In Budget 2023, the education sector saw a hike of around 8 per cent, with an allocation of Rs 1.12 lakh crore against the Rs 1.04 lakh crore allocated last time
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tabled her fifth straight budget on Wednesday. In Budget 2023-24, education sector received a hike of about eight per cent, with an allocation of Rs 1.12 lakh crore as opposed to 1.04 lakh crore in Budget 2022-23. The finance minister laid emphasis on digital learning this time in a bid to "make up for pandemic time learning loss".
In the past two years when the country dealt with the pandemic and lockdown, schools and colleges were no exception. World Economic Forum reported that India has the world’s second-largest school system after China, and shutting schools to maintain social distancing amid the COVID-19 crisis was the most logical solution to avoid community transmission.
However, this move led to the transition of students and teachers to an online teaching-learning system which was not well-established at that point.
Now, post the pandemic, to boost digital infrastructure, Sitharaman announced the setting up of a national digital library for children and adolescents which will facilitate the availability of quality books across geographies, languages, genres and levels and devise agnostic accessibility.
"States will be encouraged to set up physical libraries for them at panchayat and ward levels and provide infrastructure for accessing the National Digital Library resources," she stated in her budget speech.
This move is expected to give a boost to the edtech sector. "The government’s announcement to establish a National Digital Library for children and adolescents will create a digital ecosystem in the education sector and encourage digital education. It will largely benefit the students who are lagging due to the pandemic,” observed Aarul Malviya, founder of Zamit.
Further, in an attempt to promote reading habits amongst the children, the National Book Trust, the Children's Book Trust, and other government publishers will be urged to provide books in regional languages in addition to English. This contribution will be towards the physical libraries that would be established in the states, in keeping with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 objectives.
Vinay Singh, chief executive officer and executive director of Thomson Digital and Q&I, said, "The establishment of a national digital library for children and adolescents to address the learning loss caused by the pandemic and make it accessible across languages, genres, and regions is a welcome development. The incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) in education and the creation of AI excellence centers in top educational institutions will be transformative."
Further, the finance minister announced that under the Eklavaya Model Residential Schools programme, the Centre will recruit 38,800 teachers and support staff over the next three years for 740 schools serving 3.5 lakh tribal students.
Eklavaya Model Residential Schools were started in the year 1997-98 to impart quality education to schedule tribe (ST) children in remote areas to enable them to avail of opportunities in high and professional education courses and get employment in various sectors.
"The finance minister’s decision to expand Eklavya model schools for tribal students is another step forward in promoting digital literacy. Furthermore, by proposing 30 Skill India International centers across various states, Surely, this year’s budget clearly emphasizes the importance of closing the skill gap in youth across India," said Atulya Kaushik, co-founder and CEO of PrepInsta.
"The current impetus on recruiting a large number of teachers and creating a sustainable teachers training program equipping them with multilateral skills will go a long way in improving the quality of education in Indian schools. The government must also create a performance management system where there is a hope of rising and a fear of falling for all teachers," added Shantanu Rooj, CEO and founder at TeamLease Edtech.
The Finance Minister further asserted, “One hundred and fifty-seven new nursing colleges will be established in co-location with the existing 157 medical colleges established since 2014.”
“These initiatives will help equip students with the skills and knowledge needed for success in the future, and the emphasis on teacher training and innovative pedagogy will ensure that the quality of education in India continues to improve. This forward-thinking budget sets India on a path towards self-reliance and global competitiveness,” said Divya Gokulnath, co-founder of BYJU'S
Additionally, the center will launch Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 4.0 to skill lakhs of youth within the next three years covering new age courses for Industry 4.0 like coding, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, mechatronics, internet of things (IoT), 3D printing, drones and soft skills.
"We welcome the Union Budget's focus on providing critical skills to India's youth. The revamped Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana is a step in the right direction as it aims to impart new-age skills offering young Indians a wide range of career opportunities globally," said Raghav Gupta, managing director (MD), India and APAC, Coursera.
“To ensure that India's workforce is future-ready, new age courses coupled with soft skills; will help improve the overall employability of students. Since the pandemic, the education ecosystem has seen a major transformation, and now with the introduction of 30 Skill India international centers, education will further witness the much need for skilling integration that was required,” added Lt Gen (Dr) M D Venkatesh, vice chancellor, MAHE Manipal.
“We are thrilled to see that the first budget of the Amrit Kaal states foundational and early childhood education as a major priority. The continuous capacity building combined with ICT focus allows for entirely new modes of teacher and caregiver upskilling in digital India, in which 95 per cent of teachers have access to smartphones,” said Utsav Kheria, co-founder of Rocket Learning.
Other highlights of the budget presented by the Union Finance Minister included incentives under the new income tax regime, revised rebates, funds for roads and railways, etc.