Budget 2018 for Education: Union Budget 2018 presentation by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is just around the corner and people have started speculating about several expectations from the same. This year’s announcements will be politically significant as compared to the previous budgets as it is coming ahead of the eight state elections in 2018 and the general elections of 2019. Ahead of the release of country’s most important financial statement on February 1, here is a glimpse of what has happened in the education sector since the Budget 2017 announcement.
According to numbers available on the official website of the Ministry of Finance, Rs 79,686 crore was allocated to the education sector last year.
FM Jaitley while presenting the Union Budget last year talked about the formation of the National Testing Agency (NTA), with the aim to unburden the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). Towards the implementation of the same, Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development (HRD) Upendra Kushwaha in December 2017, while responding to a written question about the agency said, “The NTA will initially conduct those entrance exams which are held by the CBSE. The exams will be conducted online at least twice a year, thereby giving an adequate opportunity to the candidates to bring out their best.” This move by the government has hence been criticized by many but also hailed by experts.
It was also announced that the agency, after its formation might be conducting the JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) for IITs and the national medical entrance exam NEET (National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test) twice a year.
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While talking about the quality of higher education in the country, Jaitley had said last year, “Good quality institutions would be enabled to have greater administrative and academic autonomy. Colleges will be identified based on accreditation and ranking, and given autonomous status.”
Lok Sabha in July 2017 after much debate gave a green signal to the Indian Institute of Management Bill that was approved by the Union Cabinet earlier in the month of January. Towards the end of 2017, in December the bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha also. With this, the students of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) will now be award degrees instead of diplomas. After the passing of the bill, the premier management institutes of India would now become institutes of national importance with the power of granting degrees to its students instead of diplomas.
Jaitley had announced a 10% increase in the overall Budget for education from Rs 72,394 crore in 2016 to Rs 79,686 crore with a bigger thrust on higher education. Of the Rs 7,292 crore hike, a large chunk of Rs 3,000 crore was for the IITs. PM Narendra Modi in October 2017, while talking about how no Indian university was there among the top 500 global varsities had said that the government would provide Rs 10,000 crore to 20 varsities in the country in order to ensure that they are counted among the best. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, on January 25, 2018 approved one-time additional funding (capital) of Rs. 456.10 Crore to four IITs : Indian Institute of Technology Madras, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi. The funding is for lab infrastructure, equipment, etc.
PM Jaitley during the last Budget session had also announced that two new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) would come up in the states of Jharkhand and Gujarat. Currently there are 8 AIIMS in the country located in New Delhi, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur, Rishikesh and Kanpur. This move was announced to increase medical seats in India by 5000.
In addition to this, the Finance Minister also said that the government proposed to leverage information technology and launch ‘SWAYAM’ platform with at least 350 online courses. Swayam is a government of India initiative to provide “best teaching learning resources to all” online. This initiative aims to “bridge the digital divide for students who have hitherto remained untouched by the digital revolution and have not been able to join the mainstream of the knowledge economy.”