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Union Budget 2022-23 | ‘Increase Education Spending By Over 10%’

The government should consider reducing the GST slab for education from the current 18 per cent, to perhaps 5 per cent or less. A lower GST slab would make the sector more attractive to potential investors

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As we enter into the third wave of the pandemic, it is quite evident that the Early Childhood and Care (ECCE) sector needs higher levels of support from the government in this year’s Budget 2022-2023.

Perhaps, no other industry has been as impacted by the pandemic as Early-Years Education – a sector that has seen its doors closed for the last two years across the country. The last year saw a reduction of education spending in the budget by over 5 per cent and higher spending had to be allocated to healthcare and emergency care. This year, an increase of 10 per cent or above in the education spending therefore becomes necessary.

The attempts to make up for school closures via online means have met with partial success, primarily because of the high costs associated with the IT infrastructure, and non-availability of the same in many parts of the country. In my opinion, a much larger allocation needs to be made towards IT and bandwidth infrastructure, which should then be provided subsidized for students and educational institutions to encompass a higher degree of usage and overcome the digital divide.

The third wave is proving to be less virulent (even though more infectious) than the previous waves – which gives us all hope that our young ones may soon be able to restart with physical schools, safely. The biggest factor to be considered here would be health and safety measures adopted by schools in order to make the premises as safe as possible for children. In an industry heavily impacted by lack of revenues, these safety measures may not be viable unless there is government support to ensure the same. It would be imperative that the government supports schools with infrastructure and safety models to ensure a safe opening.

I also hope the government would allocate a sizeable part of the budget for education to improve the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER). This ratio was hovering around the 27 per cent mark in 2018-19. The pandemic is likely to have hit this unfavourably. In order to aim for a 50 per cent mark by 2030, it is important that we accelerate and compensate for the lost years due to the pandemic.

And of course, an often repeated topic of discussion with respect to education budgets has been GST, and in a year of the pandemic, this becomes doubly relevant. The government should consider reducing the slab for education from the current 18 per cent, to perhaps 5 per cent or less. In times when many players in the education space, and especially the Early Childhood Education space have had to close down their businesses, it is important that the investments into education increase. Therefore, a lower GST slab would make the sector more attractive to potential investors.

The biggest loss as a consequence of the pandemic has been faced by children. With the decision to keep schools closed for two years the biggest loss has been faced by children across all age groups, specifically those below six years. In contrast, schools have remained open through the pandemic in most parts of the western world. To overcome this loss, it would be imperative to support schools with the right infrastructure to overcome this loss.

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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