When Union finance minister Arun Jaitley presented his maiden Budget, all eyes were set on him with great expectations. Education and skill development, which is among the key drivers of social-economic growth, deserved radical reforms. Although India is still far from the dream allocation of 6% GDP to the education sector, I think the Budget has some definite positives on the country’s skill development and education sector.
For a government that has come to power with the promise of creating jobs, the announcement of the introduction of a multi-skill mission called ‘Skill India’ with renewed focus on traditional vocational trades such as welding, plumbing, carpentry, etc, is encouraging. After all, we need the skill development agenda to penetrate further into rural areas. More than 50% of the workforce in every industry is required at the entry level and the mass of employment has to happen from small towns and rural areas, for which the scale of our intervention should increase manifold.
Meanwhile, it is a good step that the government has renewed its focus on elementary and secondary education by allocating R28,635 crore and R4,966 crore for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, respectively. Even higher education has been allocated a funding of R16,900 crore, of which the IITs and the IIMs get the lion’s share of R7,138.97 crore. But the provisions of Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan should have been widened to include the private sector higher education institutions in it, as they are playing a crucial role in fulfilling our country’s escalating demand for quality higher education. Remember that nearly three-fourths of India’s college-going students are enrolled in private institutions.
Both the Rural Internet and Technology Mission and a start-up fund will help skill development, with one creating access to skill training and the other incentivising self-employment and enterprise creation. In fact, this was really needed because 93% of our workforce is employed in the informal sector.
Further, the focus on girl child education, upgradation of madrasas and steps towards improving teacher training are welcome. The ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana’ can lead to women becoming the nation builders in the future. Also, the launch of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya New Teacher Training Programme with an initial allocation of R500 crore is appreciated.
With 12 million people entering India’s workforce every year and with less than 2% of them formally certified, we have a long way to go before we can realise