Education

Education Budget 2021: Stress on research and innovation, less focus on digital education; here’s how experts reacted

Education Budget 2021: In the Union Budget 2021 presented today by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, major announcements have been made in the education sector — from apprenticeship programme to skill graduates to a central university in Leh. The budget also highlighted the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), and stressed on strengthening higher education, innovations and research.

Though institutes heads have welcome the budget, many experts are unhappy for less focus on the digitisation of education. Here are the reactions:

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No tax relief for service providers

India’s future lies in its ability to train and up-skill its youth and in turn create a highly skilled employable workforce, which is ready for the future. However, the budget did not do much to support this vision nor did it present new reforms for the higher education sector.

For instance, for the adoption of the National Education Policy which was announced in July 2020, higher education institutions will have to invest in technology and training. But the budget missed out on introducing any measures to support the adoption of NEP. It also missed out on bringing in methods to fast-track digitisation of education that could have helped the country improve its GER and bring in many more aspirants into the fold of higher education.

One of the other aspects which required immediate attention, but was overlooked is providing tax relief for service providers in the sector which could have brought down the cost of education for the learners.

The only silver lining was the proposal to amend the Apprenticeship Act – a focus towards degree apprenticeship programs can help create a new form of education that solves the problem of employability, higher education financing and skill development. The budgetary allocation towards research shall be helpful in bringing a cultural shift in higher education – quality research projects driven by Indian institutions can prove extremely beneficial for the country in the long run.”

Shantanu Rooj, Founder & CEO, Schoolguru Eduserve 

Emphasis on research will rejuvenate existing infrastructure

The Union Budget 2021 has accorded the much-needed importance to research and innovation ecosystem of India with a budget outlay of Rs 50,000 crore to be spent over a period of five years. It is heartening to learn that the finance minister emphasised on ‘Innovation, Research & Development ’ as one of the six important pillars of the Budget. It will not only help rejuvenate the existing infrastructure but also ensure that the overall research ecosystem of the country is strengthened with focus on identified national-priority thrust areas.

NEP’s plans to set up Higher Education Commission of India, improve digital infrastructure, collaboration with foreign institutions along with the announcement for skill training partnerships with countries like Japan and the UAE are a sign of the government’s renewed focus on reinvigorating the country’s human capital.

The launch of the investment clearance cell and the proposal to incentivise the incorporation of One Person Companies (OPC) will also encourage individuals as well as startups with entrepreneurial potential.

Prof Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM-Kozhikode

Skill initiatives will boost employability quotient

The budget will boost the government’s drive to promote higher education. The allocation of Rs 50,000 crore in the research and development sector in the next five years is an indication of India heading in its endeavour towards becoming a global tech infused innovation hub — an important step towards “Atmanirbhar Bharat”. The allocation of Rs 8,000 crore for National Mission on Quantum Computing and Technology will help in establishing our strength in this upcoming technology of the future.

The skilling initiative announced in the budget will explore the untapped potential amongst the Indian youth, boosting their employability quotient, he said.

Abhay Karandikar, Director, IIT-Kanpur, 

Increased expenses of electronic product is a problem

This is a realistic budget and the allocations for health, education, and skill development are really good initiatives. We were expecting digitalisation in education but increasing expenses of mobile and electronic products will lead to hurdles in education and this is a step backward in digital India. This budget will be a boost for healthcare and infrastructure and will strengthen NEP. The FM has allocated over Rs 3,000 crore funds with a forward-looking training plan towards the success of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Opening a college in Leh, collaboration with Japan for training and inter-training programmes to facilitate transfer of Japanese industrial and vocational skills, techniques and knowledge are positive signs. Though the government made a move by increasing the number of universities, amendments in the apprenticeship training scheme and training scheme, this may not be enough for the world’s largest young population with 600 million people under the age of 25 years.

P.C. Chhabra- Executive Director, Sanskriti University

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