The Union Budget gains applause for digitalization of education and making it accessible at the grassroots level. Still, many believe more could have been done to elevate the quality of education as well.
The leading names among the country’s higher education fraternity welcomed the Union Budget 2022, announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1. The sector appreciated the budget being in line with promoting human capital through digital tools such as the ‘one class one TV channel’ programme proposed under the PM e-Vidya scheme.
It laid out a progressive vision the Government holds for capitalizing on India’s demographic advantages by suggesting a digital university, creating a conducive environment for inter-university collaborations, and introducing a number of skill development programmes. The Union budget 2022-2023 has allocated Rs 63,449.37 crore to the Department of School Education and Literacy, an increase of about 6.6 per cent (Rs 9,000 crore) over the current financial years. It sets a straight road for the Government to achieve its long-term mission of increasing the employability of the country’s youth by promoting upskilling, reskilling and several learning measures equipping them with new-age skills.
Dilip Puri, Founder & CEO, Indian School of Hospitality, appreciated the move stating, “We welcome the new initiatives introduced by the Government in the Union Budget 2022 to revive and boost our economy. The Government has identified areas that need financial assistance and support, and a clear focus is laid on the education sector. The setting up of digital universities is a progressive move by the Government by reaching out to every student in the remote corners of our country, they will give them access to education by collaborating with world-class institutes and educators. We hope the execution comes through swiftly and accelerates the growth of edtech. We are also delighted that the Government showed specific interest to promote and facilitating upskilling and reskilling programmes. We hope through continuous skilling avenues we are able to direct our efforts towards skilling aspirants and increase employability in the hospitality sector.”
Shishir Jaipuria, Chairman FICCI Arise and Chairman Seth Anandram Jaipuria Group of Educational Institutions, also commended the government’s efforts in aligning the budget provisions with the progressive elements of National Education Policy 2020.
Shishir Jaipuria said, “The Union Budget 2022 takes forward the vision of universalizing quality education as enshrined in the National Education Policy 2020. The decision to expand the PM e-VIDYA scheme to 200 TV channels and to also develop high-quality e-content in all spoken languages will benefit the students of grades 1 to 12, who suffered learning loss due to the closure of schools during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The formation of Digital University, as announced in the budget, will be a laudable initiative. The Digital University will help to make world-class education accessible in different Indian languages to all students, even in far-flung areas. The simultaneous proposal to train teachers to build their competency and empower them to develop quality e-content will ensure better learning outcomes. I welcome the move to set up 750 e-labs in science and mathematics and 75 skilling e-labs that will nurture scientific temperament and critical thinking skills important for 21st-century learners.
“Going beyond the e-learning initiatives, the government has rightly decided to designate five academic institutions as ‘centres of excellence to deliver courses in urban planning and design. The move will take forward the vision of India-specific urban development. The budget 2022 is aimed at providing a major push to e-learning, reduce learning gaps and make education inclusive.”
Niranjan Hiranandani, Provost – HSNC University appreciated the government’s construct of a well-rounded budget, promoting equal accessibility of education and growth mindset among students, irrespective of their backgrounds.
Hiranandani said, “Industry lauds & welcomes the thrust to the digital ecosystem while focussing on building and upgrading the digital infrastructure for quality education. Setting up of digital universities will enhance the availability of education to the rural students following the hub and spoke model. With easy access to education in regional language, every student will get an opportunity to empower and equip themselves.
“Moreover, measures for quality e-content appear promising to educate teachers effectively for better e-teaching outcomes. Besides, there is a surge in the scope of personalized learning, especially in the digital ecosystem. The budget also puts required emphasis on skilling, which makes an individual employable and sustainable. The skilling courses will not just encourage learners to apply critical thinking and creativity but also make them industry-ready, which is evidence of shaping the youth of India for a better future.”
Understanding the need for skill-based education, Bikram Agarwal, CFO, Seth Anandram Jaipuria Group of Educational Institutions, praised the budget offerings.
Agarwal said, “The most important takeaway of the Union Budget 2022 is the slew of decisions that have been taken to empower the digital learning ecosystem in the country. The formation of Digital University and the initiative to create quality e-content in all Indian languages will make learning inclusive for all. Besides these moves to nurture academic rigour, the decision to launch the DESH-Stack e-portal will help to skill and upskill learners.
“At the same time, the Government aims to improve learning at Agriculture University by revising and revamping the syllabus to address the practical needs of modern agriculture. I also appreciate the decision to involve academia in defence research and development for better designing and development of military platforms and equipment. The scope of this budget is quite wide. It touches upon several aspects of the education sector and is to be lauded.”
While many applauded these moves, some believed that the government could have done more. The budget critics felt that this year saw lesser investments and initiatives relative to the last year’s budget for promoting quality education across all strata of society.
Reacting to the budget, Professor Tarun Jain, Associate Professor of Economics, IIM Ahmedabad, said, “The Finance Minister has mentioned supplementary teaching through additional TV channels (PM eVidya) to make up for the education loss of the last two years. This is minuscule given the tremendous learning loss that our children have experienced. Significant investments in improving school quality are critical for ensuring that our demographic dividends are actually realized. This has to run against the reality that barely 8 per cent of rural students and 23 per cent of urban students have access to the Internet.
Even when students have Internet access, the quality of online education remains poor. We have to benchmark the budget commitments against the aspirations of the Indian people. High-quality education is both a critical component of what young people hope for, and also have some of the highest returns on investment in the economy. Thus, the Government should consider boosting investments in public education considerably.”
Overall the Union Government received a favourable response for its budgetary recommendations to promote skill-based learning powered by digitalization. From short-term skilling programmes to upskilling, reskilling, apprenticeships and lifelong learning, a wide range of training opportunities have been put across by setting up thousands of skill centres and special training centres. The budget ensured that the Government’s focus on skill training would continue to make youth employable, further contributing to the country’s growth and economic health.