Budget 2020: Education gets front seat in Sitharaman's aspiring India

In the Union Budget 2020Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has suggested a new education policy, besides several measures that will bring in a paradigm shift in the educational systems and creation of employment in India and abroad. “By 2030, India is set to have the largest working-age population in the world. Not only do they need literacy but they need both job and life skills,” she said in the budget speech.

The budget earmarked Rs 99,300 crore for education sector in 2020-21 and about Rs 3,000 crore for skill development. In the previous Union Budget, the government’s allocation for the sector was Rs 94,800 crore.

“I feel the rise is just not enough to match the current need. Considering the option of External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for education sector was much-needed. The government should look beyond ECB & FDI but also attract more domestic investments and talents”, said Amol Arora, Vice Chairman and managing director, Shemford Group of Futuristic Schools.

The FM said about 150 higher educational institutions will start apprenticeship embedded degree/diploma courses by March 2021 and will start a programme whereby urban local bodies across the country would provide internship opportunities to fresh engineers for a period up to one year. To create infrastructure in education sector, steps would be taken to enable sourcing External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) and FDI so as to able to deliver higher quality education. Institutions that are ranked within top 100 in the National Institutional Ranking framework will start degree level full-fledged online education programme for students of deprived section of the society.

“The major step towards boosting online education is the introduction of degree-level full-fledged online education programme. It would be a game changer as education sector is under focus and the introduction of online courses and degrees will definitely proved to be a big step towards digitalisation of Indian education system”, said Akhand Swaroop Pandit, CEO and Founder of online learning platform Catalyst Group.

The budget also suggested under the ‘Study in India’ programme, Ind-SAT, to be held in Asian and African countries to benchmark foreign candidates who receive scholarships for studying in Indian higher education centres. A National Police University and a National Forensic Science University is another proposal in the budget.

The minister also suggested allowing a medical college to be attached to an existing district hospital in PPP mode. The states that fully allow the facilities of the hospital to the medical college and provide land at concession would receive Viability Gap Funding. This will allow large hospitals with sufficient capacity to offer resident doctors DNB/FNB courses under the National Board of Examinations.  The Finance Minister also proposed special bridge courses to be designed by the ministries of Health, Skill Development together with professional bodies for teachers, nurses, para-medical staff and care-givers in the healthcare sector.

It’s disappointing that the government hasn’t passed on any benefits for the ed-tech and skill-tech sectors by extending tax benefits and incentives for players, corporate or education institutions by giving tax exemption, felt Amol Arora.