1st February 2021, Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Finance, India presented the annual budget and proposed reforms for the fiscal year 2021-2022.
To enhance and promote the sector of education visible measures have been undertaken. Initiatives include proposal to increase the limit of annual receipts of educational institutions — existing solely for educational purposes — from the current Rs. 1 crore to Rs. 5 crore for income tax exemption (u/s.10 of Income Tax Act), allocation of Rs. 99,300 crore for the sector of education and Rs. 3000 crore for skill development.
A: School Education
The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), approved by the Union Cabinet of India on 29th July 2020, garnered a beneficial reception will be furthered through the budget 2021. Over 15,000 schools will be enhanced in effectiveness by implementing all the NEP components. These schools are to be centres of academic excellence in their region and shall guide other schools towards adopting the NEP policies. 100 Sainik Schools in partnership with NGO’s, private and public schools is additionally proposed.
The funds for Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) saw an increase as the KVs have been issued Rs 6,800 crore for the upcoming financial year as compared to Rs 5,516 crore last year. The budget allocation to Navodaya Vidyalayas has been increased by Rs 500 crore. Last year, Rs 3,300 crore was allocated to Navodaya Vidyalayas, while for this year, the funds have been raised to Rs 3,800 crore.
B: Higher Education
The budget provisions in higher education proposed to set up a ‘Higher Education Commission of India’ as an umbrella body governing the overall higher education, excluding medical and legal education with four independent bodies for standard-setting, accreditation, regulation and funding. As per NEP 2020, these bodies are categorized into- General Education Council (GEC), and National Accreditation Council (NAC), National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) and Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC). Government of India has supported many institutions, universities and colleges. For instance, Hyderabad , has about 40 such major institutions. In 9 such cities, we will create formal umbrella structures so that these institutions can have better synergy, while also retaining their internal autonomy.
Additionally, to ensure accessibility of higher education in Ladakh, the government would establish a Central University in Leh.
C: Scheduled Castes & Tribal Welfare
The Post Matric Scholarship Scheme is to receive a face-lift through the Central assistance of Rs. 35,219 crore for 6-yrs till 2025-2026 is proposed for the welfare of scheduled caste students. The proposal anticipated to benefit 4 crore scheduled caste students. Setting up schools in the hilly regions offering ease of access is additionally proposed. A target establishing 750 Eklavya model residential schools in our tribal areas has been set. to increase the unit cost of each such school from 20 crores to 38 crores, and for hilly and difficult areas, to `48 crores.
D: Skill Development & Training
The Government proposes to realign the National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS) for providing post-education apprenticeship, training of graduates and diploma holders in the field of engineering by amending the Apprenticeship Act. This is intended to enhance apprenticeship opportunities for the youth of the nation. It has been decided to allot over Rs. 3 crore towards this initiative.
Alongside, an initiative in partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to significantly advance skill-based education, assessment, and certification, accompanied by the deployment of certified workforce is proposed. Measures similar to the Training Inter Training Programme (TITP) between India and Japan — to facilitate the transfer of Japanese industrial and vocational skills, technique, and knowledge — would be initiated and established with many more countries.
E: Research & Development
The government has proposed to provide 50,000 crores to the National Research Foundation (NRF) to be disbursed over 5 years. The research system of the country is to be strengthened with a particular focus on designated national-priority areas. Hope to reduce compliance burden on small charitable trusts running educational institutions and hospitals. So far, there is a blanket exemption to such entities, whose annual receipt does not exceed 1 crore. It is now proposed to increase this amount to 5 crore.
Other provisions proposed include: establishment of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) for enhancing capabilities of teachers; developing of toy-based learning to promote innovative and joyful learning experience; to assist and support the Centre and States/Union Territories, setting up of National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR); standardization of Indian Sign language nationally towards upliftment of hearing impaired children; inclusion of senior and retired teachers in a knowledge-sharing role for employed teachers, identification of student potential alongside development of cognitive levels; tackling of student anxiety reforms to be introduced by CBSE from 2022-23; and promotion of international higher education by introducing concepts of dual degrees, joint degrees and twinning arrangements. It is enabled to train 56 lakh school teachers through the National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers for Holistic Advancement (NISTHA).
Establishment of National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers shall train teachers to be digitally equipped and accomplished; an initiative that began during COVID-19 training over 30 lakh elementary school teachers digitally.
F: Mid Day Meal Scheme:
The mid-day meal scheme saw an increase of Rs 500 crore as the total allocation has been raised to Rs 11,500 crore from Rs 11,000 last year.
To strengthen nutrition, Mission Poshan 2.0 will be formed by merging the supplementary Nutrition Programme with Poshan Abhiyan. The SNP is delivered through Anganwadis, or early childhood care and education centres. 4 National Institutes of Biology to be established.
Overall the budget is good for the education sector, but it could have been better. There was no rationale for reducing the budget allocation for key sectors. Also, there is no substantive support or plan laid down to encourage digital infrastructure in education sector. It would have been encouraging if the Government would have created separate fund of NEP, but that is not the case.