Today, while presenting the Union Budget and its implications for the upgradation and enhancement of the education sector, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley laid emphasis on how quality education can energise the youth of today. Quoting Swami Vivekananda, Jaitley said that education helps the masses by equipping them for the struggle of life.
“We have proposed to introduce a system of measuring annual learning outcomes in our schools. Emphasis will be laid on science education and flexibility in curriculum to promote creativity through local innovative content. An innovation fund for secondary education will be created to encourage local innovation and ensure universal access, gender parity and quality improvement. This will include an ICT (Information and Communications Technology)-enabled transformation,” said Jaitley.
He further stated that the focus will be on 3,479 educationally backward blocks. Higher education will witness the undertaking of reforms in the UGC, which would enable good quality institutions to have greater administration and academic autonomy.
Colleges will be identified and given autonomous status based on accreditation and ranking. A revised framework will be put in place for outcome-based accreditation and a credit-based programme. The proposal has been made to leverage information technology with the launch of the SWAYAM platform with at least 350 online courses.
The Government of India has initiated the SWAYAM programme with an aim of achieving three major goals - access, equity and quality. The programme is aimed at providing teaching resources and bridges the digital divide for students.
This would enable students to virtually undertake the courses taught by the best teachers, access higher quality reading resources, participate in discussion forums, take tests and earn academic grades. Access to SWAYAM would be widened by the linkage with DTH channels dedicated to education. Jaitley said,
We proposed to establish a national testing agency as an autonomous and premier testing organisation to conduct all entrance exams for higher education. This would free the CBSC, AICTE and other premier institutions from these administrative responsibilities, so that they can focus more on academics.
The Skill India mission was launched in July 2015 to maximise the potential of our youth. The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra has already been promoted in more than 60 districts. Now, the proposal has been made to expand the reach of the kendras to more than 600 districts across the country.
The budget also announced the launch of 100 India International Skill Centres across the country. The government had, in July last year, announced the launch of 15 such centres. The centres will offer advanced training, as well as courses in foreign languages, which will help Indian youths get jobs abroad.
“In 2017-18, we have also proposed to launch a skill acquisition and knowledge awareness for livelihood promotion programme, SANKALP, at a cost of Rs 4,000 crore. The programme will provide market-relevant training to 3.5 crore youths. The next phase of skill strengthening for industrial value enhancement will be launched in 2017-18, at a cost of Rs 2,200 crore, to improve the quality and market relevance of vocational training," said Jaitley.
Narayanan Ramaswamy, Partner and Head of Education and Skill Development, KPMG India, stated that the focus on education and skill development in this budget looks, at best, cursory and customary. With the setting up of an innovation fund for local innovation in school education, more colleges will be identified for the autonomous status and a national testing agency will be established for all entrance exams. Narayanan further went on to add that while the Rs 4,000 crore for SANKALP and the Rural Mason training scheme (targeting five lakh youths by 2022) are encouraging, given the mammoth requirement for skilling, and the urgency of the need, it is disappointing to see this budget virtually ignoring the support and encouragement needed for skill development and vocational education.