1. Budget 2017: Education sector in crying need for major increase in public expenditure

Budget 2017: Education sector in crying need for major increase in public expenditure

This year’s Union Budget is a much-awaited exercise, especially after last year’s landmark move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes.

Published: January 30, 2017 3:03 AM
Substantial increase in financial outlay for the education sector, post the currency demonetisation drive, as the surplus cash liquidity is expected to be channelised in key social sectors, including education. (Reuters) Substantial increase in financial outlay for the education sector, post the currency demonetisation drive, as the surplus cash liquidity is expected to be channelised in key social sectors, including education. (Reuters)

This year’s Union Budget is a much-awaited exercise, especially after last year’s landmark move to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. Among other sectors, it offers the finance minister the opportunity to usher changes in the education sector, which is a key component to achieve the government’s vision of Make in India, Digital India and Skill India, and propel the country towards a services-centric economy and high technology to boost manufacturing sector.

What we need is a job-ready workforce. Much of the success of our higher education institutions over the last two decades has been in producing qualified talent for the IT and applied IT space. But with these sectors facing headwinds, we need new talent for emerging areas like automation as well as artificial intelligence, and it is imperative that higher education institutions realign to address this new reality. This calls for a transformation at the higher education level, and the need is also felt at the K-12 level where the education system needs efforts to build a result-oriented mechanism. While we have seen an incremental increase in the Budget allocation for the sector over the past few years, what it requires is a steep increase in expenditure.

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Some of the key expectations from the upcoming Budget are:

Substantial increase in financial outlay for the education sector, post the currency demonetisation drive, as the surplus cash liquidity is expected to be channelised in key social sectors, including education.

Incentivising the sector for private & foreign investment. To improve India’s gross enrolment ratio (GER) across schools and colleges, increase student retention, we have to increase collaboration between private sector and the government. The government should create a conducive regulatory environment to attract investment from private and foreign players.

Rolling out the New Education Policy (NEP). It is one of the most anticipated developments in the education sector, considering the revolutionary reforms it is expected to bring in the areas of learning outcomes, curriculum renewal, faculty development, quality assurance at higher education level and internationalisation of education. While the planning and discussion phase has created enough excitement and involvement, the focus now has to be on implementation.

Revision of tax rates on educational institutions, which should be covered under least possible GST rates, preferably 0%, to lessen the financial burden on parents and students.

Newer order skills to form part of higher education. It can help infuse new talent and skills into the IT and applied IT sectors.

Increase focus on virtual or blended education. The government must set aside monies and engage the private sector vigorously to build virtual or blended institutions, to enhance access to quality education.

The author, Deepak Mehrotra is managing director, Pearson India

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