Budget 2017 does come with many positive initiatives to bring about the much needed revolution in the education sector. However, like most other initiatives under the NaMO regime, the implementation is the key worry. For instance, the budgets focus on the Swayam initiative is welcome. However, the current version of the MHRD initiative is focused towards higher Education.
The need is to focus towards leveraging technology at the school level. This would make quality education accessible to millions. The need of the hour is to focus on digital literacy given the focus towards digital India and also, keeping in mind that India is one of the youngest democracy in the world. The start needs to be made at the school level to start bridging the skill gap between academia and industry. The focus of discussions needs to shift from “Reservations” to making “Quality Education" available to all. Given the digital revolution, this is now a possibility and govt. needs to make adequate investments to equip large number of govt. school to host technology enabled learning.
Another case, in point, is the introduction of a system of measuring annual learning outcomes, innovation fund for secondary education. This initiative of the govt. is in the right direction. However, even before measuring learning outcomes, the emphasis has to be put on quality of education provided. We know significant gaps exist in the delivery of education, infrastructure in schools, adoption of technology and latest methods of learning. Till these issues are addressed, measuring learning outcomes will not be effective.
This initiative has to be driven with adequate focus towards substantial investments towards upgrading the process of imparting education. Leverage technology towards learning, evaluating the skills of the student and mapping students to the right programs suited to their skill set are important pre-requisites before such measures. Not all of India’s millions are required to become engineers, doctors or college professors. Recent governments have made great strides with regards to upskilling India but when you’re looking at employment for a working population of 860 million by 2020, radical approaches are required.
Overall, from an education sector perspective, the budget is silent about some key expectations and requirements for the education sector such as -:
- Infra upgradation
- Teacher training
- All round assessment of schools
- Influx of technology in teaching
- Career planning and skill-individual mapping
- Skill development implementation
- School-industry collaboration
These are important pre-requisites to making any transformational change in this sector:
Coming from the perspective of startups, the Union Budget did have some good news on the taxation front but I guess what’s more important for start-ups is an overall eco-system which is conducive to do business. StartUp-India campaign by the PM had some very promising propositions, but all of it is yet to see the light of execution. There was no mention of this aspect in the budget which has been raised by most DIPP recognised start-ups across multiple forums. There has been lot of noise about the tax benefits for start-ups but honestly, as founders, we are looking at initiatives which can support innovation, make access to capital easier and increase speed to market.
In the ed-tech space, there are immense opportunities and there are multiple innovations which are ripe to drastically improve the quality of education being offered. What is required is adequate budgets with government bodies to adopt these innovations and make it accessible to millions of students.
The Finance Minister in his speech mentioned focus on IT in education and also, an innovation fund for secondary education which is a step in the right direction; but we need to keep in mind that the pre-requisites to makes this a reality would be adequate infrastructure, focus on teacher training, career planning and skill-individual mapping and emphasis on digital literacy. The focus on micros is equally important in the education sector because that’s the pre-requisite for all major initiatives to be a success.