Back in 2020 when the world came to a standstill, no one expected that the need to revolutionise education would be this urgent. The immediate virtual foundation that EdTech was able to create, introduced a wave of technology that encourages every member involved in the education dynamic to upskill and empower themselves by means of using new and immersive educational services offered by the EdTech industry.
The Government of India has made all its efforts to encourage EdTech and the introduction of ‘The National Education Policy’ which focuses on extending personalised and quality-driven education to young students in India was an add-on to this. The Policy also focuses on teacher training and development in a way that was never done before.
Last year, the Union Budget honoured the exponential rise of EdTech in the education sector by allocating funds of Rs 40,828.35 crores for higher education while a fund of Rs 63,449.37 was granted for school education and literacy.
Although this seems great from the macro perspective, there are still challenges EdTech faces on a micro-level and are looking forward to being covered in the upcoming Union Budget 2023 set to be announced by Finance Minister, Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, on February 1, 2023.
The Sudden Shift to Online Learning
Speaking about the expectations from Union Budget 2023, Rishabh Khanna, Founder, and CEO of Suraasa shares,
As we stand in 2023 and students are back in the classrooms, we can see the impact that the sudden shift to online learning has had on our education system. While it’s been necessary to keep our students and communities safe, it’s also highlighted the need to invest in bridging the skill gaps that have developed due to a lack of in-person learning. Teachers need to be prepared as well. This means investing in professional development and training opportunities that will help us effectively implement blended learning methods in the classroom and utilise technology-enabled infrastructure. I am advocating for a budget dedicated towards programmes and resources that will help our students & teachers receive extra support and opportunities to succeedRishabh Khanna, Founder, and CEO of Suraasa shares
One of the key aspects that the EdTech industry is looking forward to being addressed is the need for technological infrastructure in every part of the country.
Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities still struggle with online education due to tech-based infrastructure challenges. A lack of good internet speed, digital devices or computer systems stands as a big challenge for online courses. Hence, the EdTech industry is looking forward to the government to make these services accessible for all. Further, the industry’s key demand is lowering GST on online learning and resources for a fair and equivalent system for offline and online education providers.
Speaking on the budget expectations, Ritika Amit Kumar, co-founder, and CEO, of STEM Metaverse shares,
The government has taken some extensive initiative in skill development and has catered to STEM education macros. However, I would also recommend focusing on micro factors, like reducing excise duty on lab equipment used in education and reducing GST on kits made in India. Additionally, a reduction of GST on STEM courses, content, VR, and AR equipment will ensure that experiential STEM education can be made available to all.Ritika Amit Kumar, co-founder, and CEO, of STEM Metaverse shares,
Importance Of Democratic Of Education
Recognized as the world’s second-largest online learning market, India has been the epicentre of the edtech revolution for the past couple of years. And addressing large-scale demand, especially in higher education, can be challenging. India is home to more than 42,000 colleges and close to 1100 universities.
However, the number of educational institutions capable of producing industry-ready talents is very scarce in India. For instance, more than 15 lakh engineers graduate in India annually. However, the total number of IIT seats available per year is just above the 16,000 mark. With just about 1 percent of aspiring engineers being eligible for an IIT seat, it is essential to ensure that the rest of the aspiring software professionals also get a quality education.
Therefore, the democratisation of education is an important issue that needs immediate attention. Learners across Tier 2 and Tier 3 colleges should also be acquainted with industry-specific curriculum, updated according to the standards of the tech industry today. And such a large-scale rejig cannot happen overnight. Only with the support of the Government through a directed focus on the matter can this be implemented. Higher spending on education would be more of an investment and need of the hour, given India’s demographics.
Making Education Services Affordable
Secondly, creating standardized, updated curriculums may not solve the skills gap blighting the tech sector today. Making educational services affordable through tax exemptions and lowering GST is another crucial move that is required. Since nearly half of the Indian population is under 25, policies and incentives toward making quality education affordable are vital.
Currently, educational services are levied 18 percent of GST, which can significantly deter the widespread acceptance of online learning and upskilling. Hence, tax exemptions must be made available to bridge the skill gap across sectors, making upskilling more affordable to the masses.
Also, many of the population depend on educational loans to pursue their dream college or degree. Hence, encouraging more students to take up their course of interest with reduced and subsidised interest rates on such loans is essential for their optimal growth and development.
Increase Allocation of Higher Education
Speaking on the budget expectations,Puneet K, President, The Narayana Group, shares:
“We hope that the government will increase allocation for higher education in the upcoming union budget. In 2022, the overall budgetary allocation for education is 3.1 percent of the GDP. We hope to see it increase to 6 percent as per the recommendations of the National policy on Education. The increase in funding should facilitate better infrastructure, financial aid, higher grants for research, and an investment in technologies such as AI and machine learning to improve the overall quality of higher education“.
“Overall, the Indian higher education sector has several expectations from the government in the upcoming budget. An increase in budget allocation, the implementation of the NEP, and a pathway to a closer partnership between private industry and the government are among the key demands“, he added.
Encourage Private Corporate Philanthropy
As two-thirds of the higher education sector is in the hands of the private sector, it is time to encourage private corporate philanthropy in a big way through fiscal and other incentives. We need to create an enabling environment to let the private sector come forward and establish new institutions. Ease of doing business is more important here than anywhere else. In particular, the following deserve very serious consideration that are shared by Professor YSR Murthy, Founding Vice Chancellor, RV University:
“Contributions made by a corporate or a foundation or any other grant-making entity to a university or to a research center or a center of excellence (being part of a university or higher education institution) or a new university approved by the government or an approved program under a university-industry partnership, should be eligible for deduction from taxable income to the extent of 300 percent of such contribution.
Implicit disincentives in tax and trust laws to invest in the higher education sector should be removed (e.g. the rule requiring trusts to spend 85 percent of income streams from endowments in the same year as they are generated should be discontinued since it constrains the build-up of corpus).
Higher education institutions should be incentivized to build significant endowments.
A scholarship to be named “The Indian Corporate Higher Education Scholarship’ should be set up with a corpus of Rs1,000 crores contributed by the top 1000 corporations of the country. This should be run by an eminent independent board. This scheme should be encouraged by the government by providing full matching grants as well as providing tax exemption of up to 300 percent for all contributions
A ‘National Educational Loan Fund’ of Rs.100,000 crores should be set up by public sector banks to disburse long-tenure loans. This should be administered on a transparent basis. There should be a waiver of 10 percent on the principal for each year of service in areas of R&D, teaching or any other area of national interest. The loans should be partially underwritten or credit guarantee for the first 20 percent of loans should be provided by the government.”
“In India, after-school support programs, exam prep programs, or regular support programs have become popular. Even if one considers the job market, there is a yawning gap between students’ knowledge and on-the-job requirements. Also, the rapid changes in technology require that existing workers upskill themselves. There are many companies and start-ups focused on upskilling employees. The cost of upskilling courses is prohibitive and requires investment from learners”, said Brijesh Kohli, Director of Xebia academy.
“Bringing these courses within the reach of learners would benefit all stakeholders. The GST rate charged on all education services today is 18 percent. Close to 50 percent of India’s population is below 25 years of age and education is their key requirement. Lowering the tax rate would make such education more affordable for all and support the entire Edtech ecosystem”, he added.
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