Union Budget 2022: A wholesome budget with digital push, say educationists

The education sector has welcomed the Union Budget 2022-23 which had an added expenditure of 11.86 per cent this year. The experts in the sector feel that the initiatives being taken through it on digitalisation would be good for India. 

A wholesome budget, says educationists- Digital initiatives to provide quality education

While presenting the Union Budget 2022-23 on 1st Feb 2022, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman announced the allocation of Rs. 1,04,278 crores as per the budget estimates (BE) of the total budget expenditure for the education sector. This year, the total expenditure has increased by 11.86 per cent from the previous year budget estimates, which was Rs. 93,224 crores. However, after the revised estimates (RE) it fell to Rs. 88,002 crores. 

The education budget 2022-23 is majorly focused on the digitalisation of the education system. Amidst the global pandemic, digital/virtual education was the only option left for educators all across the globe. Although we cannot overlook the fact that after two years of continuous online studies, students are hoping to study offline again. 

Allocations for the education sector

The Department of School Education and Literacy received Rs. 63,449 crores (BE), while the amount was Rs. 51,969 crores (RE) last year. 

The Department of Higher Education was allocated Rs. 40,828 crores (BE), as against the Rs. 36,031 crores (RE) that it received last year.

Under these departments, the centre sponsored schemes like the National Education Mission got Rs. 39,553 crores (BE), compared to Rs. 30,796 crores (RE) last year.

Teachers training and adult education received way lesser allocations this year, which has decreased from Rs. 250 crores last year to Rs. Rs 127 crores (BE) this year.

The National Programme of Mid-Day Meal in Schools has been replaced by the Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM Poshan), which has received Rs. 10,233 crores (BE). While the mid-day meal scheme got Rs. 10,233 crores (RE) last year, the same as this year.

What Budget 2022 brings in for the education sector

Since we are entering the third year of the pandemic, the digitalisation of the education system is the need of the hour. While presenting the budget, the FM emphasised the digital aspect of the education system by introducing the One Class One TV Channel program, the Digital University program, virtual labs and skilling e-labs, the Digital Teachers program, and skill development programs such as DESH-Stack e-portal and Drone Shakti. 

Osborne Dsouza, Director & CEO of Edufiq, feels that the budget marks a continuum for potential GDP growth over the next 25 years. 

Director at IIT BHU, Prof Pramod Kumar Jain also welcomes the budget. “Aiming to boost quality education in India, the government has announced that it will be developing a Digital University and catering towards the e-content and the e-Vidya initiatives. This big announcement is in sync with the National Education Policy, which promotes the use of technology to enhance learning, for assessment, and for planning for both school and higher education,” he says.

Praising the government’s commitment towards breaking the glass ceiling and encouraging education, the MD, Aakash Educational Services Limited (AESL), Aakash Chaudhry says, “The Union Budget FY2022-23 is growth-oriented and has put the much-needed impetus on digital education, boosting the penetration of learning where online education is still not accessible. While effectively bridging the learning gap created due to the pandemic, these efforts will not only improve learning outcomes but will also provide the students access to a world-class universal education with a personalized learning experience at their doorsteps.”

Initiatives for providing quality education

The stakeholders in the education sector feel that these initiatives will spur the growth of the education sector, while simultaneously providing students with the right to quality education.

Commenting on this, Lavin Mirchandani, Co-Founder at ConnectEd says, “We are particularly ecstatic to note that the government seeks to take fibre-based internet connections to every village in India by 2023 and expand its ‘One Class, One Channel’ program, as it will enable under-served students in Bharat to access quality education: much like their privileged counterparts across India.”

On the same note, CEO & Co-Founder at Vedantu, Vamsi Krishna says that the budget provides provisions for students to access high-quality learning, improving learning outcomes and thereby contributing to a vibrant knowledge economy, which will reduce the gap between the students in the remote areas and their education.

“The One Class, One TV Channel and the e-Vidya scheme are a welcome move that will drive impact at scale and bridge the language divide amongst the students from small-town India,” he says.

Ujjwal Singh, CEO and President of Infinity Learn also feels that the sectoral expectations were largely met. “The extension of the PM e-Vidya initiative from 12 to 200 TV channels will give the segment the requisite boost. Further, the availability of regional language educational modules from Class 1 to 12 will enhance the literacy rates in India’s hinterlands, over and above everything,” he points out.

Considering this budget as a strength booster for the education sector, the CEO & Director of Convergia (S Chand Publishers), Vinay Sharma opines, “One key initiative is the creation of high-quality content which can be delivered through multiple means like mobile, cloud, TV etc. along with the professional development of teachers to equip them for using digital tools and pedagogies. This will help towards improving the quality of learning outcomes.”

Dr Silpi Sahoo, Chairperson of SAI International Education Group also adds in her views. She says, “Introducing the ‘One-Class-One-TV channel program, covering multiple regional languages, will not only counter the learning losses but will bridge the learning gap.”

Digital university- a seamless transition

On the whole, the stakeholders are applauding the boost to the digital infrastructure of the education system, which the Digital University program will provide.

Anish Srikrishna, CEO at Times Professional Learning opines, “The creation of the Digital University will increase our Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education and ensure a seamless transition for students to continue with their education while staying employed at the same time.”

Dr Sahoo also feels the same. “The setting up of the Digital University is a great step towards the accessibility of quality world-class education to all. As per the NEP 2020, foreign universities will be set up and Gujarat will set up the first model foreign university to make education accessible to all,” she says.

The FM announced that the Digital University will be established to provide world-class quality universal education with ISTE standards. Sharma of Convergia calls it another significant step which will deliver quality education to students in this era of remote education. “This can help in bridging the skilling and knowledge gap because of the limited availability of physical infrastructures like universities and colleges,” he elaborates.

Dr Sandeep Sancheti, Provost, Marwadi University says that the overall initiatives for the education sector in the budget will help to bring in more international institutions to the country.

“The budget 2022 is high-growth focused and it will aid in bridging the learning divide. While international universities will be allowed to offer courses, partnerships between the Indian HEIs should also be promoted for better execution,” he asserts.

However, he worries that the on-ground implementation will continue to be a challenge, requiring deeper collaboration between industry, academia, and the private sector. 

The start-ups in the ed-tech sector have also welcomed the propositions of the budget. One such start-up founder, Divya Tej Periera of Tutrrd believes that the Digital University and the other announcements are an excellent move. “The government’s decision to introduce the Digital University to provide quality e-content is a forward-looking proposition and is aligned with improving the learning and teaching methods during the second year of the pandemic,” she conveys.

Another start-up owner, Prateek Bhargava, Founder and CEO of Mindler says, “The Digital University was one of the biggest highlights of the budget. The move will democratize the access to world-class quality education for students in different languages. With hybrid learning models expected to be the future, this is a great initiative by the government.”

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E-content through digital teachers will boost employability

Virtual labs and skilling e-labs will be developed to promote critical thinking skills and a stimulating learning environment under which, high-quality e-content will be delivered through Digital Teachers. Digital infrastructure in rural areas will be improved especially through the announcement of the Vibrant Villages Programme under which DTH access will be provided to Doordarshan and other educational channels for the villages in the northern border areas.

“By developing syllabi in different languages and focusing on skilling, reskilling and upskilling the youth in regional languages, the government has demonstrated its commitment towards breaking the glass ceiling and encouraging education in regional languages. Collaborations between public universities and institutions will create a network of hub and spoke models with competitive mechanisms, building a resilient mechanism for education delivery,” says Chaudhary of Aakash.

He acknowledges that the budget comes with a strong focus on empowering teachers through digitisation and highlights the necessity to train students in sync with global standards.

Dr Atul Nischal, Founder & Director at International Council for School Leadership (ICSL) feels delighted that teacher training has become an investment priority. “I whole-heartedly welcome the government’s commitment to digital learning as a solution to mitigate the pandemic-induced losses as well as to achieve the goals of the NEP 2020. There are close to 1 crore schoolteachers in India who need to be supported with a minimum of 50 hours of quality professional development every year,” he says.

However, India has yet to achieve the target of the NEP 2020, as the policy aims for public investment in education to be at 6 per cent of the total GDP of the country.

He also suggested that the government should create provisions for not-for-profits, such as the International Council for School Leadership, enabling them to play an active role in empowering and enabling the teachers of India.

Another major highlight was the announcement that world-class foreign universities and institutions will be allowed in GIFT IFSC to offer courses on fintech, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

According to Bhargava of Mindler, allowing world-class universities to offer courses free from domestic regulations will be great for students as this would make such education more accessible and affordable.

The DESH-stack e-portal is a welcome step 

The Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood (DESH-Stack e-portal) will be launched to promote online training, that will provide API-based trusted skill credentials, payment and discovery layers to find relevant jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. 

On this, Dr Gayathri Vasudevan, Chairperson LabourNet says, “The DESH-Stack e-portal is a welcome step towards creating high-quality e-learning content to empower citizens to skill, reskill or upskill themselves through online training.”

Dr Sahoo also lauds the step, saying, “For the implementation of the NEP 2020, great stress is being layed on shifting the focus on upskilling. Therefore, the launch of the Digital DESH e-portal for skilling, upskilling and reskilling will be the key to newer dynamics.”

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A boost for the edtech start-ups

In the last two years, India’s education industry has witnessed significant growth with new edtech companies entering the space with newer concepts and services. Most edtech start-ups are optimistic that the budget announcements will bring in new opportunities and growth for the education sector.

Mohta of Learning Spiral says, “Edtech and content development will see higher demand after the announcement of the dedicated Tv channels. Along with that, the e- registration, and e- admission steps will strengthen the system and make education more easily accessible to students.”

On the same note, Dsouza of Edufiq says, “PPP (Public-Private Partnerships) with hub and spoke models for edtech companies will certainly harmonize better learning outcomes, especially on world-class student skill development. Setting up of 5 COEs (Centres of Excellence) is a catalyst for excellence in education on the world stage.” 

Singh of Infinity Learn is pleased that the government has recognised the importance of the digital learning being provided by the edtech companies in India. The extension of the PM e-Vidya initiative from 12 to 200 TV channels will give the segment the requisite boost, he says.

The animation, gaming, and comics sectors could usher in an employment boom as well. The fact that an animation, visual effects, gaming, and comics (AVGC) promotion task force will be set up to realize the potential of this sector, is also a very welcome step. “The exploration of the Metaverse will also give rise to new skilling opportunities in animation, visual effects, gaming, and comics (AVGC),” says Dr Vasudevan. 

In conclusion, the education sector as a whole is quite satisfied with the education budget of 2022-23. The government’s emphasis on the complete digitalisation of the education sector is especially being applauded and appreciated by the stakeholders of this sector.