With higher allocations to futuristic programs like DESH, ASPIRE and NAPS, the education budget is forward-looking even as it meets current sector needs
By Kamlesh Vyas
The FY23 budget for education leverages technology and digital channels for an inclusive recovery as India goes through 82 weeks of school closures. This includes initiatives such as setting up virtual learning labs to promote critical thinking skills, enabling teachers to develop quality electronic content, and setting up a digital university. Some other budget proposals like the Bharatnet project for fiber optic network, 5G spectrum auction and digital access to villages will help support the above initiatives on digital education. The budget has also been sensitive to the many students without digital access – the government has planned to increase the number of TV channels under the PM eVidya scheme for students. All of this should contribute to widening accessibility to education.
The Anganwadi Upgrading Initiative will support children’s health outcomes and better prepare them for school entry. The budget also includes a proposal to allow the establishment of foreign universities in the city of GIFT in Gujarat. The creation of a digital university, the launch of the DESH (Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood) and the use of certain industrial training institutes (ITIs) for skills development are other innovative ideas in the budget.
Allocation to Samagra Shiksha increased by 20%. The World Bank-supported Strengthening Teaching, Learning and Outcomes for States (STARS) program, which aims to improve school education, has received approximately 13% more funding than the ‘last year. Allocations to Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) and Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan have also increased. The allocation for the Department of Higher Education has been increased by approximately 6% compared to last year, while it has increased by approximately 14% for the Department of School Education and Literacy . Programs such as the Accelerating State Education Program to Improve Outcomes (ASPIRE) and the Exemplary Schools Program and National Learning Advancement Program (NAPS) have received financial support, as well as five academic institutions on urban planning and agricultural universities. The budget of Kendriya Vidyalaya and Navodaya Vidyalaya, the Union Government Model Schools, also received higher allocations.
While the allocation has increased by around 12% from the revised gross allocation in 2021-22, overall government spending, including spending at the state level, is expected to remain below the 6% level. GDP recommended by the National Education Policy 2020 (“NEP”)). There also appears to be a reduction in scholarships and grants. Also, the budget speech prominently did not include funding for the National Incentive Scheme for Girls in Secondary Education, the Scheme for Teenage Girls from SC/ST Communities, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas and the Padhna Likhna Abhiyan on basic literacy. With the government increasing its budgetary expenditure in specific areas during the financial year, it is likely that funds from other areas may be deployed for schemes where the allowance is not explicitly mentioned or where the allowance may be insufficient. The Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0, the rebranded midday meal programme, saw a slight increase over the previous year’s budget estimates, although its coverage was extended to pre-primary level children.
Meanwhile, the improved Anganwadis will contribute to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and help increase school enrolment. With a focus on teacher training for virtual content development, engaging, high-quality content will be widely available to children across the country. This is likely to improve learning outcomes, especially in basic literacy and numeracy (FLN). This is important because quality, low-cost or free ed-tech content in the K8 segment, delivered through multiple media, is a current need Another likely gain is the ability for teachers to connect and share their learnings digitally , improving the participation of teachers Knowledge Exchange (KX) platforms and learning communities, as well as the creation of KX platforms, thus contributing to professional development.
In the higher education segment, expanding the footprint of digital and online education would help improve the gross enrollment ratio, currently around 30%. Digital education has the potential to democratize education by being accessible at a fraction of current costs while enabling the. convenience education
Overall, the FY23 education budget is forward-looking and focused on the immediate needs of the sector. For a few areas, we might see adjustments and reallocations as the focus shifts from budget to actual implementation. These proposals are likely to create several positive outcomes for the country in the areas of education, skills development and improved literacy. as well as energizing the growing EdTech sector.
The author is Partner, Deloitte India