Being the last budget of the Modi Govt 2.0, the interim budget to be presented on February 1 this year by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, is expected to continue with reforms and initiatives for transformative and sustainable socio-economic growth, both in terms of intent and allocations. Considering the future jobs will be influenced by AI, the country needs to scale the reforms in education and initiatives to support over GDP of 7% growth rate to prepare India to achieve $30 trillion economy by 2050 or what the Prime Minister Modi says Viksit Aatmanirbhar Bharat (Developed self-reliant India). That also makes a nice election promise for the ruling party manifesto.
“As we navigate the complexities of our changing educational landscape, let’s consider this budget as an opportunity for a positive shift in the education sector – one that emphasizes not only skill development but also the holistic growth of individuals prepared for the contemporary workforce,” says Dr. Prof Anand Achari, Principal, Vivekanand Education Society’s College of Architecture as the opening expectation statement from the budget.
Dr. Jayanthi Ranjan, Dean Academic Affairs, Sharda University while agreeing on the need of innovativeness in budgeting for education directly address the demand felt by the higher education sector. “I hope that more money will be given to the education sector, which will enable upgrades to research facilities, infrastructure, and academic advancement in general. Funding for research and innovation is essential, and incentives for cooperative initiatives that meet industrial demands should be included. Initiatives for skill development in collaboration with the government would improve graduates’ employability,” she says.
Pointing to the Standing Committee on by Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports observation in 2022 having observed that student financial aid schemes were not sufficient to cover the cost of higher education as most expenditure from the scholarship is towards course fees, Dr. Madhumita Chatterji, Director, ABBS School of Management is of the view that Government should earmark specific fund for self-funded autonomous institutions approved by AICTE and offering the PGDM degree as these institutions have to depend totally on student fees.
Dr. Sibaram Khara, Vice Chancellor, Sharda University says a 10% increase in funding is what we are hoping to see for higher education, particularly for private universities. “We are seeking financial support from the government for projects, grants for research and innovation, and assistance with technology collaboration with indiustry and leading research centres. Additionally, we anticipate a 20% increase in the amount of money allotted to higher education institutions to support incubators for startups, vocational training, and entrepreneurship. In addition, we are seeking authorization and assistance to establish overseas campuses of Indian higher education institutions,” he adds.
He also points out that one of the main things we need is support in order to position India as a center for the internationalization of education. The government ought to endeavor to include as many institutions as possible in the Study in India program’s beneficiary group and raise scholarships and seats by 100%. The government ought to set aside money to expand its initiatives for professor and student exchanges. The government should give private colleges an 80–100% boost in funding for instructors, teachers, and professors. Educators also seek tax breaks for universities and financing for systems of quality control would support the upkeep of high academic standards. For the institution to expand, there must be a sufficient investment made in its physical infrastructure, including classrooms and research facilities.
According to Dinesh Kumar Poobalan, CEO & CTO, Greatify, the education system needs to be modernized to attract more international students. This will require substantial investments in the education system, particularly emphasizing higher education. “I also feel that since many graduates are struggling with placements, earmarking funds for new initiatives that help re-invent the education sector in the 21st century through the integration of learning and working will yield a significant return on investment for learners, employers and society as a whole. These initiatives are expected to enhance the quality of education in India and contribute to developing a better-educated workforce,” he adds.
The “Skill India”, “make in India”, “PLI”, “Ayush”, “Infrastructure development”, “NEP”, “Gift City” and ‘Digital University” initiatives have all led to a positive change in enhancing the skilling and education ecosystem, and employment generation. However, Sumit Kumar, Chief Strategy Officer, TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship feels still first and foremost, we need immediate reform in the Apprenticeship Act, which the finance minister has been referring to in the last 2 budgets. “We need a more simplified system which is currently fragmented. Second, quota to be revised to 25% for organizations that are contributing to net zero carbon emissions and hiring women apprentices. This is good for inclusive and sustainable growth,” he says.
The long stand demand for reducing GST slab from 18% to 5% on educational products & services is also being renewed before this year’s budget presentation. Prateek Maheshwari, Co-Chair of India Edtech Consortium (IEC) and Co-Founder of Physics Wallah (PW) has appealed to the Government for reduction in GST slab from 18% to 5% on educational products & services. “Given the evolving world and our shifting approach to education, driving a change to ensure affordable and quality education at scale needs more collaboration for public and private sectors. For this, reducing GST on educational services would also remove financial strain on parents, promoting affordability,” he adds. The Indian Edtech market has seen steady growth in recent years due to technological advancements, increased demand for skills in a competitive job market and improved accessibility of education. The sector is projected to continue growing in 2024. “However, we expect more robust system to be developed, investing in professional development and training opportunities to help us effectively implement blended learning methods in the classroom and utilize technology-enabled infrastructure. We also expect a decrease in Goods and Services Tax on resources for offline and online education providers,” adds Greatify’s Poobalan.
Vinay Singh, Executive Director and CEO of Q&I and Thomson Digital goes a step further by saying, it’s not only essential to provide schools with technological infrastructure but also crucial to equip educators with the necessary skills. Empowering educators to navigate the digital landscape is imperative. Investing in their training ensures they effectively leverage modern tools for imparting quality education. “Education, being the cornerstone of progress, requires the government’s focused attention to shape the country’s future. Allocating resources to education means investing not only in infrastructure but also in the minds and aspirations of our young citizens. It’s crucial to recognize that education is the foundation upon which the future of our nation stands”, he stresses.
Incorporating the Indian Knowledge System (IKS) into the curriculum necessitates the development or upgrading of curricula, training or orientation for faculty, and the empanelment of artists and artisans-in-residence in Higher Education Institutions feels Prof Anand Achari quoted earlier. “Prioritizing financial support for Academic-Industry Collaboration is crucial, as it serves to forge robust connections between educational institutions and industries. This strategic emphasis ensures that academic curricula stay abreast of the ever-evolving demands of the industry, thereby nurturing a workforce equipped with agility, adaptability, and preparedness for future challenges. Additionally, it’s important to extend support to COA-approved Institutes with larger research grants akin to those provided to AICTE. This will foster innovation and excellence in education,” he says.
Dr Dhara Thakore, Head Incubation and Office of Career Service, Anant National University is of the view that prioritising budgetary allocation and policy-level support is needed to boost infrastructure, research, and protect intellectual property and experiential learning in this sector, particularly for private higher educational institutions. Another favourable area for allocation could be the academic startup ecosystem to convert nascent ideas into groundbreaking business ventures which in turn will boost the economy of the nation. “With the emergence of new-age technologies, there is a significant shift in the preference of students from traditional to creative industries such as design, fashion, literature, gaming etc. Creating a conducive environment for the growth of this sector will require an amalgamation of various learning dimensions like research, innovation, skill development and entrepreneurship,” he explains.
In words of Jitendra Karsan, Chairman Safari Kid India, education sector should also open up to the private sector either through public private partnerships or otherwise, for faster penetration of quality education in both urban and rural areas. “Envisioning a future where education is a catalyst for personal growth and national progress, Budget 2024-25 holds the key to shaping this transformative journey by addressing these critical aspects,” he says.
Dr. Maithili Tambe, CEO, The Academy School (TAS) feels one of the key areas that requires attention is the enhancement of infrastructure in schools and universities. This includes the construction and renovation of classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and other educational facilities. Additionally, investment in technology and digital resources is essential to equip students with the necessary skills for the rapidly evolving digital age.
To conclude as Vinay Singh says: Education, being the cornerstone of progress, requires the government’s focused attention to shape the country’s future. Allocating resources to education means investing not only in infrastructure but also in the minds and aspirations of our young citizens. It’s crucial to recognize that education is the foundation upon which the future of our nation stands.
PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) to the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
It is observed that India ranks 132 among 191 countries in the Human Development Report 2021/2022. India’s labor force is characterized by a high proportion of employment in agriculture and the informal sector with most of its workforce classified as working poor.
At this juncture, there is an urgent need to create a highly skilled talent base and to ensure the formation of a strong human capital base ready to serve the nation and engage with the World from a position of strength and valor. The socio-economic sector requires focus on twin merit goods of education with skill development and basic health with safety to continue with a longer-term vision.
Focus on education as well as skill development is the need of the hour in order to reap the dividends of our demographic advantage and would hold a crucial place for supporting India in its journey towards being AatmaNirbhar. There is a need to:
a) Ensure the presence of schools within the radius of 1 km, colleges within the radius of 10 km and universities within the radius of 25 km in the next five years
b) Strengthen mechanisms for bringing together Government, Industry and Academia to boost Industry-University linkages in order to promote the employability of the youth in the country.
c) Promotion of easier private sector investment rules for teacher training facilities and other training institutes
d) Enhance and incentivize research & development, skill set upgradation, usage of digital technology, application of industry 4.0, creation of green jobs, among others, in the country.
e) Undertake a robust analysis of current skill gaps to promote effective skill development. Skill Mapping to be done to scientifically plan human resource needs in the different sectors of the economy.
f) Promote skill development for enhancing the employability of the youth in terms of increased number of vocational training centers at the Block level across India.
g) Embrace apprenticeship as India’s flagship skill development programme on the lines of the German Dual System of VET with substantial funding of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) being diverted to directly finance industry offering such a facility for the youth.