The school- going population of India has suffered greatly as a result of the closure of schools because of lockdowns related to the pandemic in the last two years. Many kids have lost significant years of study, notably in government schools and rural India. The nation’s education sector is anticipating a new era after the pandemic caused significant disruption for over three years. The government’s main priorities include improving the digitalization of the education system and upskilling the youth.
- In the Union Budget for 23–24, the education sector received its biggest ever allocation of INR 1.12 lakh crore ($ 13.66 billion). From INR 63,449 crore ($ 7.74 Bn) in 2022–2023 to INR 68,804 crore ($ 8.39 Bn) in 2023–24, funding for education has grown by 8%. Nirmala Sitharaman, the finance minister, declared numerous initiatives to close the growing educational gaps.
- The finance minister recognised the importance of developing robust educational delivery systems and excellent teacher preparation programmes. To achieve this, the government will redesign teacher training using cutting-edge pedagogy, curriculum change, ongoing professional development, dipstick surveys, and ICT adoption. The development of District Institutes of Education and Training as thriving centres of excellence is another goal.
- The budget also mentioned the establishment of a National Digital Library for children and teenagers. This library will be created to make high-quality literature accessible to all users regardless of technology and will be available in a variety of languages, genres, and levels. States will be urged to establish physical libraries at the ward and panchayat levels as well as to set up the necessary infrastructure for users to access the National Digital Library’s resources.
- The National Book Trust and Children’s Book Trust will be urged to give these physical libraries non-curricular books in regional languages and English in consideration of the learning loss brought on by the pandemic. This effort will also involve cooperation with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that concentrate on literacy. In order to promote financial literacy, financial sector regulators and organisations will also be urged to supply these libraries with age-appropriate reading material.
- Over the next three years, the government will hire 38,800 teachers and support staff for the 740 Eklavya Model Residential Schools, which serve 3.5 lakh tribal students, in an effort to make education more accessible to the last mile.
- Three Artificial Intelligence Centres of Excellence (CoE) would be established in prestigious academic institutions to make the vision of “Make AI in India” and “Make AI work for India” a reality. Leading business actors will work together to develop cutting-edge solutions, undertake multidisciplinary research, and address scalability issues in agriculture & healthcare. This will give the necessary push to build an efficient ecosystem for AI while simultaneously fostering skilled labour in the industry.
- Setting up of National Technical Textiles Mission: The government has announced the setting up of a National Technical Textiles Mission to promote the technical textiles sector in the country.
- Expansion of Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA): The government has announced the expansion of the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA), which will provide funding for the development of higher education institutions.
- Skill development: The allocation of funds for skill development programs is expected to improve the employability of the workforce, thereby increasing the productivity of the economy.
- Improving human capital: Investment in education is crucial for improving human capital, which is a key driver of economic growth. By investing in education, the government is laying the foundation for a more skilled and productive workforce, which will drive the economy forward in the long term.
- Attracting foreign investment: Improved education facilities and the availability of a skilled workforce are important factors for attracting foreign investment. The initiatives announced in the budget are expected to make India more attractive to foreign investors, which will boost economic growth.
- Encouraging entrepreneurship: The allocation of funds for entrepreneurship education is expected to encourage more people to start their own businesses, which will increase job creation and boost economic growth.
- Improving access to education: The allocation of funds for education infrastructure, such as the setting up of new schools and colleges, is expected to improve access to education, particularly in rural areas. This will improve the overall human capital in the country and contribute to the economic growth of the nation.
- A reduction in the overall cost that is currently passed on to schools and parents could result from the GST exemption on the supply of goods (including TVs and tablets for digital education, which are currently subject to a 28% GST) and services (used for teaching and learning applications and content, which are currently subject to an 18% GST). This will lower the cost of educational goods and services and encourage the adoption of NEP nationwide. Additionally, the GST exemption on textbook publishing will lower the cost of these publications for low-income parents. The production and delivery of tests and examination papers that are a requirement of school curriculum should likewise be free from GST for the same reason.
As the youth of India come of age in a world that is changing quickly and with new systems and challenges, closing the gaps in the education sector will be crucial. The country will be able to guarantee ongoing growth in education thanks to the initiatives indicated in the Budget 2023–24.