The Union Budget 2022 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has undoubtedly put the Education sector in the limelight.
Amongst several industries that saw heavy losses in the last 2 years due to the ongoing pandemic, the Education sector was one of the few that saw a visible loss of learning, which will impact the generation to come.
Keeping in mind that the young generation is India’s future, the Finance Minister has rightly prioritized education. The financial allocation for the education sector for 2022-23 is Rs 1.04 lakh crore from an earlier budget of Rs 93,224 crore in 2021-22.
Digitizing education-can India pull it off?
The initiative of a “digital university” under the PM e-VIDYA scheme, where children, specifically from the weaker sections of the society will be taught via 200 TV channels, seems a mammoth of a task for schools to undertake.
In the last 2 years, the state-run government schools have struggled to provide online education because the teachers and administration lack technological expertise.
To ensure teaching is rightly imparted via the digital mode, it is imperative that teachers be trained in an appropriate environment while having access to the best available resources. We have no choice but to prioritize technical training for teachers because e-learning will see immense growth in the times to come.
Moreover, there should be a strong drive to develop digital infrastructure with seamless connectivity. We are in the 3rd year of this pandemic, and by the time the framework is created, children will already be back in schools.
The ideation behind it is novel, but execution under the given timelines is questionable. Ensuring regular physical schools is the need of the hour.
Lay emphasis on mental health of children
As stated by several pediatricians in India, there is a noticeable lack of social and mental development amongst children because of the time spent being away from classes, teachers, and peers.
The last two years have been daunting with online classes, the uncertainty of exams, low social interaction, not to forget the loss of loved ones. As a nation, now would have been the ideal time to put mental health in the spotlight. The budget should have allocated some amount on counselling school and college-going children. A mandatory and effective counselling programme should be drawn to uplift children from all societies and backgrounds.
Pay heed to early childhood development
While older children will still have access to the online mode, toddlers and younger children have missed out on their formative years. Outdoor play areas have been shut and incapable of being maintained. A massive push for Urban Planning has been noted, which can hope to see the development and restoration of parks, playgrounds, and outdoor play areas.
A macro-level boost to urban city planning is impressive, however, detailed planning with a focus on children’s physical health, specifically in urban cities, is a must.
Boost to the Toy Industry
Unlike last year, the Budget drew attention to “make in India” and implemented a new BIS certification for quality adherence to be implemented by all toys and games manufacturers in India. While it reduced our dependency on imports, the government needs to give a further boost to materialize the domestic Toy Parks proposed by it in 2021.
Play is a vital component of development for children and is also known to be therapeutic. At the same time, safe and sustainable play should be encouraged amongst children to ensure their creativity and imagination are heightened.
Imparting Quality Education
A noteworthy allocation of imparting quality education in the National Skill Qualification framework has been made in Budget 2022. It will be more correspond to the dynamic industry changes, providing idyllic skill training to students. It is a matter of great importance to providing immaculate industry-based training, rather than bookish knowledge, in order to make our youth employable.
The icing on the cake is the launch of Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood – the DESH-Stack e-portal, which will broaden the reach of skilling through its online offering. If implemented well, citizens can skill, reskill and cross-skill to widen their horizons and become better suited and aptly qualified for jobs.
This would also empower start-ups to create facilities and encourage entrepreneurship at the local levels.
Making India Aatmanirbhar in Edtech
The budget has been outlined to provide fiber-based internet in every corner of India by 2023. This is an optimistic move that will give bridge the socio-economic divide of our country. Ever since the world has shifted online, there has been a visible paradigm shift in the Right to Education. The only way to sustain and stay ahead is by creating our own strong technological foundation.
Technology combined with education will uplift and empower students irrespective of demographics.
The government must work with private players in the Edtech space to ensure a smooth progression.
(By Ms.Simran Lekhi – Founder Kidstack)