Budget 2021: Education industry looking forward to initiatives and provisions

Budget 2021 is eagerly anticipated by the education sector as it will be the first since the introduction of the New Education Policy (NEP) in 2020.

With a paradigm shift witnessed in the mode of learning and teaching, in many ways, the year gone by has had a detrimental impact on the education sector. Students and teachers faced innumerable challenges and gone through a rough patch in terms of loss of valuable classroom learning and interaction.

Amidst all this, the unveiling of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has the potential to prove to be a decisive milestone in the lives of young aspirants of this nation.

Here are what various stakeholders from the education industry are looking forward to:

1. Encouragement of technology usage through subsidised laptops and handheld education devices, removal of GST on school/college fees, removal or reduction of interest on education loan to a maximum of two percent per annum, education loan without collateral, scholarships, and subsidies to the less privileged students, conversion of education loan into a 50 percent government grant, free books to the students and teachers, removal of GST for food in schools/colleges/university canteen, the higher budget outlay for education are a few important suggestions which will go a long way in helping the education sector to thrive in these difficult times.

2. Digital initiatives like SWAYAM have to be blended with regular teaching in the classrooms, to provide a higher learning impact.

3. Importance also needs to be given to the fact that owing to the pandemic, there has been an increase in drop-out ratios at schools. These children, through their parents, must be encouraged to return to school.

4. Several educational institutions faced economic challenges due to the non-payment of fees. To support the ailing institutions, there may be a requirement for a relief fund in this budget. Budget 2021 must include provisions and schemes for developing teachers' abilities, considering the digital sustainability, development, enhancement, and acceleration of the study patterns.

5. It has also been observed that in India, private colleges cater to a maximum number of students. The Budget should therefore focus on to also upgrading private institutions along with government institutions and universities towards set benchmarks. These benchmarks should be in such a way as to match the well-established colleges worldwide. It can as a result enable India to be a preferred education hub in the world.

6. The National Educational Policy (NEP) 2020 has provided an impetus towards more reforms in the education sector. The policy is more pragmatic in approach and focuses on innovation and creativity among students. The Budget needs to provide necessary support and build upon the reforms as initiated in the policy. This includes vast spending on setting up and up-gradation of digital infrastructure. The Budget should not just allocate a set amount for the same, but also ensure that there is a balance in funding among urban and rural areas according to the assessed need.

7. Business schools play a major role in making students industry-abled. Initiatives must be taken to encourage students to generate ideas and solve real-world problems. A start-up society where students of different business schools can come together and work on ideas can be beneficial. Also to add to this, at the school level, the Niti Aayog already has set up Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL’s) to encourage research and innovation in schools. More schools must be selected across the country and necessary support should be provided under this initiative.

8. Given that there has been a significant surge in e-learning in the pandemic, the government must support by allocating sufficient funds and devise strategies to make digital education accessible by ensuring the availability of internet connectivity, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. They should allocate more funds to deliver education in remote areas either through direct government programs or through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.

9. Every job recommends essential skills at different levels of complexity as they provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable individuals to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change. To develop these skills there is a need for new courses to be started in the existing state, central, and private universities. We expect to be a system where we can focus on skilling and upgrading medical workforce skills in the needed geographies. To achieve this, major reforms are needed. Companies that are focusing on such activities should be encouraged and special tax benefits should be considered for them.

10. With more focus on the implementation of the new policy, quality, tax-free education, and skill development, the reforms will pave way for more blue-collar jobs. It is expected that the government put more focus on the usage of digital education in Tier II, III, IV cities.

11. Classroom education has undergone complete change due to the emergence of COVID-19, it is expected that the government will put more focus on the upgradation of schools by allocating sufficient funds and envisage avenues to make India one of the preferred higher education destinations in the world.

The famous national competitive theory talks about investment in education for a country to forge ahead in innovation and competitive sphere globally. While many initiatives are already in the pipeline, still changing environment requires changed perspectives and new priorities.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)