By Sanjay Goel,
The final countdown for the most-awaited Union Budget for the upcoming financial year 2022-2023 has already begun and everyone right from India’s financial firms, taxpayers to the industry experts have got their own outlook from the upcoming budget, which is expected to be presented by the honorable Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1st. The fate of the education sector is completely dependent on the education expenditure allocation, schemes and policies as this sector has once again been affected by the skyrocketing cases of new COVID variant, Omicron. According to a report from UNICEF, more than 1 billion children are at the risk of falling behind due to pandemic.
The National Education Policy has already created a pathway for transforming the Education sector of the country. It can well be termed as a ‘transformative emplate’ drafted with clear intentions of bringing the necessary reforms in Education. Online learning has now emerged as a mainstream model due to the surge in the COVID cases, hence, it’s essential that the Union Budget should consider the challenges faced by the sector and the educational institutions since March 2020. With online learning getting the required push, we expect the government to take measures towards building better infrastructure and uninterrupted internet services to support online learning even in the remotest areas.
Below are some more expectations from the Union Budget 2022-2023 for education sector:
Implementation of NEP should be accelerated
The National education policy is one of the historic landmarks of our higher education system. It’s pertinent that NEP should be understood and implemented well so that while executing its benefits can be reaped by all stakeholders. All universities, colleges, and schools should be asked and even supported to set up special cells to champion implementation of NEP within each institute. Existing IQAC within hundreds of HEI can also be given this additional responsibility. Universities should also work with schools in their region to develop these plans and interventions. Central and State governments should also intervene and make schemes so that NEP should be implemented in a specific timeframe. Some states like Karnataka, UP, MP, Haryana, etc., have already announced their initial plans and even some immediate interventions. This forthcoming budget should allocate funds to institutes for these brainstorming, planning, and other activities.
Increase education expenditure
Education is a fundamental right and to fulfill this right, many countries are working towards providing universal access to quality education. In the challenging times of the coronavirus pandemic, which has already made education unavailable for the lower income group, the government should ensure that the marginalised section of the society are not left behind. Every year, there is public discussion about the poor ranking of Indian universities among various international university rankings. It is forgotten that the countries whose universities appear high in such lists spend far more per student’s education. For example, as per the IES, NCES data, the average annual expenditure per student by OECD countries in 2017 was US$ 10,300 and US$ 17,100 on primary/secondary and tertiary students respectively. In India, various committees and education policies have been recommending a near doubling of education spending to 6 percent of the GDP. According to the World bank data, several countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Iceland, Namibia, South Africa, Brazil, Bhutan, Kuwait, Israel, etc., spend more than 6 percent of their GDP on education. NEP has also directed that over a period of 10 years, all Central and State governments should spend 20% of all public expenditure on education.
This budget should make a provision to give for free internet access to students and teachers and freely give internet access devices to students of poor families. All education institutes, including private institutes, should be given free or highly subsidized high speed internet connections. Universities should be asked to scale up their efforts to contribute online content repositories in the public domain. It should be made compulsory for all Institutes of Eminence, NAAC A++ and A+ graded HEIs, as well as NIRF top 50 universities to create a minimum of 50 online courses each within two years. The complete study materials of these courses including the video recordings should be made freely accessible to the public at large. Companies should be encouraged to use a good amount of their CSR and other funds to adopt schools and colleges with poor infrastructure and also set up a large number of scholarships for the needy students.
(The author is Director (Institute of Engineering and Technology), JK Lakshmipat University, Jaipur. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)