What The Education Sector Wants From The Union Budget Of 2018

The Union Budget 2018 is touted to be the make or break budget for the current government. All the promises made and efforts undertaken will need to see fruition before India goes to vote in 2019. Academics and experts tell BW Education about their expectations from Finance Minister's, Arun Jaitley’s last budget of the term.

From issues addressing skill gap to ensuring modern methods of academic delivery. From budget allocations to digitisation of institutions to access to easy loans to start new schools, the education sector is hopeful that Union Budget of 2018 will carve out a happy picture for the ever-growing Indian demographic  

Ratnesh Jha, Managing Director, Cambridge University Press, South Asia

There has been a lot of talk about economic reforms, what is important is to emphasize the role played by educational skills in guiding this growth. Given the significant demographic dividend that India enjoys, education needs a much bigger focus, both at policy level as well as in budget allocations, to enable the country to transform into a knowledge economy.

For India to be able to leverage its strengths and opportunities as a knowledge economy on a global scale, there is a need to align the education system in a way to create talent and skills required in the 21st century. The government needs to undertake significant reforms and investments to build education and skills, strengthen its innovation system, promote English as a life skill and further boost its information infrastructure. There is also a need to look at ways to increase private investment in education.

Prateek Bhargava, CEO, Mindler

The government has attempted to drive growth and investment in the education sector, however, investment in upgrading technology and teachers training has been lacking. Any budgetary allocation that drives funds towards these two critical elements will offer much needed boost in quality outcomes as it will allow schools to leverage the power of digital solutions that bring high quality, personalisation and focus on evaluation of outcomes.

Allocation for funds to drive career counseling and guidance initiatives is also a critical need at the ground level. While national boards have made the need for career guidance services mandatory, most schools have not implemented the same primarily due to lack of digital infra or lack of certified experts.

In view of the criticality of the sector, a revision and rationalization of GST rates for ed-tech services would help significantly shift the unorganised sector to the organsied sector.

Amit Gainda, CEO, Avanse Financial Services

Education accelerates economic growth and so it should be accorded Infrastructure status by the Government.  At present, the benefit of deduction under 80E is provided for higher education in India and abroad. To encourage individuals to up-skill themselves, this benefit should be extended to all other educational programs supported (whether Government or Private) across all courses including vocational, executive programs, etc. This deduction should be expanded beyond 8 years from the year of loan repayment commencement to positively influence the loan repayment discipline. In order to make students responsible borrowers and reduce the NPAs on education loans, students who repay their loans on time should be given incentives with interest rate subsidy and other schemes. Further, to increase the women literacy ratio, incremental benefits should be provided for education of girl child.  

Shantanu Prakash, Founder, Educomp

It is important that we delve deeper into the issue of skill gap in our youth. An average Indian child of class 6 is better at math, is certainly better at science concepts than his counterpart in any other part of the world. But when it comes to areas like communication, writing a thoughtful essay or applying scientific knowledge or designing something that requires mastery of a concept, we fail, we are not able to apply or innovate.

In reality, this is not the crisis of jobs or skill gap, it is a crisis of education and if we have to fix the future, we have to fix the education paradigm. We can create a skill-based curriculum where skills in IT, accounting, carpentry, plumbing, designing etc. can all be imparted at the school level. Where students who don’t want to pursue advanced academic degrees can choose to be skilled to take up a job after they are 18 years old. Second necessity is the launch of a robust Public Private Partnership program. It is time to unshackle this magic wand. Thirdly, the need to set-up an education regulator to focus on qualitative improvement in education irrespective of whether it is a public or a private school. The regulator will ensure that schools need to have a certain quality of management, curriculum, and facilities. Schools should not be allowed to function unless they meet all the specified parameters. The regulator should to look at outcomes and quality rather than contentious issues like fees and leave the fees to be determined by the market and as an incentive to the management for continuously improving quality so that they can get the customer to pay them a higher premium.

Lina Asher, Chairperson, Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd

A key expectation from 2018 budget for the education sector will be to ensure collaboration between private and public sector by introducing streamlined and well thought out policies. Reforms in the education sector that encourage more and more private institutions to expand or modernize to give our students a more global perspective as part of their learning process.

Vinesh Menon, CEO, Education & Consulting, VIBGYOR group of schools

India is growing in population and the demographic dividend still favors our country. Nearly 74,000 children are born every day. If these children do not get access to education at the right age, there is a danger of economy starting to regress in India in the next 20 years. The government should recognize the depth of this issue and raise the Education outlay as a % to GDP to double digits instead of hovering around the sub 5% levels. This bold move MUST be taken in Year 2018. Launch of Public Private Parternship is a must to ensure that those 35 million kids of the 150 million who go to 1.5 million non-private schools do not drop out and receive quality of education with modern methods of academic delivery.

Secondly, GST in Education should be revisited at least for school services as schools do not enforce any taxes and end up with a tax burden on all the services purchased for purpose of education delivery. Similarly, services rendered by School management firms or by firms that enter into a PPP with the government for rendering school services should not come under the ambit of service tax.

Lastly, private schools need to be encouraged to cover as many cities and towns in India. They cannot do so until they have access to funds at affordable rates. The Banking & NBFC Channels shy away from lending to this sector for fear of regulatory complications. The Finance & MHRD ministries should work together to enable a robust mechanism to enable school expansion, security enhancement and technology upgradation.

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