Budget 2020: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made several announcements for the education sector, including new colleges, encouraging FDI, online degree programme and dedicated funds allocated for skill development. Though academicians, students and other stakeholders welcomed the initiatives, most expressed concern over the implementation as a detailed road map is yet to be announced.
One of the major announcements in today’s budget was the launch of online degree programmes. This, however, is not really a new announcement. Both IITs and IIMs were already offering or were on the verge of launching online certificate courses. The Human Recourse Development (HRD) Ministry’s online learning portal SWAYAM had already announced to provide degrees online. But, the details in this regard are yet to be announced.
‘Old initiatives, new announcements’
Talking to indianexpress.com, Himanshu Rai, IIM Indore director said, “IIMs were already planning to launch online courses. This would help us connect with larger group of people as well as improve our balance sheets. The online classes functioning already are supplemented with classroom learning. However, for only online classes we need to create online study material of equivalent quality.”
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Several other announcements including launch of NEP ‘soon’ and assistance by top NIRF ranked colleges were made earlier. IIT-Delhi director, V Ramgoal Rao said, “Talks of having FDI in education system is a good initiative, but there is no detailed road map shared on the same. This might result in making India an attraction for foreign students. With FM talking about launch of NEP we wish that National Research Foundation (NRF) is also launched soon. How much funds will be given to each segment under NEP is also not mentioned and would be worth seeing.”
Shift focus from blue to white collar skill development
While the Rs 3,000 crore allocation of funds exclusively for skill development is appreciated across the sectors, it is the white-collared skilling that is the need of the hour. Rai said, “Most of the skilling initiatives by the government are focused on the blue collared jobs. Whether we like it or not, these jobs will be automated in coming 5-10 years. We need to identify relevant skills and then invest on them; instead of strengthening the current ITI system.”
Funds not for students or teachers but privitisation: DUTA
The Delhi Union Teacher Association (DUTA) called the government’s announcements for the education sector a step towards privatisation. “We are disappointed with the Union Government’s refusal to heed the deepening crisis in public-funded higher education institutes. It unwisely continues on the beaten path of privatisation by reducing grants, promoting more loan funding through greater allocations to HEFA, inviting FDI and encouraging more commercialisation through the provision of full online degree programmes in universities.”
“The aggregate increase in budgetary allocation for higher education from Rs 38,317 crores to Rs 39,466 crores presents a marginal increase of 2.79 per cent. Of this, the large part of the money is earmarked for expenditure that does not benefit students and teachers directly. Specifically, the share of grants allocation for central universities has been reduced from Rs 2,593 crores to Rs 2,298 crores. On the other hand, the allocation for HEFA (central loan-funding agency) has been increased by Rs 100 crores,” said Rajib Ray, president DUTA.