Union budget 2021-22 will be a landmark one as we have been through unprecedented times in 2020. Given the country’s deteriorating economic situation due to the pandemic which led to disruption across several sectors, this budget will be a challenging and an extremely crucial one. Education is one of the sectors that has a huge expectancy from the Budget for reviving the sector after the Covid-induced challenges that the education institutions faced this year.
Schools and colleges were closed all throughout 2020 due to the Covid crisis. Amid a pandemic, education took a back foot since it was impossible to conduct on-campus learning. The only best possible alternative was online education. The new normal enabled teachers and students to get used to the online learning tools to continue education. Shifting to online learning had its pros and cons. Technological issues like poor internet connectivity were a consistent challenge faced by everybody which caused a barrier of communication between both the educator and students.
There is a great digital divide in our country. The pandemic has exposed how there is a deep-rooted structural imbalance between rural and urban, male and female, rich and poor, even in the digital world. COVID 19 has acted as an eye opener to reveal that India is yet not prepared for digital education. The underprivileged class are at a disadvantage due to the lack of proper facilities to attend online classes. Hence, the worst affected during the pandemic were the marginalized, rural populations. The Budget must allocate adequate funds to build digital infrastructures across the country, especially in rural India, to bridge the gap that exists. The Government schools where over 80% of Indian students study have been the biggest sufferers. The Government must take note of the situation and build infrastructures in such a way that all students are at par with each other. After the emergence of COVID-19, classroom education has undergone a complete change and the government must put more focus accessibility of online education in every part of the country. Upskilling of teachers is also crucial as they need to adapt to changing pedagogies as well. Opening FDI into education would encourage inculcating stronger Public-Private Partnerships with educational institutions which would in turn promote more efficient execution and designing of better models for the deeper spread of internet frequency.
Union budget of 2021 would be the first after the announcement of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The NEP brought about quite a positive change in our system. It proposed changes in schools and higher education for the development of education in our country. The industry will now look up to Budget 2021 for the implementation of NEP. There are expectations of adding more budgetary measures to reform the education sector as was recommended in the NEP ‘20. This year’s budget should direct its maximum resources on implementation of NEP, building teacher capacities & augmenting health and hygiene at school levels. The education system requires higher investments to progress. The Union Budget of this year must prepare a financial scheme for the ‘NEP implementation plan’ and ensure adequate resources for expanding and strengthening the education system.
Students are the pillars who would build a strong foundation for economy in the future. Education plays a major role in nation building and hence the budget must provide utmost relief and support for this segment. K-12 education is referred to the primary and secondary phases of school life. This sector covers the education of a student from their kindergarten to standard XII. NEP 2020 and COVID-19 made it prominent that the K12 education sector needs more attention and priority from Government of India in the Budget of 2021. Allocating of 6% of the GDP towards Education would lead to a healthy start in the further progress to build a strong foundation.
The year 2020 brought a lot of change in the Indian Education System from the introduction of NEP 2020 to transitioning to online learning. Since the world got hit by the sudden devastating pandemic, education has been in an extreme crisis. In these crucial times, Government and educational institutions must entail safety for all the students and teachers and provide the best possible way to restart in- person learning. Schools must reopen following close precautionary guidelines which might include smaller class size, regular temperature checks, sanitizing booths, increased availability to sinks. Schools will need a strong financial help to revive back from the loss they have endured in the last year and be able to pay their past dues and sustain themselves in the future. Funds should be earmarked towards reopening of schools safely. Hygiene measures and safety of pupils, teachers, staff is extremely crucial to ensure that the virus does not spread further, and we can get back to our normal lives. Back to school campaigns should be introduced by the Government to encourage students to go back to school, after a gap of nearly 11 months. Difficult times teach us many things which normally we tend to overlook. COVID 19 has been especially hard on the economically disadvantaged. The Budget should make considerations and allot funds and scholarships to help students coming from such background.
As the year 2020, filled with extreme turbulence and crisis has finally come to an end, it presents us with multiple avenues to think and reflect upon. Especially in the field of education, the concerns are numerous. After the massive loss that the educational sector faced due to Covid-19, the Government must treat Education as a priority agenda for the Budget planning this year. It needs urgent attention and financing to revive back stronger from the deprivation of past year. The industry is hopeful towards a positive, constructive and an impactful Union Budget.
Dr Mona Lisa Bal, Chairperson, KiiT International School