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Education Sector and Union Budget 2021: Are the steps sufficient?

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.”

Humanity is one such thing that is never going to fade until and unless we allow it to. Something that should live as long as life sustains on earth. Things won’t happen automatically, we are the ones who have to make it happen. A well-thought initiative needs to be taken by the human race for the advancement of society.

Having said that, “The Union Budget 2021-22 focuses on driving notable progress in the educational system in India through a transformation in the learning framework from traditional rote learning format to an evolved and engaged pedagogical approach for students in K12," said Srini Raghavan, Co-Founder, and Chief Executive Officer, Educational Initiatives based on the Union Budget 2021 focusing on education.

All of this could be considered as a drop in the ocean. But, Is that actually sufficient? Is this the end of the story?

To the best of my knowledge, nothing is perfect. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack and if that happens it will result out to be contrary to popular belief. To make the long story short, everything has its pros and cons and so does the union budget 2021.

The education system in India was imposed on us by the Britishers, they wanted to create a population of education clerks and coolies. We attained independence in 1947, but the government did little to change the education system in India and we have many flaws in the Indian education system.

The present state of education in India is on a rough and bumpy road.

Achievement of a 100% literacy rate in primary education is still a dream lost somewhere in the hazy cloud, the most basic foundation step of quality education. Over 500 million people in India still do not have access to primary education. The majority of the students in poor India drop out of school before writing their 10th-grade papers.

The quality of education in the government primary schools is a reason to worry. The mushrooming of expensive primary schools is one of the fallouts of deteriorating quality in government schools. Since the poor cannot afford the expensive private schools, their kids are left with no other option but to receive sub-quality education in government schools, and in the future, it is very tough for these underprivileged kids to compete with the students of private education.

The Union Budget 2021-22 has been announced amidst unprecedented circumstances. The prolonged closure of educational institutions for almost a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic has put immense stress with many schools feeling the heat of financial stress now.

The pandemic has resulted in schools and Edtech firms being forced to conduct online education, which has been the all-pervasive format for learning and examination so far. In addition, many educational institutes that invested in information and communication technology (ICT) and other infrastructure will now have to absorb the cost of Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The digital gap has also proven to be a bane of the education sector. As students move the classrooms to their bedrooms, the marginalized are left behind due to a lack of resources. The government must ensure that marginalized students do not get left behind due to the lack of digital resources.

If considering the data of the last three years, the Budgetary allocation for Education has been shrinking from 3.71 percent of GDP in 2017-18 to 3.48 percent of GDP in 2018-19 and further to 3.2 percent in 2019-20.

India needs to spend 6% of its gross domestic product on education, every national education policy since 1968 has said. In 2019-’20, 52 years since that recommendation, India spent only 3.1% of its GDP on education, the 2019-’20 Economic Survey showed.

One of the results of this underspending on public education is that over 10 lakh government schools, where over half (52%) of India’s nearly 24.8 crore children study, have remained poorly funded. This is among the reasons why learning outcomes in India have been so poor, say experts.

Now after all the efforts made by the government, the citizens of the country will also play a vital role in the proper implementation and execution of the plan. As it is rightly said that “ A horse can be led to water”, rest it is all dependent on him how he has to quench his thirst.

So it is our duty to act on rather than throwing under the bus one should act over the hump. Rather than just sitting and talking about it would not do any good to it.

In making India' Atmanirbhar,' education and training have an instrumental role to play, and as COVID-19 has shown, digitalization of the education sector is the need of the hour. It will also help attract FDI in the education sector to make wide-scale digital education a reality, thus enabling India to become an attractive higher education destination on a par with global standards.

An effort needs to be made in bridging the gap in quality education between rural and urban areas. In this regard, technology has a pivotal role to play. This would be helpful in securing the future of millions of children from tier-I and II areas.

Budget 2022 can look into equipping government-led schools with the access and affordability of high-speed Internet facilities and computers or tablet devices for those belonging to economically weaker sections of society. The government can also look forward to investing more in online education models considering that Blended learning remains the way forward.

While the absolute amount of expenditure in the education domain has increased over the years, however, it has reduced in terms of the percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The government can look towards building an ecosystem that promotes ground-breaking research and development of infrastructure in the education sector. On a conclusion note “Actions speak louder than words”.

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