Budget 2017 has been promising for education stakeholders. ‘Exciting’ proposals have been made for the higher education sector, students will not have to appear for multiple entrance examinations. Innovation and creativity will be given a push in schools. Autonomy for colleges and institutes will enable them to improve their performance without government interference.
Reforms in UGC will allow the education regulator to intensify focus on academic matters and promote excellence in education. “Hopefully, this (proposal) will see (UGC) pass on some of its multiple responsibilities to the Higher Education Financing Agency and focus on regulation,” says Dr Rudra Sensarma, professor of economics, IIM Kozhikode.
Similarly, the proposed national testing agency will free up educational institutions and boards and councils like CBSE and AICTE from the job of conducting admission tests and “students will be relieved that they have to now write fewer exams for admissions,” says Sensarma.
Learning level assessments and autonomy for boards like CBSE are a “reassurance of commitment to improve quality,” says Shailender Sharma, vice president, education and skill development, IPE Global, an international development consulting group.
Rohin Kapoor, director, Deloitte Haskins & Sells LLP, says greater autonomy in higher education will address longstanding demands of the industry and “hopefully facilitate India’s entry into the global Ivy League.”
The proposal to allow reputed hospitals to start courses should provide a boost to medical education. Sensarma also feels it will fill the resource gap in the health sector.
The bright spots in the budget, according to Narayanan Ramaswamy, partner and head of education and skill development, KPMG in India, are the announcement of an innovation fund for local innovation in schools, and autonomous status for more colleges and institutes.
Kapoor is optimistic that the focus on monitoring and improving learning outcomes through investment in ICT-(information and communication technology) enabled transformation will have a far reaching impact on improving quality, equity and access of education in the country.
Provision of funds towards education offers the opportunity to usher changes in the sector. It also talks about strengthening education quality. Creation of an innovation fund is the need of the hour, particularly for a diverse country like India. Ths fund “will help in narrowing of gap through critical gap filling and extending ICT- enabled learning particularly in Educationally Backward Blocks,” says Sharma.
The drawbacks? Kapoor said the Budget failed to adequately address ambiguity around foreign investment, demand for increasing public sector investment and incentivising private participation in the sector.
Ramaswamy felt the Budget did not do enough by way of support and encouragement for skill development and vocational education.