The education sector awaits a revival after the upheaval unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The government’s decision to strengthen school education with the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 across 15,000 schools reflects the clear intent in this regard. Further, other schools in a specific area could be mentored and thus could initiate a momentum to achieve the NEP goals at a relatively faster pace.
In India, it has long been felt that the focus should be on equitable access to education even for those belonging to the vulnerable and marginalised sections of society. The Budget raises allocation for ‘Eklavya’ Schools to Rs 38 crore and Rs 40 crore for hilly areas, this move would spur further development of education in tribal and remote areas. However, the rollout and implementation across all states should be done within a couple of years to bring parity for students to access education across the country.
The move to introduce legislation for setting up the Higher Education Commission, an umbrella body to regulate education, remains a well-thought-out step. It is hoped that it would provide clarity and ease for educational institutions to introduce multiple academic programs.
Similarly, the online education market is anticipated to grow manifold with the number of new EdTech start-ups rising introducing innovative e-learning solutions and apps. Also, with online mode of learning gaining prominence among several educational organisations, the higher education sector in India is set for major overhaul and development in 2021. The Budget outlay, however, doesn’t give much clarity about the EdTech and skill providing sectors. In fact, no relief has been extended to the EdTech industry, which will continue to remain in the bracket of 18% GST.
The Budget-2021 has been announced against a backdrop where the economy is facing unprecedented challenges. In the education sector, it is expected that even if schools and educational institutions are reopened in 2021, the format of learning will continue to remain heavily dependent on application of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Blended learning, which is a hybrid form of teaching and learning that involves both classroom and online learning, will hold the way forward. This has immense potentiality to provide quality education to children. While the framework has already been set with the introduction of NEP 2020, the actual ground work starts now; this remains the most challenging aspect, though.
The government can look towards harnessing the considerable experience of public-private partnership (PPP) entities and NGOs in school education, while seeking an arrangement for collaborative engagement. The participation of the private sector and NGOs in managing and operating schools will be an enabler in providing a modern and high-quality framework for education and boost the sector to engage with many more projects under the PPP model.
Although the exact blueprint of the budget detailing how much funds would be spent and what would be available later, there is optimism that the Budget 2021-22 will suitably address the needs of the education sector.
The author of this article is Chairman of Ampersand Group