27 Jan 2020 19:00 IST

Budget must play big role in bridging education-employability gap

Cheaper education loans, focus on skill development are some points on education sector wishlist

To ensure that lifelong learning is possible, “the Budget should look at subsidising education loans and make education affordable for all. It would help if the Government takes the required steps to promote a holistic kind of education that ensures literacy, life-skills and employability.” These and other expectations form part of the wishlist from Budget 2020 of some education sector leaders that are featured below:

Beas Dev Ralhan, Co-Founder and CEO, Next Education India Pvt Ltd

The Indian education system is evolving fast; in the past few years, we have witnessed numerous changes. From the introduction of new education policy to the reform of the NEET exam to placing emphasis on digitised classrooms, ICT-enabled learning and quality teacher training programmes – different steps are being taken towards the development of the K-12 sector. Furthermore, the interim Budget 2019 announced an increase of 10 per cent in the education budget — a total of ₹93,847.64 crore — for nationwide academic development. This year, it is expected that more financial support will be promised for education.

Wider introduction of technology in classrooms and knitting artificial intelligence with mainstream education is the way forward. India needs to integrate itself with the global edtech scene, as this can revolutionise STEM and play a significant role in transforming education. Putting emphasis on early childhood education and ensuring that no child is left behind in access to schooling are important factors. The new education policy prioritises extensive teacher training, and streamlining this process in the coming years will be an important aspect of developing India’s academic culture.

Amol Arora, Vice Chairman &MD, Shemford Group of Futuristic Schools

One of the major issues plaguing our education system today is that schools are not aligned to future job requirements. The current education system is not optimally designed for the information age of today. The challenge now is not just producing students who will get jobs but students who can thrive in the volatile environment of tomorrow. If we are to bridge the education-employability gap and develop a world-class, skilled workforce, ed-tech companies have a big role to play and must be at the forefront of this effort. It is hoped the Centre gives due importance to the education sector in the upcoming Budget.

The Union Budget of 2019 allocated ₹94,853.64 crore for the education sector, up nearly ₹10,000 crore from the previous year. The school sector got ₹56, 536.63 crore, while ₹38,317.01 crore was allocated to higher education. Despite this, higher education is still largely outdated. The vast resources of the government and execution capability of the private sector should be combined to achieve a more practical outcome, where courses and syllabi are geared to the needs of industry and agriculture, without ignoring the start-up ecosystem .

In the last Budget, the teacher training initiative by CBSE was allocated only ₹125 crore, against the earlier ₹871 crore. This needs to change, and a greater emphasis on equipping educators is expected. The upcoming Budget should take steps to ensure that no student should end educational pursuits owing to lack of funds. To make lifelong learning possible, the Budget should look at subsidising education loans and make education affordable for all. It would help if the Government takes the required steps to promote a holistic kind of education that ensures literacy, life-skills and employability.

Akhand Swaroop Pandit, CEO & Founder, Catalyst Group

With heavy digital penetration the government should emphasise modern and interactive techniques and focus on teacher/faculty training with the aim of developing and building capacity to address the learning needs of students. The government should also focus on improving facilities in institutions by setting up smart classrooms, modern laboratories, research facilities and libraries, along with introducing mandatory student counselling with trained counsellors. With the upcoming Budget I expect the government to reduce taxes on online educational courses so that the ed-tech sector can reach a broader region. The budget should look at subsidising education loans. The maximum unsecured loan by banks for studying abroad is ₹7.5 lakh. This is too low, considering the cost of education. Also, online courses are not well recognised yet. With high unemployability, it is these online short-term courses that will fill in the skill gap. The government needs to encourage them.

Rohit Sethi, Director, ESS Global - Study Abroad Consultant

The fast-growing ed-tech sector is an exceptional alternative and complementary resource to our current education system. We expect the Government to create more investment opportunities, and also reduce the GST on the online courses to make such education more affordable and accessible in year 2020. We hope the government will announce more scholarship funding. The education sector needs government support programmes to penetrate deeper into the rural areas, as this will add more highly-skilled people in the economy every year. Education loans should be subsidised so that more students can gain from exposure to international education. Simultaneously, Study In India programmes need greater investment for infrastructure and private sector penetration to uplift current institutes so that India starts pushing more institutes into the top 200 QS world rankings in the coming years. Further, the start-up ecosystem needs a boost in 2020, and the Government should encourage a healthy R&D ecosystem in universities across the country, as also focus on creating and making entrepreneurship culture a top priority.

Prof Himanshu Joshi, FORE School of Management

Skill development needs to be a top priority of the budget, and short-term training needs to be started from the school stage, so that students will be able to identify their interest areas and pursue them further.This will eventually help create employment on a large scale. Another focus should be employment generation at the rural/ semi-urban levels. Say, 25 per cent of the procurement of large industries or online platforms must come from the rural areas. This will reduce the movement to metros and help create a balance in the jobs ecosystem.

Internet penetration in rural/ semi-urban areas needs to be improved, as this will help get the best trainers/ faculty on board from across the world through virtual mediums. The Budget needs to also provide for the education of stakeholders on such issues as conservation of water, education for girls, need for skill development, and so on.

Provision must be made for happiness programmes in schools as, due to various reasons, stress levels are increasing among employees as well as college students. Such programmes will definitely help improve the work-life balance of those in tomorrow’s workforce.