Higher education institutes welcome Budget’s focus on research, internship; K12 section felt leftout

A strong commitment to research and innovation and the allocation of Rs 50,000 crore over a period of five years through the National Research Fund is probably the most talked-about announcement in academic circles about this year’s Union Budget.

Hailing it as a gamechanger move, educationists hope that given Pune’s reputation for being a city of top-notch academics and research institutions, it would prove beneficial to boosting research.

“For the last few years now, there has been a strong focus on research and innovation. Pune is one of the six cities where a knowledge centre was created directly under the PMO where top universities, research institutions, and the industry is working together to promote research. Given the infrastructure, research culture, and institutions that we have, we hope to be one of beneficiaries of this renewed focus,” said Dr Nitin Karmalkar, vice-chancellor, SPPU.

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Dr Dishan Kamdar, vice-chancellor, Flame University termed the government’s decision to allocate Rs.50,000 crores over five years as a shot in the arm for the country’s research ecosystem. “Lack of adequate funding has been a constraint for several higher education institutions and this support will enable the institutions and the faculty to produce high quality, rigorous research output,” he said.

Stating that the entire budget has been aligned to the roll-out of the new National Education Policy, Dr Vidya Yeravdekar, pro-chancellor of Symbiosis International (Deemed) University said allocating Rs 50,000 crores towards NRF would give Indian universities the money to invest in doing research which was lacking so far.

Another high point of the budget was the higher education commission, an umbrella body for accreditation, regulation, funding and more. “The regulatory framework in Higher Education sector was stifling. We welcome the commission for which legislation will come out this year, as all regulatory bodies will be merged into this one council,” said Yeravdekar.

Educationists said the focus on skill development and practical learning, especially the amendment of the National Apprenticeship Programme is also welcome.

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“At the local level, we have started focussing on it already. Coming up with various skill-related courses, tying up with industry to offer internships. Allocating Rs 3000 crore for the apprentice training scheme is a considerable commitment, which will ensure that skilling of students get priority, enabling them to be future-ready. A partnership with the UAE to benchmark skill qualifications and certifications is a great move,” said Karmalkar.

As far as the school education sector goes, strengthening of 15000 schools to act as mentor to other schools, starting 100 Sainik schools, to an evolved pedagogical approach for students in K12 sector moving from rote to conceptual learning, were some of the highlights.

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“The government’s decision to strengthen school education across 15,000 schools despite the hurdles owing to the COVID-19 pandemic shows clear intent. However, the rollout and implementation across all states should be done within a couple of years to bring parity for students to access education across the country. The participation of the private sector and NGOs in managing and operating schools will be an enabler in providing a modern and high-quality framework for education and boost the sector to engage with many more projects under the public-private partnership model,” said Rustom Kerawalla, Chairman, Ampersand Group.

However, educationists in the K12 sector, opined much was left out. “As private players in the K12 education sector, we had one of the toughest years. We were relying heavily on the budget announcement in terms of rebates through tax concession or relaxation in terms of the GST. However, there was no such mention with regards to any of these. It has therefore put us in a difficult place, financially, forcing us to rely heavily on the fees paid by the parents. The government needs to take notice of private players too, and this budget has largely ignored us,” said Dr Aanieetaa Vaissnava, principal of Orchids The International School in Nigdi.

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