budget 2018 focused primarily on schools and expanding the scope of schemes like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, with higher education taking a backseat. However, the efficient utilisation of the allocated budget is yet to be assessed, as the majority of it went towards regulating the sector on a state level. Therefore, an optimistic outlook for the 2019 budget indicates a focus on higher education, for its criticality in the development of young talent. To encourage infrastructural development and precision-based academic faculty training, the fund base must be broadened to include institutions that go beyond the top 10-20 academic institutes of excellence. Thus, the allocated budget needs be utilised efficiently, with the policy outlook integrating vocational and academic education equally, helping standardise and license vocational jobs as well.”

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