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What Do B-Schools Expect From Budget 2019: Demystifying Needs Of Higher Education In India

The education budget needs to endow with incentives, at least some tax and financing incentives, to companies and start ups engaged in developing education technology.

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The NDA Government in its first tenure under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi has heavily emphasized on social welfare schemes like Jandhan, Suraksha Bima, Ujala, Swachha Bharat, Mudra Yojana etc.  Even the pre-election interim budget portrayed farmers and the middle class as the biggest focus areas of the government. But the bigger mandate for the second tenure of the NDA Govt has raised the expectation bar for ever bigger youth population of the country. The new government is loaded with challenges on account of youth unemployment, anaemic economic growth, agrarian distress and bust financial system. 

Sustaining long-term economic growth and development requires a knowledge economy with thriving innovation ecosystem, large numbers of patents and intellectual properties. Given the pivotal role that education plays in building knowledge economy, education has been accorded a high priority in development policy in most countries. Despite the intention, the expansion of education in India has been slow as compared to many of its counterparts and that has been aptly acknowledged by the National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 which emphasises that higher education (HE) in India has not received due focus for years now.

With average age of Indian population below 30 years as the biggest boosting factor, the country has a tremendous potential to create and capture the job market. But that is possible if the youth can be equipped with market based skill set. In spite of various efforts the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in Higher Education is just 25 percent of the youth in the 18-23 age groups and the NEP aims to increase the ratio to reach 50% by 2035 for making India a true a true knowledge society and economy. Therefore, the upcoming budget needs to invest heavily on the countries demographic dividend to ensure that Indian youth gets the right kind of education to compete globally.

Against Rs 35000 crore in 2018-19, higher educational institutions have been allocated Rs 37,461 crore in the interim budget for the year 2019-20. A simple calculation considering 25% of population in the range of 18-29 shows that Govt planned to spend Rs 1095 per eligible youth for higher education while with the gross enrolment of 25% in higher education the budget spending per enrolled youth mounts to a meagre Rs 4380. Therefore, there is a felt need to augment the current levels of spending in higher education and increase the spending on Education from 3 percentage of GDP to a ballpark number as it is the lowest among all the BRICS countries. 

Especially the higher provisioning gains further importance at a time when these institutes have to widen their intakes for implementing the reservation for economically weaker section. While there was some boost in interim budget for IITs and NITs in terms of the establishment of School of Planning and Architecture, there has been a decline in the budget outlays for IITs, IIMs, IISER, UGC and AICTE.  The interim budget 2019, surprisingly reduced the budget outlay for the IIMs by 59.9 per cent from last fiscal’s allocation of Rs 1,036 crore to Rs 415.41 crore. The reduction of budget may extremely impact the recently created centrally funded technical institutes who are surviving with inadequate infrastructure and struggling for quantity and quality of teachers. The upcoming budget needs to bring back the outlay at least to last fiscal level and make a trade off between long run and short run to facilitate transfer of knowledge and best practices of the prominent institutions around the world and to deliver better learning outcomes in the short term.

Online education, through state of the art technologies, can play a major role in improving learning outcomes at a large scale; hence has become a prerequisite for providing easy access to quality education. The setting up of a National Artificial Intelligence Centre is a welcome move in this direction as India can no longer be behind the superpowers like US & China. Besides the national AI center, the budget should prioritize on establishing AI centers at each B-School to play a significant role in skill development through regular and continuing education.  Private providers of education have long been present in Indian education and some of them have a strong foothold in business and continuing education. The upcoming budget must explore the possibility of partnerships with eminent private B-Schools through funding provisions and other incentives.

Further, the education budget needs to endow with incentives, at least some tax and financing incentives, to companies and start ups engaged in developing education technology. The incentive should also be extended to starts generating medical technology to promote heath education. In short the budget should create ample opportunities for edutech and skilltech enterprises to penetrate into India's hinterlands leveraging digital proliferation.

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.

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Union budget 2019-20

Ashutosh Dash

The author is Associate Professor, Accounting & Finance Area, MDI Gurgaon

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