Union Budget 2022 gives fillip to Covid-hit education sector
Taking note of the serious disruption in eduction due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government will expand the One Class One TV Channel initiative under the PM e-Vidya scheme to 200 channels from the existing 20, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her budget speech in Parliament on Tuesday.
“Due to the pandemic-induced closure of schools, our children, particularly in the rural areas, and those from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and other weaker sections, have lost almost two years of formal education,” Sitharaman said. “We recognise the need to impart supplementary teaching and to build a resilient mechanism for education delivery.”
The expanded One Class One TV Channel initiative “will enable all states to provide supplementary education in regional languages for classes 1-12,” she said.
The government will also establish a digital university “to provide access to students across the country to world-class quality universal education, with personalised learning experience,” the finance minister said.
Despite the push in digital education, allocation under the digital India e-learning programme, which includes the PM e-Vidya scheme, was lowered to ₹421.01 crore for 2022-23 from ₹645.61 crore in the last financial year . The revised estimate of the programme in 2021-22 was pegged at ₹367.51 crore, lower that initially allocated.
The Budget set aside ₹1.04 lakh crore for education, an increase of around ₹11,000 crore, or 11.86%, from what was pegged in 2021-22. While the 2021-22 budget estimate allocated ₹93,224.31 crore for the sector, the revised estimates curtailed it to ₹88,00.52 crore.
Of the total outlay, ₹63,449.37 crore has been allocated for schools, and ₹40,828.35 crore for higher education. Last year, the financial allocation for the school and higher education departments was kept at ₹54,873.66 crore and ₹38,350.65 crore, respectively.
A bulk of the outlay for schools ( ₹37,383.36) will be spent on the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, the central government’s flagship programme for universal education. Last year, ₹31,050.16 crore was allocated for the scheme.
The midday meal scheme, renamed as PM Poshan last year, saw a drop in allocation, to ₹10,233.75 crore in 2022-23 from ₹11,500 crore last year. The revised allocation for 2021-22 was ₹10,233 crore, the budget document showed.
Allocation for central schools such as Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas increased by ₹850 crore and ₹315 crore, respectively. The budget allocation for the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) was increased by ₹10 crore from last year.
Budgetary allocation for teacher training and adult education was drastically reduced from ₹250 crore in 2021-22 to ₹127 crore in 2022-23. The revised allocation for 2021-22 teacher training and adult education dropped to ₹2.75 crore, indicating that the funds earmarked for the scheme could not be spent.
In higher education, the allocation of grants to central universities has risen to ₹9,420.00 crore from ₹7,643.26 crore last year. Monetary support to the Indian Institutes of Technology has increased by ₹658.9 crore and to Indian Institutes of Managements by ₹177.9 crore in 2022-23, in comparison to last year.
The outlay for research and innovation has been pegged at ₹218.66 crore in 2022-23 in comparison to ₹237.40 crore last year. The revised allocation decreased to ₹144.41 crore in 2021-22.
The allocation for Higher Education Funding Agency has been drastically trimmed to ₹1 lakh from ₹1 crore in 2021-22. The revised allocation for 2021-22 was also ₹1 lakh. HEFA offers 10-year loans to higher education institutions for infrastructure development.
Besides these, the government has allotted ₹1,800 crore for the exemplar scheme, which aims to prepare more than 15,000 schools of excellence to help showcase the implementation of the National Education Policy 2020.
An industry stakeholder welcomed the push for digital learning.
“The expansion of the PM e-vidya scheme will help bridge the existing education divide in Tier 2 and 3 cities,” said Vivek Sunder, chief executive of e-learning portal Cuemath. “The Budget rightly focuses on content in regional languages, which will help students in rural and semi-urban areas associate better with what they are being taught.”