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Education Budget 2019 is a hope waiting to be materialized

Unemployment being one of the biggest challenges of the government, the new education policy is looked at with high hopes. While the budget is not disappointing, a lot more could have been done to improve Gross Enrollment Ratio in higher education.

New Delhi | Published: July 6, 2019 12:26:00 pm
education budget, union budget, budget 2019, nirmala sitharama, modi, narendra modi, modi 2.0, education news This year, the education sector got the highest allocation in recent years. (Express Photo)

— Written by  Kalpesh Banker

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the first budget of Modi 2.0 government. After a landslide victory of Narendra Modi-led BJP in parliamentary elections, new education policy and expectations from the budget have been prime discussion point among education circles.

The finance minister, with this union budget, reiterated the government’s focus on bringing in a New National Education Policy (NEP) to transform India’s higher education system, with the aim to be one of the best education systems, globally. The union budget announcements hint towards the purpose of the New Education Policy to bring in major changes in both school and higher education sector and focuses more on research and innovation.

The government has allocated Rs 94854 crore for the education sector in this budget, which is about 13.5 per cent higher than the revised allocation of Rs 83626 crore for the financial year 2018-19. This year’s budgetary allocation is about 18 per cent higher than 2017-18 budget.

Read | Budget 2019: Govt to unveil new education policy, proposes ‘Study in India’ programme

Unemployment being one of the biggest challenges of the government, the new education policy is looked at with very high hopes. And this budget is a definitive step to the new education policy.

The budget has paid equal attention to vocational skills and formal education sector. With the aim to have 75,000 skilled entrepreneurs in agro-rural industry sectors, the government’s ASPIRE scheme has been consolidated for setting up of Livelihood Business Incubators (LBIs) and Technology Business Incubators (TBIs). To focus on preparing Indian youth to take up jobs overseas, the government is going to focus on high demand new-age skills such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), big data, 3D printing, virtual reality (VR) and robotics.

Read| Why despite Rs 95,000-cr allocation, Sitharaman’s education budget has experts unhappy

The top Indian institutions have performed exceptionally well in the last few years and now three institutions are in the top 200 global institutions rankings. To expedite this improving performance of Indian Institutions in global ranking focus on research funding was expected.

An amount of Rs 400 crore has been provided under the head, “World Class Institutions”, for FY 2019-20, more than three times the revised estimates for the previous year.

Read | Budget 2019 needs to have a holistic view on where education in India needs to go

Further, the government has put great emphasis on research which is evident by the announcement that the (NEP) will have a National Research Foundation to specifically promote research. This will empower the university research ecosystem with government funding and reduce dependency on external funding sources. The funds available with all Ministries will be integrated with the NRF and it would be adequately supplemented with additional funds.

The goal to make India an educational hub with the ‘Study in India’ program is a welcome move, however, it will be interesting to see how HRD ministry creates this ambitious goal into concrete execution plan to make this a reality.

Some of the other education-related announcements and their implications are:

— Duty on printed books (including covers for printed books) and printed manuals has been increased from nil to 5 per cent. Further, 5 per cent custom duty is being imposed on imported books. On the other end, duty on supply of e-books has been reduced from 18 per cent to 5 per cent. This means the government has encouraged the digitisation of books. The printed books, espescially imported books will become expensive whereas ebooks will become cheaper.

— Services provided to the educational institution to conduct entrance examination has been exempted

— Services of transportation of students, faculty and staff provided to schools and renting of a motor vehicle for the supply of such services have been exempted. This means the burden of student transport cost should go down.

Broadly, this budget has not disappointed in any of the area. However, education being one of the crucial pillars for the prosperity of the nation, a lot more could have been done to improve the gross enrollment ratio in higher education.

The budget is not an extravaganza for the education sector, however, I would prefer to look at this budget as a new.

— The author is Managing Partner, EduShine Advisory – Higher Education focused Management Consulting Firm

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