Home Spotlight Pre-Budget Expectations: Supportive environment for students including making Education loans cheaper in demand

Pre-Budget Expectations: Supportive environment for students including making Education loans cheaper in demand

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This is our second feature on 2024’s pre-budget (interim) expectations on Education and Skills sector based on opinion of a cross-section of ecosystem experts, industry leaders and academicians.

The last budget of Modi Govt 2.0 still looks an opportunity for potential introduction of the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), increased allocations to flagship initiatives like Samagra Shiksha, Eklavya Model Residential Schools, and the Skill India Programme. Then increased international collaborations through Multi-disciplinary Education and Research oriented Universities, along with EdTech and other private institutions through internships and training could also be incentivized.

However, addressing the faculty shortage lies at the heart of problem of India’s education and by incentivizing the hiring of foreign faculty members, the quality can be improved. There is a need for comprehensive teacher training programs, ensuring educators are equipped with the necessary skills to leverage modern tools effectively. Also, encouraging collaboration between higher education and specialized institutions and industries through tax incentives can provide valuable opportunities for students.

Increasing scholarships and grants for students is crucial for making education accessible to diverse backgrounds, ensuring that talent from all walks of life contributes to our creative landscape in shaping human capital.  Budgetary considerations aim to create a more supportive environment for Indian students undertaking international education, fostering academic growth, and contributing to India’s global educational standing are some other key expectations from this year’s budget. Also, earmarking funds for continuous tech development and establishing a regulatory framework are indispensable for sectoral growth, policy for design education and other emerging fields will not only create stability and attract investments but also stimulate innovation, foster entrepreneurship, and ensure the long-term sustainability of EdTech sector.

 

Higher Education

In the education sector, there may be a push for increased allocation of funds to enhance digital infrastructure, promote technology-driven learning, and bridge the digital divide. The budget may also prioritize skill development initiatives to align with the evolving job market. “In particular, I expect initiatives supporting the development of online learning platforms, digital infrastructure of educational institutions, and applications of AI in various areas of citizen life,” says Prof Arvind Sahay, Director at MDI Gurgaon adding that given the global emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, the budget could do well to allocate resources to strengthen these fields.

According to Vishnu Manchu, Pro-Chancellor, Mohan Babu University, strategic resource allocation is crucial to produce graduates with essential skills, emphasizing practical training in technology, healthcare, and engineering. Investing in technological infrastructure, particularly in AI adoption, is vital for a skilled workforce. “Addressing the shortage of qualified teachers is a priority, requiring investments in teacher training programs and incentives for educator retention. The proposed ‘National Research Foundation (NRF)’ under the NEP offers opportunities for meaningful industry-academia collaboration. The budget could incentivize this, fostering data sharing and technical support for researchers to drive innovation and bridge the gap between academic research and industry needs,” he feels. He also geos to emphasize, there’s a need to enhance the education system to attract more foreign students, necessitating substantial investments in higher education.

Dr Sanjay Gupta, vice-chancellor of World University of Design (WUD) opines that at this pivotal moment in India’s economic landscape, we should acknowledge the transformative power of design. However, to harness this momentum, a comprehensive design policy is also imperative. The absence of such a policy is glaring as design emerges as a value-adding activity across sectors. The upcoming union budget is a unique opportunity to lay the groundwork for a flourishing creative economy, positioning India as a global design leader.

The digital revolution and the looming threat of AI automation underscore the urgency of nurturing creative thinking. Minister Piyush Goyal’s endorsement of “Design in India” and the Culture Ministry’s announcement of an “Art, Architecture & Design Biennale” in December 2023 mark a promising shift. “As India recognizes the crucial role of design amid digital advancements, I emphasize the need for strong government support in shaping design education. As the demand for designers rises, addressing the shortage of design talent is essential. In anticipation of the upcoming budget, I propose a few key areas of focus. Establishing a National Design Research Fund will support innovation and attract talent, improving faculty development and infrastructure. Additionally, creating an innovation ecosystem, leveraging cultural heritage, and aligning India’s design policy with global trends are vital,” he adds.

Union Budget 2024 is expected to play a crucial role in sculpting a tax framework that supports educational advancements, addresses financial challenges for students, and contributes to the goal of achieving a higher GER, ultimately fostering economic growth through a well-educated and skilled workforce according to Nidheesh Saxena, Senior Director of Admissions, GITAM (Deemed to be University). “All eyes are on India for the economic growth that is expected to scale the foreign investments in the country. Allocating resources to education is highlighted as an investment in the minds and aspirations of the nation’s youth,” he adds. 

At the same time, Rajendra S Pawar, Chairman and Co-Founder, NIIT Group (includes NIIT University) feels only a substantial increase in budgetary allocation for education, from 2.9% to 6% of the GDP, is crucial for the policy to deliver its full potential and attain national objectives on the path to global leadership. “I look forward to the forthcoming budget with the expectation that it will align with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020,” he says.

Prof. Vishwanathan Iyer, Senior Associate Professor and Director of Accreditation – Finance and Accounting, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai says with the nation’s focus on education intensifying, the need to align capital expenditure with investments in human resources becomes paramount. “The implementation of NEP 2020 necessitates a substantial commitment to address the scarcity of human resources in Higher Education Institutions. The glaring disparities in the Faculty Student ratio and internationalization indicators, as highlighted in the QS Asia University Rankings 2024, emphasize the urgency for substantial fiscal support. While the proposed 100% increase in the education budget to Rs 2.25 trillion may seem daunting, robust tax collections and a significant surplus in revenue create a conducive environment for a transformative leap. The nation looks to Budget 2024 as a stepping stone towards bridging global gaps in education and fostering a new era of academic excellence.”

Anil Somani, Chairman of FOSTIIMA Business School-Delhi:  “We expect the government to champion the integration of AI in education, aligning with the visionary NEP (National Education Policy) of 2020. The true educational metamorphosis lies in harnessing the power of AI. It has the potential to revolutionize learning and ensure inclusivity and effectiveness through personalised approaches. Govt should move towards direct strategic funding of AI-driven educational models, digital infrastructure and promoting AI literacy. We firmly believe that these steps will not only bolster India’s standing in the international education landscape but will also encourage a diverse and enriching learning experience for our students. Let the 2024 budget be a catalyst for a progressive and technology-driven era in Indian higher education.”

Study Abroad segment

With the Indian study abroad, sector poised for a post-pandemic resurgence, the upcoming budget holds immense significance. Experts expect the government to recognize and harness this potential by implementing measures to make international education more accessible and affordable. According to Saurabh Arora, CEO, University Living, it is time the Government pay attention to essential measures that can profoundly impact Indian students pursuing education abroad. “Foremost, we believe lower interest rates on education loans will be a crucial step in alleviating financial burdens for students and their families, enhancing access to education in a destination of one’s choice. Further, there is a critical need for an increase in grants and scholarships for Indian students, providing essential financial support to deserving students. Scholarships play a transformative role, offering support and opportunities for talented students facing financial constraints, to successfully pursue their academic journey,” he adds.

He also feels, a reduction or waiver in Tax Collected at Source (TCS) while remitting money for overseas education and ancillary activities will be a welcome sign. Lowering or waiving off TCS while remitting funds overseas for education will ease the burden on families and encourage more students to explore educational opportunities at a destination of their choice. Then exploring student concessions on air travel is imperative to make global education economically viable for a broader demographic of students, fostering cultural exchange and elevating India’s representation on the global academic stage.

We are anticipating the upcoming budget’s potential to unlock new opportunities for international student mobility, we are optimistic about the potential of initiatives fostering collaboration between Indian and international universities, creating avenues for cross-cultural learning and research opportunities. A budget that prioritizes global education will not only empower the vibrant minds of young Indians but also solidify India’s standing in STEM fields,” expresses Manisha Zaveri, Joint Managing Director, Career Mosaic. She further adds targeted scholarship schemes for Tier 2 and Tier 3 city students, tax benefits for families supporting overseas education, and streamlined visa processes would be welcome. “A supportive budget addressing these aspects will not only enable students to pursue their international education dreams but also contribute significantly to India’s long-term economic and intellectual growth.”

As we look ahead to the upcoming budget for 2024, ETS urges policymakers to allocate resources that accelerate global mobility of India’s young talent. This includes inclusion of language skills and internationally recognized work skill certifications in Indian classrooms. Skills development enterprises, both public and private, must leverage globally benchmarked and recognised skills framework and certifications as these are valued by employers internationally, ” says Sachin Jain, Country Manager, ETS India & South Asia while  urging policymakers to advance public private partnership models that accentuate the “Study In India” initiative, which aims to reinforce India’s position as a Vishwa-Guru to the world.

 

Skills Education

According to Anish Srikrishna, CEO, TimesPro, there is a feeling that Government is committed to nurturing skilled professionals amidst dynamic changes. There is a need for propelling our education system to the next level and implementation of some crucial measures. “Firstly, fostering collaboration between the proposed National Digital University and EdTech entities is pivotal. By jointly offering programmes, certifications, and employment opportunities, we can efficiently upskill a broader Indian population. The incentivisation of such initiatives through tax rebates for EdTech companies will ensure affordability for learners, fostering widespread adoption of technology-led education. Moreover, increasing public-private partnerships and incentivising the creation of future-centric courses will empower Indian youth for the job market. The reduction of GST on online learning courses and lowering education loan interest rates will make education more accessible, especially in Tier II & III regions. The digital divide is paramount, hence, there should be an increase in infrastructure allocations to improve rural internet connectivity, and tax relief for students acquiring digital devices will ensure universal access to online education, regardless of geographic constraints,” he adds.

There is likely to be a significant push towards augmenting India’s youth employability through dedicated upskilling endeavours and structural reforms to the education framework in the country feels Sachin Alug, CEO, NLB Services while adding  “Aside from the focus on manufacturing in the upcoming budget, the government should also focus on introducing measures that will propel employment generation across emerging roles/skills/domains like AI/ML, cybersecurity, data analytics, etc. From a skilling perspective, there is a need to introduce tax rebates on reskilling/upskilling under the CSR agenda, which will further enable small and medium-size enterprises to effectively undertake more skilling initiatives. Bolstering the skill dividend and youth employability is immensely critical for India’s larger economic vision.”

We expect the government to bring about a crucial shift from subject-based to skill-based learning, placing a particular emphasis on mathematics, computer science, and data science says Vishnu Manchu – Chief Executive Officer, Sree Vidyanikethan Educational Trust.  “Recognizing the gender gap in educational attainments, we call for additional funding and schemes to ensure gender parity in education, contributing to the inclusive vision of ‘Amritkaal.’ To bolster tertiary education enrollment, we anticipate allocating funds for attractive loan schemes and scholarships, aligning with the NEP’s emphasis on accessible and quality higher education. Our expectations extend towards initiatives fostering innovation, skill education, job creation, and social welfare, recognizing their interconnected role in shaping a resilient and prosperous nation. A well-crafted education budget can act as a catalyst for empowering future generations, fostering research and development, and bridging socio-economic gaps. Our sincere hope is that the Union Budget 2024 reflects a steadfast commitment to nurturing a knowledge-driven society, laying the groundwork for a brighter and more equitable future for all citizens.”

Amit Baveja, Managing Director, Burlington English(India):The recent implementation of the NEP, specifically the continued emphasis on skilling and nurturing the development of our youth towards employability has been commendable. This focus is critical to creating a workforce that is not only well-educated but also job ready. We hope for a budget outlay for building linguistic capabilities of our students and young adults, particularly in English. Additionally, we emphasize the significance of teacher development, a critical component of successful teaching and learning processes. The vital emphasis on teacher training outlined in the NEP 2020 should involve innovative pedagogy, upskilling, and curriculum development. Furthermore, we anticipate government incentives for hybrid education which combines traditional teaching methods with technology, especially in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. This could be achieved by establishing digital learning labs in collaboration with private players to enhance learner outreach.”

School Education

In words of Shashi Banerjee, Director of Education, Shiv Nadar School, the budget for education needs to empower our youth to be ready for a fast-evolving world. The interim budget can lay the groundwork for NEP’s vision and objectives with IC2: infrastructure, capacity and collaboration. Plans such as integrating Anganwadis with elementary schools and including a “Preparatory Class” or “Balavatika” before Class 1 require additional infrastructural facilities, building teacher capacities and hiring additional teachers in elementary schools. Similarly, extending health check-ups and growth monitoring and schemes such as PM Poshan and Swayam require budgetary support.

 

Education Technology 

Rohit Pandit, Managing Director, People’s University, Bhopal reasons that in an era of technological advancements shaping the educational environment, the government is expected to continue to focus on provisions that enhance access to modern teaching methods, the latest technologies, and innovative teaching by teachers and students. The rise of ed-tech programs has played a transformative role, breaking down barriers and making education not only accessible but also affordable, especially in underserved areas. Recognizing the critical role of ed-tech initiatives, stakeholders are advocating for the allocation and support of additional government resources. These projects are key to the development of the country’s curriculum and creating a dynamic and inclusive educational environment. “A holistic approach is urged to address issues of access, equity, and quality of education, with a particular emphasis on strengthening schools’ digital capabilities. At the same time, an environment that allows for asynchronous learning at home is essential to ensuring a comprehensive and flexible educational program that meets the evolving needs of the student. This strategic initiative is poised to lay the foundation for a transformative and resilient education sector in India,” he adds.

 More quotes:

As we look ahead to the 2024-25 budget, our hope is for a strategic allocation that not only sustains the positive momentum witnessed in the previous fiscal year but also paves the way for innovative approaches to learning. With a commitment to global education standards, we anticipate increased funding for technology integration, faculty development, and infrastructure enhancement. A well-supported education budget is not just an investment in classrooms; it’s an investment in the success and prosperity of our students and ultimately our country“. — P. K Samal, Managing Director – American EduGlobal School

We envision a strategic allocation that places a heightened emphasis on the foundational years of learning. Anticipating increased funding, we aspire to invest in cutting-edge measures such as advanced content development using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and chatbots. ” —Vaibhav Shastri, Director – K12 Online Schools

The education community anticipates a forward-thinking budget that solves current issues and establishes the framework for an education system that is prepared for the future. With everyone anticipating the financial provisions to be unveiled, there is hope that the government will reaffirm its commitment to promoting a knowledge-driven society by implementing ambitious and innovative education-related projects.”— Akash Sharma, Director of Admission and Outreach, Noida international University.

 

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