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Limited measures for education sector in Budget 2021

Effective implementation of the NEP is likely to play a critical role in helping India achieve its economic and development aspirations.

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Amid an unprecedented pandemic which has resulted in contraction of India’s GDP, it was expected that the Budget for 2021-22 will focus largely on strengthening healthcare services and revival of the economy. The budget presented by the Hon’ble Finance Minister reflected this in the 137%[1] increase (over 2020-21) in allocation for health and wellbeing and the allocations for infrastructure development for reviving the economy. 

The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) was announced in July last year, which seeks to bring in transformational changes in the Indian education system and align it to global practices. The current budget was expected to give a direction on its implementation given the significant investments required in expanding and modernizing infrastructure and facilities of education institutions and  teachers’ training. However, the allocation for education in 2021-22 in the budget is Rs. 93,224 which is 6% lower than that allocated in the budget of 2020-21 and continues to be around 3% of GDP. 

The announcement made in the budget from the perspective of the NEP was that all components of the policy will be implemented in 15000 schools across the country which will make them mentors for other schools in the region. It is expected that the selected schools will be a mix of urban, semi urban and rural schools so that the nuances of implementing new pedagogical methodologies across various geographies can be demonstrated.

Setting up of the Higher Education Commission of India through legislation is the other announcement made linked to the NEP. This body will be established as the umbrella body for accreditation, standard setting, regulation and funding of higher education institutions. This is expected to be the first step towards fulfilling the mandate of the National Higher Education Regulatory Authority, as one common regulatory regime for the entire Higher Education sector, as stated in the NEP. 

The other budget announcements in the education sector included:

  • Setting up of 100 sainik schools in partnership with NGOs or private schools or states
  • To improve learning outcomes amongst tribal children there is a target to establish 750 Eklavya model residential schools in tribal area. The increase in budget for setting up these schools will help in creating robust infrastructure facilities for the students.
  • Establishment of a new Central University at Leh in union territory of Ladakh
  • For cities having various research institutions, universities and colleges supported by the Government of India, it is proposed to create formal umbrella structures in each city so that these institutions can have better synergies, while also retaining their internal autonomy. The budget states that a glue grant will be set aside for taking up this initiative in 9 cities
  • Outlay of Rs 50,000 crores for National Research Foundation to be provided over 5 years announced to strengthen the overall research ecosystem of the country and for taking up initiatives which focus on identified national priority thrust areas

Given the current situation, the budget provisions for the education sector have been limited. Implementing the provisions of the NEP is needed for achieving the transformational change that the Indian education system requires for improving learning outcomes and improving employment prospects for India’s talent pool within the country as well as globally. Significant investments will be required in infrastructure, technology, curriculum design, teachers’ training and other related areas to successfully implement the policy measures.

To finance the implementation, the policy envisages that annual public investment in education sector needs to reach 6% of GDP, in line with other developed countries. However, with competing needs across sectors for budgetary allocation, such quantum of public investments in the education sector has neither been achieved in the current budget nor in the past. Effective implementation of the NEP is likely to play a critical role in helping India achieve its economic and development aspirations.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
Union Budget 2021-22 NEP 2020

Anindya Mallick

The author is Partner at Deloitte India

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