What Arun Jaitley’s Union Budget 2017 has to offer to the Education Sector

                                                                                                                                                                                                  source: www.pib.nic.in

In the history of the Annual Union Budget of India, it is the first time that a consolidated outcome including the Rail Budget and all other Ministries was presented today, February 1 by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament. Compared to the Union Budget 2016-17, and 2015-16 when the Education sector received a fair share of investment from the Government, the Budget 2017 does not escalate this amount as high.

The key highlights of Budget 2017-18, for development of youth and education sector, Jaitley proposed the following –

  • Set-up of 2 new AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) in Jharkhand and Gujarat, and an increase of 5,000 post-graduate medical seats.
  •  Introduce a system of measuring annual learning outcomes in schools with emphasis on science education.
  • An Innovation Fund for Secondary Education will be created to encourage local innovation for ensuring universal access, gender parity and quality improvement. This will include ICT (Information and Communications Technology) enabled learning transformation. The focus will be on 3,479 educationally backward blocks.
  • In higher education, good quality institutions would be enabled to have greater administrative and academic autonomy. Colleges will be identified based on accreditation and ranking, and given autonomous status.
  • Launch SWAYAM platform with at least 350 online courses. It would enable students to virtually attend the courses taught by the best faculty; access high quality reading resources; participate in discussion forums; take tests and earn academic grades. Access to SWAYAM would be widened by linkage with DTH channels, dedicated to education.
  • Establish a National Testing Agency as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions. This would free CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), AICTE(All India Council for Technical Education) and other premier institutions from these administrative responsibilities so that they can focus more on academics.
  • 100 International Skills centres will be established across the country. These centres would offer advanced training and courses in foreign languages, to help those who seek job opportunities outside the country.

Though SWAYAM and National Testing Agency were already in the news in 2016, giving autonomy to institutions was something new on the table. Regarding giving autonomy to institutions, Professor SK Gupta, Computer Science and Engineering department, IIT Delhi, said, “It is very good that the Government has proposed to provide autonomy to institutions. But the question remains on what basis will they judge the institute’s performance.”

At IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Bombay’s Mood Indigo (annual cultural fest) in December 2016, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, also spoke about giving autonomy to institutions in the state.

Last year in the Budget 2016-17 –

  • Government proposed to set-up a Higher Education Financing Agency with an initial capital base of Rs 1,000 Crores.
  • 1,500 Multi Skill Training Institutes were to be set-up.
  • National Board for Skill Development Certification to be setup in partnership with the industry and academia. Entrepreneurship Education and Training through Massive Open Online Courses and more.

In 2015-16 –

  • A new IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) in Karnataka, five new AIIMS were announced.
  • A post graduate institute of Horticulture Research & Education, in Amritsar
  • Three new National Institute of Pharmaceuticals Education and Research in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh
  • One Institute of Science and Education Research in Nagaland and Orissa were also announced

The Education sector gets only so much from the Union Budget, as it is directly dependent on state and central government for grants, and funds. Professor Anurag Sharma, Department of Physics, IIT Delhi, said, “I don’t think the institutes expect anything from the budget. We get our grants from MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development), which sometimes goes up and down. I don’t think we were even expecting anything from the Union Budget 2017-18.”

He continued, “However, the budget only announces new IITs and all, otherwise there is no involvement from the institute’s point of view.”

Students on the other hand did have expectations from the Union Budget 2017. Sidharth Ranjan, a final year student of B.Tech and M.Tech dual degree in Electrical Engineering at IIT Delhi said,”Research scholar doing PhD in India should be paid little more than what they are paying at IITs, as compared to being paid abroad. I was expecting a stipend hike or an increment in MHRD research funds.”

ASV Kireeti, a first-year student at IIT Bombay, said, “We definitely want more funds in the education sector and research, but when was the budget ever a ray of hope in this case?”

The Annual Union Budget was announced for the fiscal year 2017-18, but the point of concern is its implementation. To sum-up the Union Budget for the Education sector, Professor Himanshu Rai, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow, said, “While the Union Budget 2017 was high on intent, it failed to put forth concrete measures to implement it. It failed to address the ‘how’ aspect of it all, with no real expenditure mentioned anywhere in the Finance Minister’s speech.”

He continued, “Moreover, the announcement of a single authority to conduct entrance tests for all higher institutions instead of boards like CBSE, AICTE is also a positive step. However, I hope, this gives CBSE enough autonomy to look in to the pedagogy of its secondary and higher secondary education.”

Read more about the Annual Union Budget 2017-18 – 

Click here – Union Budget 2017: Two new AIIMS for Gujarat and Jharkhand; PG seats to be increased by 5,000

Click here – Union Budget 2017: How the budget this year is different from previous ones