The rise in budget allocation for education is just not enough

Indian education system might need an overhaul as it needs to cover more students, add infrastructure and most of all — improve the quality of education. It might have to do all this on a threadbare budget.

Though the country’s education budget has improved over the years, it is not enough to match its needs. According to the government think tank Niti Aayog, India should increase the education expenditure to nearly 6% of the GDP over the next three years — which is 4.6% of GDP as of now.

In the union budget 2019, Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman allocated ₹94,800 crore towards the education fund — focusing on improving schools and higher education programmes. This was an increase of ₹9.8 crore compared to that of the previous year.

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Quality of education

Poor quality of education is one of the many risks that India faces — adding to its unemployment crisis.

India ranks third in terms of education score of BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). Amongst South Asian countries, India has the second-lowest score in education quality, ahead only of Afghanistan.

The higher education budget allocated for prominent institutions including Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) saw a drop in the previous years. However the advent of digital technologies has given rise to upskilling practices, which calls for government aid as they add more skills to match the digital world needs.

“The government should provide some support in the form of incentivizing companies investing in the reskilling, upskilling of their workforce for the digital age. With the shortage of skilled workforce in the deep tech sector, reskilling of employees in AI, ML, IoT will help grow India’s IT sector and sharpen its competitive edge amidst the changing business landscape,” Kamal Dutta, MD, Skillsoft told Business Insider.

Skill development initiatives

As of July 2019, 1.5 million people gained skills and jobs too, all due to the country’s Skill India mission. Yet, this number accounts for only 21% of the total trainees — 7.2 million — who enrolled for the programme.

“India’s unemployment challenge is partly because of a low level of education, high dropout rates, labour market asymmetries, a mismatch between the supply of skills and demand and the high aspirations of young people,” K P Krishnan, former secretary of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, told IndiaSpend.

The total employment in the country declined by 9 million in the last seven years, since 2017.

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The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) is yet another scheme which aims to impart employability skills. The PMKVY 2.0 — which targets to train 10 million people by 2020 — has placed merely 1.2 million candidates so far.

The government presently has over 5.2 million candidates registered with the scheme.

“Lack of skills was evident in new age digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Cloud Computing. Shortage of these skill sets can be met by the government developing guidelines for various industries in order to create mandatory learning hours for employees — especially in the key growth sectors like IT, BFSI sectors,” Dutta added.

Last year, Sitharaman announced a ‘Study in India’ programme, focussed to bring foreign students to study in India’s higher education institutions. She also said that the government will also ensure industry relevant skill training for 10 million youth in India — building skills in technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Virtual Reality, 3D printing and Robotics. This too might see some allocation this budget.

Research funds

In July 2019, the government said that it will now assimilate grants given by independent ministries and integrate the funds to the National Research Foundation (NRF) — to accelerate the growth of research studies in the country.

However, it said that it will identify the trust areas of ‘national importance’ for the allocation of the funds.

“Large Free Trade Zones would need to be set up to create India’s Silicon Valley. Given our cost structure India could lead in R&D development that would complete the cycle from education to job creation,” said Nitish Jain, President, SP Jain School of Global Management.

Teacher training programmes and tax free education

India is short of teachers and skilled teachers are rarer to come by. As of now, the country has roughly 8.5 million teachers and only 19,000 teacher training institutes.

“If we are focussed on the right to education, the quality of education is equally important and the Govt may look to allocate budget to improve education facilities,” Nivedita Das Gupta, India Country Head, Miracle Foundation India.

As of 2018, the country’s national capital Delhi government schools were recorded with 35,034 regular teachers. While the sanctioned strength was 64,096 — which is a shortage of nearly 45% of teachers.

Last year in August, the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) announced an initiative ‘ NISHTHA’ — National Initiative on School Teachers Head Holistic Advancement — to train over 4.2 million teachers across the country.

“We expect the Government of India to work towards education policies, and help incremental changes within the engineering and IT sector by supporting organizations to bring about this change,” said Narayan Mahadevan, Co-founder, BridgeLabz.