With General Election 2019 just a few weeks away, the Interim budget 2019 has very special significance.
According to the recent Economic Times report, India’s jobless rate shot up to 45-year high during 2017-2018, NSSO showed unemployment rate at 6.1%, the highest since 1972-73, joblessness stood at 7.8% in urban areas compared with 5.3% in the countryside and this was the first comprehensive assessment of India’s employment situation post DeMo. Hence, the education sector has special significance in this year’s budget.
Against this backdrop here is what the edu-tech companies are expecting from tomorrow’s budget –
Vineet Chaturvedi, co-founder, Edureka, a global online learning company based in India.
‘Skilling’ and ‘continuous learning’ have become sufficiently important requirements in today’s competitive professional landscape so much so that even the Indian Govt. has taken note of it and launched skill development initiatives. What could accelerate India’s skill development story even further and provide fodder to corporate growth is a ‘skilling allowance’ for all taxpaying individuals. Such a rebate that rewards continuous learning will go a long way in creating an industry relevant workforce that can make India a skill hot spot. Continuous learning is a necessity and not just an option anymore and by treating it on par with necessary allowances such as HRA, LTA, DA & others, GOI would be doing India a great service. After all, India’s biggest strength is its human resource. Such an allowance will also be beneficial to IT, ITes industries which are subject to frequent skill churn and the ed-tech industry which has been working towards addressing this skilling need on ground.
Speaking specifically of the ed-tech industry, a reduction in GST would greatly help boost a culture of up-skilling among Indians and this is indeed the need of the hour for India to maintain an edge in technical skills. Education and up-skilling is no luxury and it should not be taxed as such. It’s said that India lags behind even Sudan when it comes to its investments in education and healthcare mapped as a measurement of its commitment to economic growth, according to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. It’s time to change that.
Divya Jain, CEO, and Founder, Safeducate
In the previous Budget 2018 Government took key steps in skilling and also increased the funds. In this Budget 2019, we expect that the Government should take key steps in raising the quality of skills to levels demanded by a potential employer or even required for a person to start one’s own business. The focus should be on integrating strategies to increase skilling outcomes and sustain economic growth. Current skill development initiatives should be integrated with nation-building mission programmes. As an Organization which provides skilling and get funded from the Government to execute the Skilling programme, we seek some tax benefits.
Constructing the Skilling centre requires a lot of physical material which is being charged along with GST. We are not being able to reclaim the GST we had paid in the Inward supplies. Also, we have various certification and degree programmes in Logistics and Supply chain management where we are not being exempted from GST. Support in terms of medical allowance for students that are being trained in skilling programmes. As technology is changing, the Government needs to allocate more funds to improve the quality and develop excellence in Skilling centres. The government has promised and initiated schemes in Skilling such as PMKVY 2.0, DDU-GKY, NAPS, Bharatmala and Sagarmala, PMKK etc. These schemes have helped us to reach the rural parts of India “The real India”. The government has been successful in implementing these schemes through strict monitoring and have been able to skill the rural youths of India.
Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO, and Founder, NextEducation India Pvt. Ltd
The budgetary allocation for education in 2018 stood at 3.5% of the entire budget, with a special focus on digitized classrooms, ICT-enabled learning, and quality teacher training programmes. However, the overall improvement of the education sector requires more prioritized attention and funding. With the General Budget around the corner, we have high hopes from the government and expect that a substantial amount would be set aside to the education sector so that we can lay a stronger foundation for new-age learning strategies.
The prerequisite for quality education becoming available to all is the free and easy access to quality e-learning resources. This can be initiated by the government through technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality and cloud computing. It is also important to ensure that internet access provided to rural areas is functional so that students from those parts can use it for effective self-learning. Training teachers on the latest pedagogies and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the need of the hour as they are expected to employ innovative teaching methods and make use of digital tools in the classrooms.
However, there is a dearth of 11 lakh adequately qualified teachers in the K–12 segments. Even though the government is trying to tackle the situation with initiatives such as Teacher Professional Development courses on the digital platform Diksha, this issue also needs prioritizing in the upcoming budget. We also hope that the government provides the right kind of infrastructural support for a system of education that is on a par with global standards, and help Indian students face the challenges of tomorrow.
Amol Arora, Vice Chairman & Managing Director – Shemford Group of Futuristic Schools
For any country, the most significant returns are those garnered from investments made in its children. The next generation is going to enter a globalized world and will be competing for jobs not just against other students but also innovative technologies that are quickly replacing human jobs. In order to keep our children in the competition, we need to ramp up our Ed-Tech sector in the years to come. To that end, Budget 2019 should give certain tax breaks to Ed-Tech startups to enable them to reach sustainable levels. The government should also grant financial incentives for organizations setting up educational institutes in rural and underserved areas.
Currently, the private sector in education is viewed with distrust which is why concrete steps should be taken to show that public-private partnerships can be a win-win for all – delivering quality without fleecing the parents. The government has made significant strides in the direction of technology-enabled learning with the launch of SWAYAM, which offers free online courses by teachers from reputable institutions. Another notable achievement was giving more autonomy to institutions of higher education. The Prime Minister Research Fellows (PMRF) program has helped meritorious students tremendously. However, the promise to boost education expenditure to 6% of GDP is still a distant dream and quality of education in schools and colleges is still a worry. Most importantly, the implementation of policies & programs still remains a key challenge. We hope to see more from the government this year for this most vital sector of the economy.