Budget 2019 India: As far as education, skill development and related sectors are concerned, this Budget is high on ‘intent’ with some ‘innovative’ initiatives.
Union Budget 2019 India: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented a Union Budget that was more directional and was a reinforcement of the vision for the economy. She set an ambitions $5-trillion target for our economy in the next few years. The Budget is clear on ‘intent’—on how the government is continuing its belief in free market economy to propel growth.
This is reflected in the fact that the most crucial need—employment generation—is addressed more by strengthening basic factors that would bring in job creators rather than direct measures for job creation. While the latter would be good in the short term, the former is more sustainable. Hence, the ‘initiatives’ outlined in the Budget are more fundamental in nature.
As far as education, skill development and related sectors are concerned, this Budget is high on ‘intent’ with some ‘innovative’ initiatives. The New Education Policy (NEP) is at the centre of reforms, set to bring major changes in school and higher education. Research is being given a big thrust with the National Research Foundation. Also, Rs 400 crore has been allocated to world-class institutions, signalling the continued thrust on excellence in higher education. The finance minister also highlighted the ambitious Study in India programme, which has the potential to make India the hub of learning (again). The National Sports Education Board is a much-needed initiative to promote sports amongst children who want to pursue that as a career.
We do hope the much-awaited Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) takes shape this financial year.
I believe the initiative to create a ‘social stock exchange’ can be a game-changer in channelising private sector money for social initiatives including education. I had earlier talked about creating Education Bonds, and maybe with this exchange in place, it can become a reality. For many impact funds and retail investors, this could be a great platform for investment. We should link this to the CSR funds from corporates and create a vibrant exchange. A robust social stock exchange will attract funds from global impact investors and philanthropic foundations as well, giving much-needed capital for the sector.
The Budget should also have covered some more areas. Teacher/faculty development finds no impetus, which could be a big catalyst in implementing NEP and other reforms. Similarly, employment-oriented skill development (while it finds a mention, even suggesting future-oriented courses) was expected to get a big push. Now is the time to take Skill India to the next level, and every aspect of this crucial mission—mobilisation, curriculum, delivery and, most importantly, placement for short-term as well as traditional TVET (technical and vocational education and training) programmes—needs urgent attention.
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Industry needs to be brought in to take larger ownership and centre stage in Skill India mission. Innovative PPP models—including leveraging private sector assets in learning & development by large PSUs and other corporates—should be looked at innovatively to harness the abundant youth power of this country. I hope this time-critical mission will find attention outside the Budget soon.
(The author is national leader, Education & Skill Development, KPMG in India)