Education budget 2018: In the previous year’s budget, the only big announcement in the education sector was about forming the national testing agency. The critics were not impressed. Based on the data from Finance Ministry’s website, Rs 79686 crore was allocated for the education sector. However, with eight state elections in 2018 and the general election in 2019, this year’s Union Budget seems to be crucial. Here are some expectations of the experts in the education sector.
Use allocations effectively
The success of RTE can be clearly seen in the steadily rising enrollments in standard 8 – according to DISE enrollment in standard 8 doubled from 11 million in 2004-05 to 22 million in 2014-15. However, as Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) has shown over the years many children completing elementary education still do not have foundational reading and arithmetic skills.
Having ensured “schooling for all” it is time to move to “learning for all”. Data on learning outcomes is available from ASER and NAS and available at the district level – the level at which education plans are made.
This evidence needs to inform policy and feedback into classrooms and pedagogy. For example, funds can be allocated specifically to a learning enhancement fund that districts can apply for. We don’t necessarily need more allocations rather we need to use the allocations we have more effectively by prioritising learning.
– Wilima Wadhwa, Director of ASER Centre
Increase public spending in education
In the forthcoming budget there is an urgent need to increase public spending on education in real terms. The Human Development Index of UNDP and the report on inclusiveness and growth released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) have shown that India’s social sector indicators have not performed well and consequently India lags in the WEF inclusiveness index among even the South Asian countries.
As education is one of the easiest way to promote social mobility and empowerment, the government must use this annual budget to address these concerns. Increased public spending in education can bridge some inequality of opportunity that seems to be creating a divide among Indians. This budget should adopt policies towards further improvement in access to quality education.
On the other hand, there are emerging challenges in the job market coming from rapid changes in technology and automation. India’s higher education institutes need to gear themselves up towards addressing these new challenges. Changes in technology and business are creating demand for reskilling of the workforce. Some initiatives from the government in the forthcoming budget towards this goal will be welcome.
Professor Parthapratim Pal, Economics professor, IIM Calcutta.
Technology can play a big role
The education sector is lagging behind in India in terms of reforms and innovation. The government should encourage entrepreneurship in this sector by way of recognition of efforts and tax SOPs. Technology can play a big role in taking quality education to masses. There be no GST or income tax on education-technology companies which are delivering education through online mode.
Anil Nagar, CEO, Adda 247 (online competitive exam tutorial company)
Rationalise taxes to make books affordable
The focus on uplifting the youths of the nation has been an important hallmark of the present government. In addition to skill development, focusing on strengthening the education sector through provisions to establish centres of excellence and a focus on teacher training and research and development are important to focus areas to further strengthen the sector.
Introducing an updated and current edition of the National Education Policy would be a clear indication of the government’s commitment to the agenda of improving the education sector. The government must look at further improving access to education at all levels and rationalising taxes to make books, notebooks and educational material including those via e-learning education programs affordable for the masses.
Monica Malhotra Kandhari, MD, MBD group
Tax exemption on digital products and services
The Government may like to consider 100% tax exemption on digital education products and services – the dream of a ‘Digital India’ has resonated with all Indians and hence every effort ought to be made to enhance the early introduction of digital products and solutions in schools. As per the 2011 census, 24.6% of our population is in the age group of 5-14 years and therefore early seeding of digital products and devices is an investment for the future. Tax exemption on digital products and services will encourage schools and also parents to invest in learner-centric education technologies.”
Sivaramakrishnan V, Managing Director, Oxford University Press India
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