Budget 2020 and Education

Education gets an allocation of Rs. 99,300 cr and an additional of Rs. 3000 cr is allocated for skill development. A much larger outlay is required for achieving the goals set for the education in the country and the same is proposed to be obtained through private participation. Budget 2020 is a reflection of shift of economy towards capitalism and shows a clear pattern towards supply driven education system. The participation of private sector has been encouraged through the provisions of 100 % FDI and External Commercial Borrowings. This has the potential to infuse capital in higher education to provide quality education albeit at price covering all costs and profits. The less focus on demand side in the form of reduced scholarship funds raises the concern regarding value for money to the young students. This will particularly affect research students who look for funding to conduct pure research in areas where funding is difficult to come from private or other non government sources. This concern will get automatically addressed if enough numbers of acceptable level jobs are generated immediately and in the next three to four years to come. Else there may remain vacant seats in educational institutions with no takers as is the current scenario in the disciplines of education, engineering and management.

The particularly laudable initiatives are in the skill development and entrepreneurship that is being integrated in the existing education system particularly in the form of apprenticeship embedded courses in higher educational institutes. This will be very helpful in the long run in filling the much needed skill gap and also in bringing a culture of skill based education in the country.

Online Education is another initiative that is projected as a game changer by giving access of education to deprived sections of society. However its efficacy will depend upon final execution. Access for the learners in this segment means a lot more than availability. Handholding and mentoring can pay a critical role here. A possibility of a mix of online and offline education for all learners could have been a more helpful way for providing quality education for a larger segment though it would need fundamental shifts in the existing ecosystem of education. Moreover the universities qualified to offer online programmes will also have to find ways to fund the needed technology platforms and to see the financial viability of offering quality online degree courses.

The goals of the budget are also linked to the proposed New Education Policy (NEP) and its full implications can only be assessed once NEP is out in its final form.

Overall this budget attempts to balance many challenges facing the country; a large young population to be educated, lack of skill based education, need for improving quality of education, investing in the emerging areas of education, incentivizing private funding for education and many more.