Parliament's budget session will begin today with President Ram Nath Kovind addressing members of both Houses in three different locations for the first time as part of the precautions vis-à-vis COVID-19.
As India looks to recover from the pandemic's devastating blow to its economy, every sector is expecting something big from Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and the education sector is no exception.
The Free Press Journal brings you the education sector's top five expectations from Budget 2021.
Increase in education expenditure
In all the budgets from 2016 to 2019, education spending was in the range of 3 to 4.6 per cent of the GDP. Although one can see that India's expenditure on education has risen over the last five years, according to government think tank Niti Aayog, India needs to increase it to nearly 6 per cent of the GDP till 2022. Thus, in this budget, the sector expects an increase in spending.
The sector, among the worst-hit in the pandemic, would like to see special provisions — lowering of GST, tax relief for online education, and subsidies on basic infrastructural facilities, among others.
Funds to develop the digital infrastructure
The pandemic forced education, like many other activities, to shift to the online mode. However, this has left thousands of students from the country's rural areas behind due to lack of access to the required digital infrastructure.
To address this, expanding access to affordable and reliable internet connectivity for households and educational and training institutions, including via public partnerships with telecommunications providers, will help.
More funds for research and innovation
Importance of research and innovation is undisputed, especially in the current climate, and its importance in the education sector is even greater. Thus, the sector expects more funds for this. At present, research and innovation investment is at about 0.7 per cent of the GDP in India, whereas in a small country like Israel, it is as much as 4.3 per cent of the GDP. For achieving our education sector's goals, it needs to be raised to at least 2 per cent of the GDP.
Funds for upskilling and digital training of teachers
The sector's online shift demands different skills to teach and engage students. Thus, it has become necessary to upskill and train our teachers for the same.
Sitharaman will table the Economic Survey 2020–21 in Parliament on Friday, two days before the Union Budget is presented.
The Economic Survey, presented on the opening day of the budget session, provides a summary of the annual economic development across the country during the financial year.
It analyses the trends in infrastructure, agricultural and industrial production, employment, prices, exports, imports, money supply, foreign exchange reserves, and other factors having an impact on the Indian economy and budget.
(With inputs from agencies)