In her Budget speech on Saturday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an allocation of Rs 99,300 crore for the education sector in 2020-21, and Rs 3,000 crore for skill development. She said that the Centre will announce a new education policy soon, for which the government has already received over two lakh suggestions.
“It is felt that our education system needs greater inflow of finance to attract talented teachers, innovate and build better labs,” she announced, proposing greater Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) to deliver higher quality education.
In order to improve the employability of students, Sitharaman announced that about 150 higher educational institutions will start apprenticeship for embedded degree/diploma courses by March 2021. The government also proposed to start a programme wherein urban local bodies across the country will provide internship opportunities to fresh engineers for a period of up to one year.
The Finance Minister said that online education programmes at the degree-level will be launched for students who do not have access to higher education conventionally. “This shall be offered only by institutions who are ranked within top 100 in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF),” said Sitharaman.
Under the Study in India programme, a campaign that focusses on brining international students to study in top-ranking higher educational institutions in India at affordable costs, an IND-SAT exam is proposed to be held in Asian and African countries. This will be used for benchmarking foreign candidates who receive scholarships for studying in Indian higher education centres. “Mentioning of the ‘Study in India’ scheme again this year indicates the government’s priority to continue this scheme for long-term admission of foreign students in India’s higher education institutions,” said Manoj Kumar, chairman and managing director, EdCIL India, a public sector undertaking that is the implementing agency for the Study in India programme. Kumar pointed out to how the provisions enable the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) Top 100 Institutions to use technology to spread education to the remotest areas. “The Budget is a truly progressive one in terms of the education sector,” he says.
Sitharaman also proposed a National Police University and a National Forensic Science University to promote policing science, cyber forensics and other related courses. The Finance Minister stressed on the huge demand for teachers, nurses, para-medical staff and care-givers abroad, and how their skill-sets often do not match quality employer standards. “I propose that special bridge courses be designed by the Ministries of Health and Skill Development, together with professional bodies to bring in equivalence. Language requirements of various countries need also to be included. All these should be achieved through special training packages,” she said.
The Study in India programme can have favourable results only if the current unrest among students in campuses across India over the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) tides over.