In the run up to the 2016 budget, some of the top priorities among educators in Pune are, increased budgetary allocation for the education sector, funding for a nationwide digital education literacy programme, skill development initiatives, reduction of taxes and setting up incubation centres for entrepreneurship.
Most academicians who have pinned their hopes on the Skill India, Make in India and Digital India announcements, say the only way to realise these dreams is to increase investment in education sector and take up initiatives including building infrastructure, providing faculty improvements and offering incentives to institutions.
Start-ups and skill development
Vidya Yeravdekar, principal director at Symbiosis Society, opined that since higher education looks after manpower needs of almost all sectors of economy, special focus and planning is needed here. “I hope that in this Budget, the government has a specific fund for Start Up India linking it with universities. We want students to come up with ideas but government should be able to support the ideas with funds. Research and development needs special focus with equal emphasis on basic and applied research and no bias on funding between private and state universities.”
Strengthening state varsities, student scholarships
Despite maximum burden of education being shared by state universities and affiliated colleges, academicians complained that Union Budget is partial to central universities. “Funds should be given for infrastructural upgradation, experiential learning like state-of-the-art laboratories, research as well as funding for faculty improvement and curriculum modernisation in state universities,” Nandkumar Nikam, president of Principals Forum said, adding that these steps can address the chief complaint about employability skills of students. He added that budgetary provisions like easy availability of loans at low-interest to students besides scholarships will go a long way in helping poor, deserving students to take up further education and research.
Professor Ram Takawale, former vice-chancellor of Pune University and former NAAC chairman, said the education models created in 20th century do not answer questions of India in 2020 or 2025. “We need to move to a digital education platform where learning is seamless. People learn from across the world and country but create locally. Students should be taught to use digital technology not just for education but creating something new and for this process, the Budget should have specific allocation allowing universities to induct Digital India and Make in India processes,” he said.
Dr Arun Nigavekar, former UGC chairperson and founder director of NAAC, hoped the Union Budget made specific allocation for a programme creating linkages between best academic institutions in the country and all the other schools and colleges in India. “However this budgetary provision could cost thousands of crores and can be done through central-state sharing,” he said.
Academicians also demand that since education is considered a not-for-profit initiative, it should be get tax benefits too. “Taxes like property, electricity, water which are taken at commercial rates should be subsidised and also the interest rate for provident fund for teachers should be increased from 8.75 percent to incentivise teaching profession,” said Rajendra Singh, member of Independent English Schools Association.
Vivek Sawant, MD and CEO of Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Limited, said service tax on all skill development courses provided by private sector and not supported by government grant/schemes should be completely removed.