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A Pragmatic Budget, For The Most Part

Budget 2022 pushes the envelope on the much-needed digital learning, but not seeing a GST or tax relief for the sector was a big expectation that went unmet.

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The Union Budget 2022 was expected to be a pragmatic one, specifically for the education sector and it has been delivered for the most part in my opinion. First and foremost, the government allotting nearly 12 per cent growth for expenditure by the education sector, with Rs. 11,053.41 crore more than the budget estimate for 2021-22  fiscal is indeed a commendable move. 

The announced initiatives push the envelope on digital learning in a big way, which is the need of the hour for the education industry. This step will help education to reach the remote and rural areas of our country in the ongoing remote learning scenario, and even otherwise consider the future landscape of education. Through the pandemic, e-learning content platforms are in high demand for access across portals from all the stakeholders of the industry. 

Digital University for All

In the future, the plan to build a digital university and provide world-class quality education will make sure to prepare India’s younger generation for a global standard showcase. This university is also bound to attract international students, increasing the global footfall, which will be beneficial in many ways to the economy and global exposure to our students. While focusing on world-class education, it is great to note that education will be provided in regional languages. The push towards digital is an important step taken towards the development of the sector. Hence, it is a welcome move, enabling access to quality education across the board.

Upgrading Anganwadis was a needful measure to be taken for the Early Childhood Care and Education Industry (ECCE). Due to the pandemic, children under six years of age have been losing out on education. This age of 0-6 years is a crucial time for toddlers to learn about real-life scenarios and shape their cognitive, emotional, physical and interpersonal skills, for a lifetime. These years cannot be replaced, making it crucial to utilise the early years rightly to build smart children. 

With the right skills that will be developed in the toddlers, it will shape India’s economic future and create a strong skill strength for our country. Therefore, the initiative to provide the ECCE sector with better infrastructure and audiovisual aids in about two lakh Anganwadis under the PM e-vidya scheme is a step in the right direction.

Physical Schools Amiss

The overall initiatives in the budget are steps that aim for long-term sustainable employability based on today’s dynamic industry needs. However, as the budget seems to lean heavily towards e-learning and remote learning it fails to address the needs associated with the reopening of physical schools. Looking at hybrid models of learning is a must that needs to be developed and supported by the government as the overall learning becomes restricted in a digital learning model. The efficacy of learning in a purely digital arena still needs more research.

The budget also fails to mention the allotment of investments for the improvement of health and safety norms of the schools, which is crucial to start physical schools and for the overall safety of our country’s children, while the industry stakeholders are hoping that schools shall reopen this year. Lastly, not seeing a GST and tax relief for the sector was a big expectation that has not been addressed. 

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.

AK Srikanth

The author is CEO of KLAY - India’s network of non-franchised preschools and daycare centres

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