Budget 2021: What To Expect For The Education System This Year

It is expected that Budget 2021 will give a thrust to the education sector with a lot of opportunities and endeavours.

Education for 270 million children in India has been disrupted by the world’s largest school closure in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an Oxfam study, teachers fear that a third of the children might not return even after schools reopen, most of whom are likely to belong to the most marginalised social groups. Thus, this Budget has a crucial role to play in supporting the recovery of school education and prevent large-scale dropout of children. 2020 also saw the perceptible metamorphosis of education as the education industry moved from offline training to digital learning from the confines of home. There is a lot to look forward for the budget 2021 in terms of the education sector. 

Here is what we think:

- A survey by Oxfam found that 40 percent schools are being used as quarantine centres. Further, only 54 percent schools have toilet, drinking water and hand-washing facilities. The government must ensure additional finances to support safe reopening of schools

- A report by the ILO and UNICEF estimates that a 1 percent increase in poverty leads to a 0.7 percent rise in child labour. The NSSO (2017-18) estimates put the figure of out-of-school-children (OoSC) at 32 million — a number likely to rise even further because of the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis. The Budget must allocate funds for a back-to-school campaign to minimise dropouts.

- Eleven years after The Right to Education Act came into effect, only 12.7 percent of all schools comply with infrastructural norms laid out under it. In Bihar and Jharkhand, compliance is less than 4 percent. This is a direct consequence of resource inadequacy. Now, more than ever, it is crucial to fulfil the vision of the RTE Act by ensuring adequate and equitable financing. According to an estimate, an additional 1.2 percent of GDP is needed every year for RTE financing. This must be provided for, with a focus on providing a fiscal stimulus to lagging states.

The upcoming Union Budget will be the first one after the introduction of National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), so there are expectations and hope that the government may make several significant announcements and take relevant measures in Budget 2021 for the transformation of the education sector in India.

“Budget 2021 should have decisions based on the assessments made in the last 10 months of shutdown. The reason is that online Education is here to stay, and blended Learning is going to be part of the curriculum. The major block to adapt to the new normal is the availability of funds. We expect that the government will try and strengthen the education sector by promoting foreign direct investments (FDI) and opening the ECB (external commercial borrowing). There should be Fund support provided to enhance the skill development capabilities at the mass level via quality infrastructure for ‘Faculty Training and Research’. This will effectively improve teaching methods. There should be non-monetary recognition as well as monetary incentives to help attract highly educated and experienced professionals from various industries,” said Abhishek Mohan Gupta, Pro-Chancellor, Jagran Lake city University (Bhopal).

According to NITI Aayog’s estimates in January 2020, education expenditure, which was 4.6% of GDP at that time, must increase to nearly 6% over the next 3 years. Further, while Union Budget 2019 allocated Rs 94,800 crores for education, the amount allocated in Budget 2020 was Rs 99,300 crore. It is expected that Budget 2021 will give a thrust to the education sector with a lot of opportunities and endeavours. Budget share on education has indeed increased over the years, but it still needs a lot of improvement to match the needs – ensuring inclusiveness, adding infrastructure and most importantly, improving the quality of education.

To sum it up, we are aware that the world is still struggling with the pandemic and the pedagogy of learning has changed. The current pandemic has changed the way education was perceived, catalysed the digital renovation of education and ed-tech start-ups have grown exponentially which means that the industry will continue to grow and disrupt the way students learn.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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