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Budget 2022 can provide critical momentum to offset downturn in education

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All eyes will on the Union Budget proposals on education as all stakeholders expect a better deal

Budget expectations and talks are like New Year resolutions which evaporate within days to be taken again the next year.  Well, that is the state of most budget expectations—a consultative exercise that was initiated before budget formulation with interest groups and sectoral experts.  And, it definitely brought spotlight on gaps and priorities.

The pandemic has resulted in a tremendous learning loss for students across the country. As children return back to school in phases, it is essential that the Government sets up programs to bridge this learning gap and importantly find out all those children who may have dropped out on account of disruption or distress.  It is a serious policy challenge and must be address at macro level. The Union Budget presents that opportunity to apply seriousness.

Like reopening of education institutions received least attention of policy makers during the pandemic , a similar treatment was  visible with expenditure by states on education as compared to health during the pandemic.  The states must demand share in education cess  from the centre instead of compression in expenditure over education.

Over 200 million children lost a complete year of formal education due to the lack of proper digital infrastructure and unequipped teachers as Schools were shut across the country. Online education needed a dynamic digital infrastructure but due to lack of funds the schools could not impart education.  Education should reach each corner and the remotest of areas of India. The pandemic showed a mirror that we need to have a robust and improved digital infrastructure to reduce the digital divide of rural and urban.

The Government slashed its allocation towards education in the annual budget by 6% last year, amounting to a total allocation of Rs. 93,223 crores, against Rs. 99,311 crores in the year before that. This year, the education sector seeks higher allocation in the overall budget. With a considerable shift to virtual or online education models, ensuring access to better technology and improved e-Learning infrastructure should be prioritized to reduce the digital divide in smaller towns and cities.

Fight Inequality Alliance (FIA) Pre-budget survey 2022  says

  • 80 percent want the government to address profiteering by private providers in education and health.
  • 6 percent youth in the age group of 18-24 from the SC community and 89.1 percent of the overall respondents want an increase allocation for scholarships for dalit, adivasis, minorities and women for their education and skill development. 98 percent STs demanded for the same.
  • 8 percent demand increase in allocation for opening of creches and other care facilities, percentage increases to 95.1 percent for Schedule Caste
  • 3 percent wants the government to ensure that all schools provide additional academic support to students who experienced learning loss and roll NEP provisions like breakfast in schools; figure stands at 95.25 percent for Schedule Caste

As per All India Survey on Higher Education, the number of students entering higher education is at an all-time high (in 2019-20 the enrolment in higher education stood at 3.85 crore), and the outcome of these students’ success will be pivotal in determining not just their but also the country’s future. Thus, ensuring that quality education is accessible and affordable to these students should be a focus. Innovative Public Private bank partnership models where education subsidy is complemented/accompanies with subsidy on finance can help make this dream a reality. Overall, we are hopeful that the government relaxes the education infrastructure loans and expands the income tax provision under Section 80C for deduction of education expenses,” says Avinash Kumar, Founder, Credenc, an fintech specialized in education loans.

We hope that the budgetary allocation to the overall education sector will see an increase this year, as the last two years have severely impacted both institutions and students, with a shift to the online mode. A fund allocation for the advancement in Technology Infrastructure to help enable institutes to invest in the latest technology tools, software, and high-speed connectivity will surely deliver a seamless high-quality learning experience to their students. The Government could also develop an education loan scheme for the ease in accessibility, disbursement and repayment terms which will support students from the lesser privileged strata and the deeper pockets of the country to benefit from,”  says Dr. Dishan Kamdar, Vice-Chancellor, FLAME University .

A reason which leads to drop-out in higher education is lack of finance, however, the number of providers of education loans has increased, but higher interest rates remain a bigger challenge. Therefore, this budget must also consider boosting the education loan size by reducing the interest on such loans. Not to mention, GST rates also create financial pressure on the middle and lower strata. Revision in GST rates for educational services will have a great impact on national literacy as it will help aspiring students to chase and accomplish their academic training. To sum it all, we expect the FM to make as many facilities accessible via union budget for students, teachers, institutions and every associated stakeholder, who have been deprived of, due to the pandemic,” Dr. Niranjan Hiranandani, Provost – HSNC University

As two-thirds of the higher education sector is in the hands of the private sector, it is time to encourage private corporate philanthropy in a big way through fiscal and other incentives. We also need to create an enabling environment to let the private sector come forward and establish new institutions. Contributions made by a corporate or a foundation or any other grant-making entity to a University or to a research center or a center of excellence (being part of a university or higher education institution) or a new university approved by the government or an approved program under a university-industry partnership, should be eligible for deduction from taxable income to the extent of 300% of such contribution.  Higher education institutions should be incentivized to build significant endowments. We would want the government to set up a scholarship to be named “The Indian Corporate Higher Education Scholarship’ with a corpus of Rs.1,000 crores contributed by the top 1000 corporations of the country. This should be run by an eminent independent board,” Prof (Dr.) Y.S.R. Murthy, Founding Vice-Chancellor, RV University, Bengaluru

Higher education institutions in the private sector cater for more than two-thirds of India’s education. The not-for-profit institutions in this sector may be given tax exemptions similar to public institutions in the country. Undoubtedly, the future of education in the country is bright provided that the reforms mentioned in NEP 2020 are implemented in their true letter and spirit, which in turn will depend upon the availability of adequate funds, grants, endowments, incentives and tax reliefs to educational institutions and educationists,Prof. Manoj K Arora, Vice Chancellor, BML Munjal University (BMU)

For Higher Education, the government should allocate funds to promote research, the establishment of the National Research Foundation that can fund research in both Govt and Private Institutions, with investment in the Faculty Development and National Mentoring Programme as envisaged under the NEP. Creation of dedicated funds for Ed-tech startups/ initiatives that are trying to build content and programmes for Indian learners from tier-2 and Tier-3 markets; Increased collaboration for the NEAT platform and activate the National Education Technology Fund planned under NEP. There should also be increased investment in the internationalization of higher education and attracting more students to “Study in India,” Siddharth Chaturvedi, Director at AISECT Group.

Last year, to address the Covid 19 exigencies, the education budget was reduced however, today when the country is better prepared to address the pandemic, it’s critical that we increase the allocation to the education budget and find out a way to reduce the increased inequity in access of education. While the RTE act provides free and compulsory education to children of 6 to 14 years of age, given the considerable loss of incomes of a sizable population, it would further be best to ensure educational and health needs of children by lowering the age from 6 to 3. Aligned with Nipun Bharat, this could be the first step to initiate the ECD mission for the country,” Sonali Khan, Managing Director at Sesame Workshop India

The government could focus on working towards strengthening the digital infrastructure in our country, as there has been a leap in the online mode of education, and also help create measures to collectively tackle the issues related to providing education to every region for achieving education to all. Gamification in education will provide an immersive and personalised learning experience to students, which will help in better retention of concepts and easy understanding through 3D visualising for tougher concepts,” Santosh Kumar, Co-founder & CEO, 21K School

We expect that the government will make announcements that will encourage online learning especially on models that will focus on learning of new-age skills and employability. We are living in a digital era and learning models that focus on concepts like AI, VR, Machine learning should also remain in focus. Today, deeper internet penetration has helped institutions to take classrooms to the remotest part of the country that is helping the underprivileged. There is an urgent need to develop infrastructures for better connectivity and access to mobile devices or computers to bridge the digital divide,” Nitin Vijay,  Founder & MD,  Motion Education,  Kota, Rajasthan

Given the fact that the budgetary allocation towards the education sector was reduced to Rs 93,224 crore for 2021-22 from Rs 99,312 crore 2020-21 (also less than the allocation made in 2019-20), a higher allocation towards the education sector this year is vital for further prioritizing the early-stage development of children and catalyzing innovation within the existing pedagogical methods. By taking such pertinent steps, we can mold a population, making them ready for unprecedented situations, and dealing with them in an effective manner,” Tara Singh Vachani – Managing Trustees – Max India Foundation 2.0

Over 1 crore teachers of the country have pushed themselves to embed technology in their teaching systems and they need support in developing their capability on new age teaching methods. I think that we should allocate a part of this education budget specifically to solve this need. After all, teachers are leaders in a classroom and our students can learn effectively only if teachers are able to interact with them on the same wavelength.The education budget this year could define the way forward for us as a country and for the entire education system. Looking forward to the union budget,Rishabh Khanna, Cognitive Scientist and Co-founder of Suraasa

Currently, the GST rate which is applied on education is categorized under Education Services and hence 18% GST is levied, we expect the Government to revise the GST rate and reduce it to 5%. The pandemic has severely impacted the learning process and students are looking at the other supplementary sources, hence, reducing the GST will ease the pressure of the parents especially those from lower or middle class and learning will be made affordable for all the sections of the society,” Dr Silpi Sahoo, Chairperson, SAI International Education Group

We hope that the Government of India announces measures to strengthen the digital capability of each school, owing to the great digital divide that still exists, on a mission mode. Such a digital initiative should be holistic including access to the internet, affordable & appropriate devices, projectors, teacher training in digital pedagogy, curriculum centric multimedia content, adaptive assessments, and analytics to track progress. Given the considerable expertise of private sector in Edutech, PPP models could be explored to execute such a mission. This will set the foundation on which the effectiveness of teaching and learning will improve and pave the path to democratise access to education,” RCM Reddy, MD & CEO, Schoolnet India Ltd 

Looking at the cost of education in the country, the Goods and Service Tax (GST) on educational services should be reduced from 18 per cent to 5 per cent. We need to appreciate the fact that during pandemic private organisations have successfully contributed towards filling the gaps in the public education system that was caused by the disruption. Hence we need to make their offering more affordable and accessible to the masses. Long term tax exemption and funding support to ed-tech firms will go a long way towards ensuring that the sector is able to attract and retain quality talent who are educators by choice and not by chance and lastly more PPP(public-private partnership) projects are needed to ensure that quality education content reaches each student and every teacher in the country,” – Achin Bhattacharyya, CEO & Founder, Notebook

The Government of India has taken significant and noteworthy measures to combat malnutrition over the past few decades through the Integrated Child Development Scheme and the Anganwadi system. We anticipate that Union Budget 2022 will continue to focus on transformational reforms to improve women and child welfare in the country. The honourable Union Finance Minister has also indicated that the next Budget will focus on welfare schemes and infrastructure development, with special emphasis on direct benefit transfer (DBT), public procurement through GeM portal, technology-based governance, fund allocations to the North-east, and gender and child budgeting. We are looking forward to measures that can provide the necessary impetus for overall growth and positive social change on a national scale, leading to a successful implementation,” Shaina Ganapathy, Head of Community Outreach, Embassy Group.

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