“The world is predicting that it is India’s chance to fly.” In his Budget speech the finance minister has indicated that the current account deficit for the year is expected to be below 1.3% of the GDP, and real GDP growth is expected to accelerate to 7.4%, making India the fastest growing large economy in the world. The forex reserves stand at a high of $340 billion and the rupee has gained 6.4% against a broad basket of currencies.
Given the strong economic fundamentals, the government has continued to lay emphasis on promoting education and skilling the youth to enhance job opportunities, including through the Make-in-India initiative and catering to the needs of our growing economy. With 54% of India’s population below 25 years of age, the youth needs to be educated and employable and, thus, the Skill India programme assumes paramount importance.
So as to ensure that education facilitates improvement in quality and learning, it has been proposed that every child should have access to a senior secondary school within a radius of 5 km. In this regard, the government has recognised the need to upgrade 80,000-plus secondary schools and add or upgrade 75,000 junior or middle schools to the senior secondary level by 2022.
Further, to set up one major central institute in every state, the government is proposing to establish five new AIIMS institutes in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Assam, respectively, and one AIIMS-like institute in Bihar. And there will be one new IIT in Karnataka. It was also announced that the Indian School of Mines in Dhanbad would be upgraded to a full-fledged IIT. Then there will be one PG Institute of Horticulture Research & Education in Amritsar; two IIMs in Jammu and Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh; three new National Institutes of Pharmaceutical Education and Research in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh; and two Institutes of Science and Education Research in Nagaland and Odisha.
With a view to promote innovation, R&D and scientific research, the government is planning an innovation promoting platform called the Atal Innovation Mission, whereby academicians, entrepreneurs and researchers can come together and exchange their experiences in these fields. A sum of R150 crore has been earmarked for this.
A student financial aid authority is proposed for helping poor and middle class students pursue higher education. This authority shall administer and monitor the scholarship as well educational loan schemes through the Pradhan Mantri Vidya Lakshmi Karyakram.
A new ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship has already been set up. It is proposing to launch a National Skills Mission to consolidate skills initiatives spread over 40 ministries/departments and to standardise procedures and outcomes across 31 Sector Skill Councils.
An integrated education and livelihood scheme called the Nai Manzil will be launched this year to enable minority youth who do not have a formal school-leaving certificate to obtain one and find better employment.
While a lot of initiatives have been announced, what now remains to be seem is their effective implementation.
By Dhiraj Mathur
The author is partner and leader, Education, PwC India. Views are personal