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Budget 2021: Hype And Hope For Education

Budget earmarks the need for holistic progress cards for students that will provide them invaluable information to help students choose careers based on their personal strengths, interests and potentialities.

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The Union Budget 2021-2022 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, 2021, reclines on 6 pillars: Health and Wellbeing; Physical & Financial Capital, and Infrastructure; Inclusive Development for Aspirational India; Reinvigorating Human Capital; Innovation and R&D; and Minimum Government and Maximum Governance. Human Capital is one of the major pillars of this year’s budget.

On the school education and literacy front, the Budget proposes to strengthen more than 15 thousand schools throughout the country for implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) and also expected from these schools to mentor other schools in the region. It also proposes to start 100 new Sainik Schools in the partnership with NGOs/ private schools and states.

To make accessible higher education, Central University in Leh (Ladakh) is proposed in the budget. Legislation for setting-up of Higher Education Commission was proposed in the Budget, which was earlier announced in the previous year’s budget. A Glue Grant will be set aside for the purpose of creating formal umbrella structures for better synergy of research institutions/universities/colleges in 9 cities. Apart from these proposed measures, other initiatives on education as part of National Education Policy (NEP) are laid down in Annexure V. Finally, for higher education, the Budget 2021-22 proposes to set-up the regulatory mechanism to allow dual degrees, joint degrees, twinning arrangements and other such mechanisms for enhanced academic collaboration with foreign higher educational institutions.

The budget proposes for the development of standards for all the school teachers in the form of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST). This is expected to enhance the capabilities of teachers. The initiative will be followed by all 92 lakh teachers of public/private schools in the country. Budgetary provision envisions developing a unique indigenous toy-based learning pedagogy for all the levels of school education to transform classroom transactions from monotonous and rote learning to an involving and blissful experience. Setting-up of a National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR) is proposed within the context of a Digital First Mindset for the purpose to support teaching and learning activities and educational planning, governance and administrative activities of the Centre and the States/Union Territories. Indian Sign language is proposed to be standardized across the nation for catering the needs and requirements of children with hearing impairments and accordingly, the National and State curriculum materials will be developed.

The budget also earmarks the need for holistic progress cards for students that will provide them invaluable information to help students choose careers based on their personal strengths, interests and potentialities. Further, Online modules covering the entire range of adult education will be introduced for increased access of resources. The budget recommends CBSE Board Exam reforms in a phased manner to be effective from the 2022-23 academic session. These reforms include a transition from rote-learning to conceptual clarity, analytical skills and application of practical knowledge.

The budgetary allocation of 50000 crores in R&D for the next 5 years will refurbish the higher education ecosystem in the country. Moreover, the budget accentuates research and innovation but straggle on the digital education front, given the surmounting challenges posed due to pandemic and lockdown, that severely disrupted teaching and learning and also for implementing NEP. Comparing the allocation on education, in 2020-21, the total outlay was 99312 crores out of which 59845 crores were allocated for school education and literacy and rest 39467 crore were allocated for the higher education sector. However, in the Budget 2021-22, total outlay on education is 93224 crore; for school education, it is 54874 crore and for higher education, total outlay is 38350 crore. The figures are screaming out the sharp slash in the allocation on education in this budget of around 6088 crore (6.13 per cent) compared to the previous year’s budget.

The corona pandemic has not only muddled normal teaching & learning but also widened the digital divide in education. This required higher allocation of funds for the education sector on multiple fronts including but not limited to creating and fostering digital infrastructure for seamless online education, training to teachers for adopting and learning new methods of transacting education through digital mode, training for students and providing smartphones/laptops etc., and providing mobile learning facilities at the doorstep. Initiative also needed for the development and promotion of artificial intelligence (AI) and application for the education sector. The budget 2021-22, overlooks the inimical effects of the pandemic on education and also hovering around in terms of measures to recoup teaching and learning on track. The immediate opportunities have been missed; however, we can expect more proactive initiatives for the education sector in future.

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.

Dr Kumar Gaurav

The author is PhD from Indian Institute of Technology Patna (IITP) and currently works as Assistant Professor and Head - Deptt of Economics, SN Sinha College, Magadh University

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