The much-awaited maiden budget of the BJP led-NDA Government has finally been announced. The finance minister has announced a slew of innovative measures coupled with a host of extensions of schemes announced by the previous government. With the economists fuming over lack of novelty in the budget, let us attempt to understand what the budget means to the education sector.
1. New IIMs and IITs
Arun Jaitley has sought to make it easier for those aspiring to get the coveted tag of studying in India’s most esteemed institutes. Rs. 500 crore has been allocated to set up five more IITs and IIMs; bringing the tally to 18 IIMs and 21 IITs. The previous government had made a similar move during its tenure but had failed to understand that by increasing the number of institutes, without paying much heed to their quality, they are doing a disservice to the established repute of these institutes. The current government too seems to overlook quality over quantity.
2. Four New AIIMS
Medical students too can rejoice at this news. The government plans to set up 4 AIIMS units in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Vidharabha and Purvanchal. Rs. 500 crore has been allocated to this end. Like the soon-to-be established IITs and IIMs, the 4 new units would face the difficult challenge of infrastructural development and the complex task of delivering quality medical education.
3. New Sports University
Budding sportsmen looking forward to represent India on the global platform too have something to cheer about. Rs. 100 crore has been allocated to establish a sports-university in Manipur. “Academies with international level facilities for training of accomplished athletes and for nurturing best talent in the country at junior and sub-junior level will also be set up for shooting, archery, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting and various track and field events,” Mr. Jaitley said. National Sports Academy in different parts of the country will also be established.
4. Training Facilities for Teachers
In a bid to train teachers, Mr. Arun Jaitley announced a new Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya New Teachers Training Programme. The Rs. 500 crore scheme has been launched to focus on improving the quality of teaching by educating the faculty.
5. Virtual Classrooms
The finance minister has earmarked Rs. 100 crore for his new initiative, the Communication Linked Interface for Cultivating Knowledge (CLICK). The amount has been allocated for setting up virtual classrooms and online courses. It is a commendable move aimed to leverage technology to improve classroom teaching. The project is expected to be linked with the proposal to set up a National e-Library.
6. Gender Mainstreaming
The government has proposed to allocate Rs. 100 crore for its Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign in its budget. The amount, though a meager one, is expected to be utilized in reducing high female drop-out rates and in bridging the gap between male and female literacy. The campaign is also intended to mainstream gender education in the existing school curriculum.
7. Skill India
Keeping in view its election catchword, ‘Skill, Scale and Speed’, the BJP launched a National Multi Skill programme, ‘Skill India’ to commit itself in imparting entrepreneurial and employability skills to the youth. Nearly 65% of its population belongs to the workforce. By reiterating its commitment to nurture skill, the government has reiterated the need to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend of this nation. A 100-crore Young Leader Programme is also on the cards.
8. Primary and Secondary Education
The budget has also sought to improve the quality of school-education in India. UPA’s flagship project, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan received an amount of Rs. 28, 635 crore; an increase of nearly Rs. 1000 crore. The Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan budget too was hiked to Rs. 4,966 crore. A School Assessment Programme, pegged at Rs. 30 crore, is also likely to be started to check the quality of elementary education in India.
In addition to the above reforms, Budget 2014 has proposed setting-up of 12 more governmental medical colleges with dental facilities, 2 new institutes for farming and agriculture in Assam and Jharkhand, horticulture universities in Haryana and Telangana, new bio-technology clusters in Bangalore and Faridabad and Rs. 100 crore allocation for the modernization of Madrasas. The budget has also sought to simplify norms to facilitate educational loans for higher studies.
With the proclamation made, the average citizen can only hope that the aspirations, stoked during the election campaign, translate into concrete results.