Increase Education Budget 2022, Government Should Focus On Bridging Digital Divide: Experts
Last year, though the education sector was widely impacted due to the pandemic, but the government slashed the education budget by 6 per cent from what was announced in 2020
Education Budget 2022: The Covid-19 pandemic has put a huge setback in the education sector, with closure of schools impacted children enrolled in elementary and secondary schools. There is also a wide learning gap created due to online learning as fewer can afford continuing with the digital learning process through smartphones, tablets, electronic gadgets. The teachers and parents also suffered due to job losses and mental fatigue caused due to pandemic.
Last year, though the education sector was widely impacted due to the pandemic, but the government slashed the education budget by 6 per cent from what was announced in 2020. As per experts, the government should introduce some changes in the education budget this year focusing on a longer term impact in the education sector. Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman will unveil the Union Budget 2022 on February 1.
According to Prashant Jain, CEO, Oswaal Books, the education budget should be increased by 50 per cent. "Last two years already saw a cumulative 15 per cent decrease in the education budget. If we as a country boast about the human capital or demographic dividend we have. We need to realize our luck and immediately begin with investing in it. This decade is the best time to encash on the demographic dividend we have," CEO said.
The CEO also stressed on the learning gap due to the digital divide. "To set the foundation for the new-age education system of the 21st century. We need to introduce e-learning and blended learning in the schools and institutes of higher education through a public private partnership with EdTech. For that, Technological Subsidies for students and GST relaxation for Edtechs are required in this year's budget," the CEO said.
Ms. Monica Malhotra Kandhari, MD, MBD group requested government to announce subsidies on electronic gadgets for the benefits of students, teachers as well as schools. "With the education sector continuing to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, hybrid learning has become the new normal as a return to a classroom education in not yet feasible given the current situation. Also, in recent times, prices of devices like tablets, laptops have gone up, so we are requesting the government to announce subsidies on electronic gadgets," the MD, MBD group said.
Prateek Shukla, Co- founder and CEO Masai School suggested tighter control on ed-tech platforms and making the internet accessible to everyone. According to Mr Shukla, the government should come out with a policy to stop the predatory practices in the education tech space in India. "Indians spend unconditionally on healthcare and education. More and more customers are going in with big bucks to take certifications which have little or no value in the marketplace. We are seeing courses being turned into trends, with people buying courses out of FOMO. This needs to be flagged and addressed," CEO said.
As pandemic has tuned our day-to-day life to digital, the CEO demands for high speed and affordable internet connection. "Without a 2mbps connection with unlimited data, it is not possible to do online classes. Add to the fact that our teaching methods have not evolved to suit the digital medium. I don't think that writing on a black board on a small mobile screen is the best way for our young minds to learn. We need to enable them with the internet and develop resources for teachers to take classes on the phone efficiently," he said.
Narayan Mahadevan, Founder, BridgeLabz said that the government should encourage startups to not only focus on skill development but also to ensure the job is 100 per cent guaranteed. "We would also like the Government to firstly recognize Skill-to-Job as a separate Category and encourage Start-up with some Schemes or Tax Rebates. And also with some Scheme or Tax Rebates to encourage Companies to employ such Fresh Grads. Such Schemes are popularly used by the Singapore government to make their Fresh Grads employable. This will help India to have the largest Employable and Workable Pool in the World to realize Atmanirbhar Bharat," Founder, BridgeLabz said.
Nikhil Barshikar, Founder and MD of Imarticus Learning hope that the government will reduce the taxes on the industry by implementing an equitable model, giving more priority to the education sector, and making digital education accessible to students across the country. "There is a huge surge in the number of students opting for E-learning courses, especially in tier II cities, the challenge arises in creating a stable digital infrastructure for such cities. With emerging technologies and market trends, upskilling is the need of the hour, and we hope that the budget focuses on the upskilling sector as well," Mr Barshikar said.
Dr. Niranjan Hiranandani, Provost - HSNC University said that the government should consider boosting the education loan to check the drop-out in higher education due to lack of finance. "Though the number of providers of education loans has increased, but higher interest rates remain a bigger challenge. Not to mention, GST rates also create financial pressure on the middle and lower strata. Revision in GST rates for educational services will have a great impact on national literacy as it will help aspiring students to chase and accomplish their academic training," Mr Hiranandani, HSNC University said.