Budget 2024: Education sector eyes increased allocation, here’s what to expect
4 min read • Updated: January 31, 2024, 1:29 PM
The experts believe that the government is likely to focus on popular schemes like Skill India and the provisions of National Education Policy (NEP) to give boost to the education sector.
As India marches towards a knowledge-based economy, the spotlight intensifies on its education sector. With the Interim Budget 2024 looming, speculations regarding the government's investment plans in this critical domain are plentiful.
Education sector has high hopes from the upcoming Union Budget given the government’s emphasis on knowledge-based economy. As finance minister is all set to present the Interim Budget on February 1, experts predict some announcements to give a boost to the education sector.
Let’s explore what could be in store for the education sector as the government is likely to focus on popular schemes like Skill India and the provisions of National Education Policy (NEP).
Focus on infrastructure development
Due to increasing enrollment ratios across all levels of education, there is a pressing need to expand the educational infrastructure in the country. Experts opine that the Budget should allocate adequate funds for the construction of new schools, colleges, skill development centers and universities. Infrastructure expansion will help increase access to education, especially in rural and underprivileged areas. Better infrastructure will also help improve the quality of learning and make education more inclusive.
Skill development and vocational training
While the NEP 2020 laid a strong framework for skill-based learning, there is a need to augment resources for skill development missions. Experts believe vocational training should be an integral part of the school curriculum to meet industry demands. The Interim Budget can promote skill development programmes in emerging sectors and provide financial support for setting up new vocational training institutes across the country. This will help in creating a skilled workforce and boosting employment opportunities.
Digital initiatives and online learning
With the rapid digitalisation of education during the pandemic, the Interim Budget should strengthen digital infrastructure in schools and colleges. Expanding internet connectivity, especially in rural areas and lowering device costs will make online education more accessible for all. Experts observe that more funds should be allocated to develop digital content and online learning platforms. Teacher training programs should also emphasize digital pedagogy to incorporate technology in classroom learning.
Higher allocation for research
Promoting a strong research culture is key to driving innovation. Experts believe the budget can support this goal through higher allocation for research and development activities in universities and institutions. Setting up research parks and science laboratories requires large investments which the government should consider. Targeted financial incentives can encourage cross-institutional collaborations and industry partnerships in research.
Student scholarships and loans
Access to affordable education loans and need-based scholarships promotes equity in education. The Budget can enhance financial support for economically weaker students through existing schemes like post-matric and merit-cum-means scholarships. Interest subsidies on education loans and tax benefits for donations to academic institutions can create more opportunities for deserving students.
Experts opine that the Budget should allocate funds to support the implementation of competency-based teaching methods as outlined in the NEP. This will require retraining teachers and introducing alternative forms of assessments. Experiments with new teaching-learning models and the development of learning management systems also need government support. Overall, the focus could be on nurturing students’ total well-being and skills of the 21st century.
Strengthening medical education
Considering the vital role of the healthcare sector, experts have emphasized the need for higher budgetary support for medical education infrastructure. Setting up new nursing and paramedic colleges, and upgrading existing hospitals attached to medical colleges requires large public funding. Digital technology can supplement physical classrooms to enhance the availability of skilled doctors and paramedics in both urban and rural areas.
Support to startups in education technology
Experts believe more tax reliefs and incentives should be announced in the Budget to encourage education technology startups. Simplifying regulatory norms and easing access to funding can promote innovation in edtech startups. This will not only make education affordable and accessible through new-age solutions but also generate jobs. Public-private partnerships could be facilitated to take the benefits of technology to all students.
The education sector expects the interim Budget to substantially increase allocation and address long-standing demands around the expansion of infrastructure, skill development, digital initiatives, research promotion and financial assistance to students. If these recommendations are incorporated, the Interim Budget can go a long way in realising the objectives of the National Education Policy and accelerating the growth of the knowledge-based economy.