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BW Businessworld

'Job Creation Needs To Be Revived'

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The government needs to encourage education rather than run educational institutions directly.  It should stop building new schools or colleges, and instead invest that money in Public Private Partnership ventures and bring in credible private sector partners. We would expect the new government to make our educational institutions globally competitive and attract non-Indian students, says Shantanu Prakash, Chairman and Managing Director of Educomp Solutions Limited.

What are your expectations and recommendations from the forthcoming budget?
We would like the new budget to include a well laid out policy framework that addresses the issues of employment and skill based education. Given the large number of youth in the country, job creation needs to be revived on an urgent basis and the education should firmly focus on skill development so that successful candidates can start to work immediately and do not need to be trained again. We would urge the new government to allow foreign institutions to set up base in India and permit joint ventures and collaborations that will boost the education sector in the country. The new government should create viable public-private-partnership (PPP) initiatives in education sector which will not only reduce the burden of the government, which incurs high cost of providing basic infrastructure facilities but also lead to construction of state-of-the-art schools and providing high quality education to underprivileged children.

The new government is planning to increase spending on education to 6 per cent of GDP. Will it help enhance technological interventions in education?
The way to look at this is that 6 percent is already a 50 percent jump over existing spending of 4 percent of GDP on education. It is therefore a very positive move and we are confident that the current government, with its emphasis on harnessing technology in all critical areas that impact the country, will certainly give a lot of emphasis to technological intervention in education to solve the critical problems of access and quality in education.
Is there a need to enhance private investment in education?
Private investment in education is imperative to expand infrastructure and provide greater access to quality education. Therefore, there is an urgent need to enhance private investment. Various estimates suggest that in case private capital is freely allowed to participate in education, it can unleash an investment of over Rs 10,000 crores over the next 12 months. However, in order to invite more participation of private sector in education space, the government should intervene and make special efforts such as provide incentives like tax breaks for the corporate/ private sector to develop and support educational institutions and simplify the regulatory framework by rationalizing the number of regulators while providing more operational autonomy to private institutions.

What is your take on the needs and challenges confronting the education sector?

Despite the tremendous growth of education sector in India, the access to quality education remains largely confined to urban and semi-urban India while large swathes of rural India are still deprived of even primary education. Schools in rural areas continue to suffer from paucity of committed teachers and lack of proper infrastructure. Therefore, there is an urgent need to create proper infrastructure and provide basic facilities such as textbooks, notebooks, stationery, library books, uniforms etc. and provide both hardware and software support to ensure that students are well versed with computers. Further, in order to enhance the skills and talent of our students, there is a need to set up a regulatory body, which will frame guidelines and supervise teaching methodology to raise the quality of education. There is also a need to build-up regulatory consistency and business friendly legislation to allow profit and non-profit companies to set-up educational institutions that will attract capital not only from India but from abroad as well.

How can the new forthcoming budget be useful for technology solution providers?
We are hoping that now there will be greater emphasis on innovation and the forthcoming budget from the new government will have a more creative approach to solving the problems that ail the education sector. Technology holds the key and we are hopeful that the new government will create more meaning partnerships with us to jointly take the benefits of quality education to the underserved areas as well as create education delivery models that will put our youth on par and help them compete globally. Our hon’ble President has already mentioned in his address to the joint Parliament session that setting up virtual classrooms will be a priority for the new government and companies like us in the space (e-enabling classrooms) can expect good things from the forthcoming budget.