Budget 2023: Upskilling Education

Although there is a rise in the budgetary allocation on education, however only 2.5 per cent of total expenditure has been provisioned for education sector; to revive the education system in India, not only budgetary allocation is important but also NEP 2020 should be implemented with no time lapse

On the social infrastructure front, India’s position in human development is alarming which is visible through one of the globally accepted indicators like Human Development Index. India’s rank in HDI 2021 stood at 132 which is even worse compared to HDI rank of 2020 which was 130th. Although HDI do not incorporate higher education, nonetheless the situation of higher education is in a worrisome state. India’s expenditure on school education as well as higher education is not sufficient enough to take a leap forward. The economic survey 2022-23 accentuates on ensuring quality education for all and quotes highlighting the importance of education as ‘learning gives creativity, creativity leads to thinking, thinking leads to knowledge and knowledge makes you great’ by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. While economic survey as well as the budget 2023-24 attributes the importance of education, however the situation of education and skill development is debated time and again. The plight of higher education of India is manifested through the position of Indian institutions in world rankings like THE And QS; no Indian institution or university is in the top 100 list.

Budget focus

The Union Budget 2023-24 which was tabled by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 1 February 2023 hopes to build on the foundation laid in the 2022-23 budget and the blueprint sketched for India@100. Admitting the importance of human capital, the two pillars viz health and education demands for more allocation compared to previous years. In this regard, the budget 2023-24 allocates 1,12,899 crore for education sector which is marginally higher than previous year of 1,04,278 crore. The sectoral breakup is 68804 crore for School Education and 44094 crore for Higher Education. However, the allocation for Education Ministry's flagship scheme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan has dismally increased from Rs 37383 crore to Rs 37453 crore. There is a need for higher allocation for this programme since there is a challenge for the stakeholders to recover learning that has been disturbed due to the lockdowns induced by Covid-19.

"Union Budget 2023 allocates Rs 44,094.62 crore for higher education which is 7.9 per cent higher than the previous year's allocation, to overcome the learning losses of the Covid-19 pandemic and inject more digital technology into higher education for more access and equity," stated Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, Chairman, UGC.

"Increased fund allocation will accelerate the implementation of NEP 2020, bringing further dividends to the students to make them employable and strengthen our efforts in making India a knowledge-based economy," Kumar added.

Major announcements

Further, the budget envisioned to recruit 38800 teaching and support staffs for the 740 Eklavya Model Residential Schools, which serves 3.5 lakh tribal students.

For realising the vision of 'Make AI in India and Make AI work for India', three centres of excellence for Artificial Intelligence will be set-up in top educational institutions. Leading industry players will collaborate in conducting interdisciplinary research, develop cutting-edge applications and scalable problem solutions in the areas of health, agriculture and sustainable cities. This will galvanise an effective AI ecosystem and nurture quality human resources in the field.

Union Minister for Education and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan lauded the budget as being people-centric, inclusive and growth-stimulating. "Giving a boost to education, skill development, entrepreneurship, R&D, digital infrastructure, green growth and job creation, the Budget draws a meticulous blueprint for India@100," he said.

The budget plans to establish 157 new Nursing Colleges in nearby existing 157 medical colleges established since 2014. Teachers’ training will be re-envisioned through innovative pedagogy, curriculum transaction, continuous professional development, dipstick surveys and ICT implementation. The District Institutes of Education and Training will be developed as vibrant institutes of excellence for this motive.

Long walk to go

The 2021 budgetary provision of 50000 crores in R&D was expected to revamp the higher education ecosystem in the country. The 2021 budget accentuated innovation and research but straggled on the digital education front, given the surmounting challenges posed due to Covid and lockdown, that massively disrupted teaching and learning and also for implementing NEP 2020. Comparing the allocation on education, in 2020-21, the total outlay was 99312 crores out of which 59845 crores were allocated for school education and literacy and rest 39467 crore were allocated for the higher education sector. In the budget 2021-22, total outlay on education was 93224 crore; for school education, it was 54874 crore and for higher education, total outlay was 38350 crore.

Post-Covid Needs

The Covid-19 crisis has not only scrambled normal learning and teaching but also widened the digital divide in education. This called for higher allocation of funds for the education sector on various fronts including but not limited to creating and fostering digital infrastructure for smooth online education, skilling teachers for learning and adopting new methods of imparting education through digital mode, training for students and providing smartphones/laptops etc. and providing mobile learning facilities at the doorstep. The budget 2023-24, oversees the inimical effects of the pandemic on education and also hovering around in terms of measures to recoup teaching and learning on track. The immediate opportunities have been missed; however, we can anticipate more positive initiatives for the education sector in future.

Although there is a rise in the budgetary allocation on education, however only 2.5 per cent of total expenditure has been provisioned for education sector. The Kothari Commission (1964) recommended for 6 per cent spending as a percentage of GDP on education which still remains a 'pipe dream'. Despite the NEP 2020 also recommended for the public spending on education to be 6 per cent of GDP, India lags far behind. The United Nations through its Sustainable Development Goal 4 clearly signifies the importance of education and included as ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all’. 

India needs to spend more on education and skill development to revive its capsizing education system. The budget remains silent on curving the regional disparity in education and transforming the research ecosystem in the country. The roaring Asian Tigers and the success of the Scandinavian countries and the East Asian Miracle is largely attributed to the human capital formation through rigorous improvement in health and education. To revive the education system in India, not only budgetary allocation is important but also NEP 2020 should be implemented with no time lapse. 

Budget at a glance

- The Ministry of Education has been allocated Rs 1,12,898.97 crore. The sectoral breakup is 68804 crore for School Education and 44094 crore for Higher Education.

- 100 Labs are to be set up in engineering colleges to develop apps using 5G.

- 38,000 teachers and support staff are to be recruited in the next 3 years, for 740 Eklavya Model Residential Schools serving 3.5 lakh tribal students.

- 157 new nursing colleges will be established in colocation with the existing 157 medical colleges established since 2014.

- Facilities in select ICMR Labs will be made available for research by public and private medical college faculty and private sector R&D teams for encouraging collaborative research and innovation.

- A National Digital Library for children and adolescents will be set up for facilitating the availability of quality books across geographies, languages, genres and levels and device-agnostic accessibility.

- 30 Skill India International Centres will be set up across different States, to skill the youth for international opportunities.

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