The Union Budget, presented by finance minister Arun Jaitley on Monday, has concentrated on key areas of growth while creating employment within an overall context of fiscal discipline. Education has been listed among the ‘9 pillars’ of this year’s budget.
The priorities of higher education and skill development are both welcome in developing the human capital necessary in fuelling growth. In this year’s budget, the FM announced an allocation of Rs 72,394 crore compared to Rs 68,963 crore for last year, which is a 4.9 per cent increase in the education budget. In this budget, Rs 43,554 crore (approximately 3 per cent increase) is allocated for school education and Rs 28,840 crore (approximately 7.3 per cent increase) is allocated for higher education.
Skills development and entrepreneurship
The budget focuses on skills development and entrepreneurship with allocation of Rs 1,700 crore for the setting up of 1500 multi-skill development institutes across the country to consolidate skill initiatives spread across several ministries, target of skilling 1 crore youth in the next 3 years under the PM Kaushal Vikas Yojna and allocation of Rs 500 crore for promoting entrepreneurship among SC/ST. A national SC/ST hub is to be set up in MSME Ministry, providing professional help.
Entrepreneurship training is to be provided across schools, colleges and massive online courses and incentives will be put in place to encourage employers to employ skilled and unskilled labour.
Literacy for rural India
The Digital Literacy Mission for rural India was announced and it targets to cover 6 crore new households within the next 3 years. If this scheme is implemented successfully, it can play an important role in increasing literacy in rural areas. The government’s effective use of technology for imparting education in remote areas can be a game changer for a large country like India.
Focus on quality education
The proposed opening 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas to provide quality education will help in increasing enrolments in Navodaya Vidyalayas. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan will increase focus on quality of education. The budget envisions a Senior Secondary School within a 5 km reach of every child, while improving quality of education and learning outcomes. A student Financial Aid Authority has been proposed to administer, monitor and front-end all scholarship, as well as Educational Loan Schemes, through the Pradhan Mantri Vidya Lakshmi Karyakram.
In his budget speech, the finance minister said the government will strive to make 10 private and 10 public institutions become world class. The proposed establishment of the Digital Repository of Academic Records is a timely move towards curbing forgeries in the educational credentials of job seekers. This will be a one-stop place for all education related e-certificates.
Creation of a Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) has been announced with an initial fund of Rs 1,000 crore. The goal of this agency is to bring the quality of education and research at par with the international arena. HEFA will be a not-for-profit organisation that will leverage funds from the market and supplement them with donations and CSR funds. These funds will be used to finance improvement in infrastructure in top institutions and will be serviced through internal accruals.