23 Jan 2020 17:02 IST

There is an urgent need for quality educational institutes

Higher fund allocation, including scholarships and research grants, could bolster enrolment ratios

The Budget 2020 is expected to bring succour to the education which, though a crucial sector, has atrophied into neglect, with successive governments not spending enough for its growth. The interim budget of 2019-20 allocated around ₹94,000 crore to the education sector; however, its share has fallen to 3.5 per cent of GDP compared to the 5-7 per cent of GDP that developed countries spend on education. A generous share of the budgetary kitty will definitely alleviate the current challenges. India has an unimpressive Gross Enrolment Ratios (GER) when it comes to higher education in the country.

Higher fund allocation, including scholarship programmes and research grants, could bolster enrolment ratios, thereby tackling the dual problem of lower motivation and high exports to foreign universities. The combination of high interest rates and a low moratorium period hangs like a sword of Damocles for students who have taken education loans. Charging savings interest rates on student loans, increasing the moratorium period by six-eight months after getting a job, in addition to making the moratorium interest-free, will go a long way in eliminating the anxiety associated with student debt.

Need for quality institutes

Additionally, a ranking system that could help bankers map the right interest rates to colleges not quite recognisable as the IITs and IIMs but equally reputable, could take the burden off the student and boost the reputation and legitimacy of such colleges.

Another factor is the growing need for quality institutes à la IIMs and IITs in the country. With lakhs of students vying for a handful of seats, an increase in the number of quality institutes to cater to the demand is needed. This would also prevent students from looking for alternatives abroad. Finally, the sine qua non; higher employment rates with more and better jobs.

The Centre itself could wade into the pool with various government agencies actively participating in campus recruitments across premier colleges and, obtaining the crème de la crème of the crop, preventing brain drain to private companies.

Enlightened citizenry

A growing economy with a healthy GDP would help drive up the employment rate, thereby guaranteeing a secure future for graduates. Reforms in education loans, higher financial incentives, better institutes and high employment rates would be the silver lining for this overlooked sector.

With the Budget to be presented on February 1, students across the country are hopeful to see a rise in the budgetary allocation for education, not just in absolute numbers but also an increase in the percentage of GDP allocated. That being said, allocation of money to the sector is just the first step.

A lot of structural reforms are necessary for education to be truly the moving force for the entire country to develop, not just economically but also ethically and morally. Quality education does not only mean good jobs, but it also means an enlightened citizenry with better morals, values and ethics. That is the India that we students aspire to be a part of, which we will work hard to build, and which we hope to leave for our future generations.

(The writers are students at the Indian School of Business.)

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