This year’s budget is the most awaited announcement since the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the incumbent government’s last budget of this term. It is, indeed, a great opportunity for the government to introduce some revolutionary changes specifically for the education sector.
The education sector has witnessed 16 per cent growth in recent years and it is expected to continue with the upward trend. It is seen that as per the Economic Survey presented in Parliament, major reforms undertaken over the past year will allow real GDP growth to reach 6.75 per cent this fiscal and will rise to 7.0 to 7.5 per cent in 2018-19, thereby reinstating India as the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
Today’s education landscape around the world has seen some significant shifts brought about by recent technological interventions. In a developing economy such as India, where a large, young demographic is eager to reap the benefits of technology in education, it becomes a huge responsibility, on both public and private entities, to respond to and accomplish the aspirations of the youth to make India an effective knowledge economy. We are also being optimistic about the government to continue promoting e-learning through digitisation in education, which will encourage the youth of the country to shift to digital platforms for advanced learning.
The government must undertake systemic integration of education reforms to strengthen its competitive advantage. In this budget, we hope that the government will give prominence to increasing quality of higher education and overall quality of schooling. We also hope that the government will continue to promote e-learning through digitisation in education, which will encourage the youth of the country to shift to digital platforms for advanced learning.
In the upcoming budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is likely to allocate budgetary resources for improving the condition of education system in India. If the quality of learning means a large productivity, therefore, to deliver better education is the priority of government to shape up. Indeed, once the quality of education picks up, this will help in bridging the gap among students in choosing the right path for themselves.
Improving quality and development excellence is a major challenge that higher education institutions (HEIs) face today. The institutions are required to attract and retain competent faculty, raise teaching standards, encourage research and nurture talent. There are 11 lakh untrained teachers in schools under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan – six in government schools and five in private ones. Investment in excellent institutions to educate teachers and systematic re-education and training opportunities should find focus within the budget. Universities and other institutions of academic merit should be allocated grants for catapulting research in every field, and public-private partnerships should find a wider scope within the budget. However, institutions require investments in quality education, which needs to be organized as per the required financial resources for meeting the rising costs of education, training and research.
The 2018 budget will hopefully give attention to higher education, a creditable step by the Niti Aayog and more public-private partnerships can add value by creating an ecosystem that fosters research and brings to fore quality solutions. Emphasis should also be given to skill development with this Union budget which will enable students to be more employable.
For India to be able to leverage its strengths and opportunities as a knowledge economy on a global scale, it needs to undertake significant reforms and investments in building education and skills, strengthening its innovation system, promoting English as a life skill and further boosting its information infrastructure. India has done well in the fields of Information Technology and space research and as a publishing company, we hope that the share of investment in the education sector will also go up in this year’s budget and will be more agenda driven. ‘Make in India’ can be a success only when our professionals are well-versed with the latest technical solutions.
The writer is Managing Director, Cambridge University Press, South Asia