There was plenty of good news for the education sector as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley unveiled the third Budget of the Narendra Modi government on 29 February.
- A higher education financing agency is to be set-up with an initial capital base of ₹1000 crore
- 62 new Navodaya Vidyalayas are in the offing
- 10 public and 10 private educational institutions are to be made world-class
- There is to be a digital repository for all school leaving certificates and diplomas
- ₹1804 crore has been allocated for skill development
- The Department of School Education and Literacy has got an allocation of ₹43,554 crore, up from ₹42,186 crore in 2015-16
- The Department of Higher Education was allocated ₹28,840 crore, an improvement from ₹25,399 crore last year.
Suggestions like the setting up of a higher education financing agency are progressive steps that augur well for the future. Education experts say the budget has laid out a good roadmap for the future of education and skill development.
Dhiraj Mathur, partner and leader education, PwC India, noted:
"The Budget has correctly focused on improving quality of education. Numerous surveys consistently highlight the poor educational outcomes in our institutions. The proposed higher education financing agency for improvement in infrastructure of education institutions by raising CSR funds in a novel idea to raise funds for this important activity. Establishing a digital library for certificates is welcome: it will help students and also check [against] fraudulent degrees being submitted."
Ratnesh Kumar Jha, managing director, Cambridge University Press, South Asia, shared his appreciation of the Budget's focus on job creation and skilling:
"The emphasis on higher education... is a step forward towards enhancing the quality of education and the talent of work-force in the country. Jaitley's proposal to spread digital literacy in rural India and digitization at various levels in school and high quality world class education is sensible.''
Edupreneurs such as Fr E Abraham S J, Director, XLRI- Xavier School of Management, are delighted that the government has taken a decision to empower higher educational institutions to help them become world-class teaching and research institutions by seeking to put in place an enabling regulatory architecture so that 10 public and 10 private institutions may emerge as world-class teaching and research institutions. As top-tier, privately managed management education institutions have been adversely impacted in recent times as a consequence of the prevailing differentiated, non-level playing ground policy framework, this move is considered to be in the right direction.
The skill development emphasis of Jaitley's budget has scored well. Says Ninad Karpe, Managing Director and CEO of Aptech Ltd:
"This is pro-skill and employment budget with a keen focus on the rural segment. It is noteworthy that the FM has shown increased focus on the social sector. Announcements such as 1500 multi-skill training institutes with an impetus of ₹1,700 crore, and the objective to skill one crore youth in the next three years under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana is praiseworthy. Moreover, extending tax relief for hiring unemployed with salaries below ₹25,000 to the corporate would provide a boost to job creation. While the proposed digital depository for school leaving certificate is a welcome step, a central mechanism to validate skilled population would have been music to many ears."
Monica Malhotra Kandhari, senior director, MBD Group, echoes the same view.
"We welcome the Budget's liberal fund allocation towards education, skill development and job creation... the government has rightfully described 'education, skills and job creation' as one of the 'nine pillars' that will transform the country."
Meghna Ghai Puri, president, Whistling Woods International, sums it up best:
''The Finance Minister cited how education must become the fourth pillar of the budget which is heartening to hear. All in all I think there were a lot of positive ideas for the education sector."
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