Focus on Research to Upskilling

Education Budget 2023: From Focus on Research to Upskilling, here is What Stakeholders Looking For

As the Union Budget 2023-24 will be presented on February 1, various stakeholders from the education sector share what are their budget expectations for this year. Stakeholders from the technology and medical sector expect to see a boost in research and development, more budgetary allocation for modern and state-of-the-art tools and equipment.

‘Investment in technology and upskilling is needed’: Prof Himanshu Rail, Director, IIM Indore

Fresh flows of funding and incentives must be made into programmes like Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyaan and FutureSkills Prime. Implementation and audit taskforces must be built to accelerate and catalyze various ongoing broadband expansion and quality improvement projects. Investing in the advancement and enrichment of various technology and skilling platforms for students and educators like DIKSHA, NISHTHA, SWAYAM, etc. A detailed roadmap and resource allocation for escalating the implementation of the
National Educational Technology Forum.

The ‘Manodarpan’ scheme by the Ministry of Education could be enriched with expert resources to better guide students with issues like addiction, self-healing, adjustment training, and short online courses, one-to-one online sessions with subsidized fees, etc.

Schools could be provided tax benefits or incentives for expanding their counselling services through counseling cells, career guidance services, or student awareness and sensitization clubs.

The budget should also focus on making education services accessible and affordable for women, disadvantaged groups, students with special learning needs, and the differently abled.

‘Boost research and development’: IIT Madras team

India has created a strong ecosystem of research in individual institutions, which was achieved in large part because of the infrastructure created over a period of time through budgetary allocations that came as grant-in-aid to these institutions. Capital Equipment in Centrally-funded technical institutions has been predominantly due to government funding.

The forthcoming Union Budget hence may look at supporting the formation of a common pool of scientific infrastructure of costly, world-class tools, instruments, and equipment, spread across science and engineering institutions across India. All researchers and innovators in India should have access to these facilities.

If a substantial portion of the funds earmarked for the National Research Foundation could be allocated for this model with equal participation from the established Higher education Institutes in terms of sharing existing world-class equipment available with them, it can impart a major boost to R&D in multiple disciplines across the country. This model could also be a game changer. It could potentially eliminate the need for individual research institutions and small businesses, startups and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to seek considerable funding to procure expensive equipment and tools needed for cutting-edge R&D activities. Instead, access could be provided to these users through this initiative for a nominal fee, which would be a cost-effective approach to innovation and R&D.

‘Research and better equipment should be the priority:’ Indian Medical Association

The Indian Medical Association is expecting a 5 per cent allocation in the Union Budget. And, it should not be just for running expenses such as salaries but for infrastructure, research and better equipment.

The Covid crisis has amply demonstrated the importance of universal primary care in the public sector. Health Policy 2017 firmly focuses on primary care: If possible the Centre should upgrade and enhance these figures and appoint MBBS doctors in the 1.50 lakh wellness centres. The policy recommends that health centres be established on geographical norms apart from population norms. This would also necessitate upgradation of the existing sub-centres and reorienting PHCs.

The healthcare industry is the only industry which does not get input credit because of the exemption. Actually, the GST paid by the institutions becomes an expenditure and indirectly adds to the cost of treatment. Either some percentage of total GST paid by healthcare providers be treated as advance tax or MAT ( Minimum Alternative Tax ) or the GST paid by them on equipment or otherwise should be reduced to 5 per cent.

Doctors and Healthcare organisations be given access to working capital and preferential funding to ensure that the overall cost of operations is reduced.

‘Emphasis on digitisation, regional languages’: Devyani Jaipuriya, Chairperson Dharav High School, Pro- Vice Chairperson- DPS International Gurugram, DPS 45 and DPS Jaipur.

Increasing the GDP spend from 1.7 per cent to 6 per cent will help in opening more opportunities and bring education for everyone regime closer to success. We have similar expectations from the upcoming budget. After all the several progressive reforms in the National Education Policy 2020, we are hoping the Union Budget will announce developmental plans for areas like digitisation, internationalisation of higher education, investment in skill development, and emphasis on regional languages in technical and medical education, among others.

Also, with technology taking the centrestage, new fields of employment such as Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming, and Comic (AVGC) are booming and require support to flourish. Thus, we are expecting the upcoming budget to be exemplary and give the education sector a breather from the ongoing fund crunch.

In last year’s budget speech, the finance minister said, “In vocational courses, to promote crucial critical thinking skills, to give space for creativity, 750 virtual labs in science and mathematics, and 75 skilling e-labs for simulated learning environment, will be set-up in 2022-23.” For this year’s budget, the stakeholders expect to bridge the link between secondary and higher education.

‘Encourage vocational education:’ Prof Madhushree Sekher, Dean, School of Vocational Education, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Vocational Education requires decisive effort from the government. The whole concept of vocational education will be relevant only when secondary-level education in the vocational space is linked to higher education. We would like the government to recognise and encourage a continuum of vocational education from the school level to Higher Education Institute through the 3 Year B.Voc (undergraduate programme) and postgraduate programme relating to the National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) skill- level 4.5, 5.5,6.7 and 7. This will enhance employability.

With Edtech emerging as an important player in the education sector, companies are expecting a reduction in GST on education services, focus on the upskilling sector.

‘Emphasis on skill development will lead to country’s growth:’ Nikhil Barshikar, Founder and CEO of Imarticus Learning

“We all know by 2030 India will have the largest pool of working-age population globally, surpassing China, so we need to ensure that the youth are truly employable. With the Union Budget 2023, we expect the government to recognize and encourage startups to focus on skill development and ensure that jobs are guaranteed. We would also like the government to acknowledge skill-to-job as a separate category and encourage the ed-tech platforms with some schemes or tax rebates.

There is a massive surge in students and professionals opting for online courses, especially in tier two and three cities. The challenge arises in creating a stable digital infrastructure for such cities. With emerging technologies and market trends, upskilling is the need of the hour, and we hope that the budget also focuses on the upskilling sector”.

‘Give incentives to the Edtech sector:’ Abhishek Mishra, Chief Strategy Officer, Physics Wallah

The Edtech industry needs government support in the form of subsidised schemes and incentives for improving online initiatives. Reduction in GST on education services to democratise education and increase reach among students, especially those who cannot afford quality education. The focus should be on upskilling, and reskilling so that students are equipped with such skills from an early age. New-age tech skills like AI and coding should also be included in schools’ and universities’ curricula. Accessible collaboration of government with edtech companies to improve digitization and enhance learning outcomes in the education sector.

‘Tax reduction on scholarships and student loans:’ Saurabh Arora, Founder and CEO, University Living

With this year’s budget, we expect an increase in budget allotment for the education sector so that not only the higher education infrastructure in India improves but also new corridors open for education trade from Australia and other such countries. Recently, new regulations have been announced related to foreign universities setting up their India chapter and on the backdrop of this, the Indian government should allocate more budgets so that the internationalization of higher education becomes seamless.

We also expect the government to announce new education trade policies for students as well as the companies in this space. We expect tax reduction on scholarships and student loans so that they are encouraged to pursue their higher education especially from abroad. With this budget we also wish to see more focus on NEP and new skilling programs to make the youth of India not just job ready but industry ready.

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