Interim Budget 2024 wish list: What do experts expect for the education sector? – Times of India

Anticipations surround the Interim Budget 2024, with experts expecting a heightened focus on the education sector. Given the pivotal role of AI-based technology, there is a collective call for substantial investments, a progressive policy framework, and augmented R&D expenditure. To keep pace with global advancements, there’s also a consensus to fortify the ongoing NIPUN Bharat initiative for foundational skills in early education.Additionally, the wish lists of experts include increased allocations for Skill Education and support for doctoral scholars across disciplines, fostering a comprehensive approach to educational development. Read on to know what they expect from the Union Budget 2024.
Prof P J Narayanan, Director, IIIT Hyderabad
A country’s socio-economic landscape is greatly influenced by its academic and innovation environment, and India will be no exception. I urge the Government to allocate significant funding for this sector in the upcoming Union Budget, 2024–2025. AI-based technology has been a major driver in recent months and the trend will only accelerate. A call for heavy investments, a progressive policy framework, and increased R&D expenditure is clearly needed for India to catch up with the world in these areas. The government’s role is pivotal in fostering an ecosystem that fuels AI innovation, bringing academia, industry, NGOs, and government departments together. As we envision a future powered by AI, India’s investment must not only be monetary but also strategic, facilitating collaborative synergies for a thriving ecosystem.
The wealthiest internet-rich firms have invested billions of dollars in the most successful AI startups, like ChatGPT, Gemini, LLaMA, and others. Regretfully, there isn’t an Indian business with a comparable scale or emphasis to support our ecosystem. In India, the government’s involvement and framing of relevant policies are therefore becoming increasingly crucial in Make AI in India. To make it happen, the government should invest heavily, establish enabling mechanisms for rapid growth, and step aside to bring in the required agility to the process.
Rukmini Banerji, CEO, Pratham Education Foundation
There are three main points of action. First, continue and strengthen the ongoing energetic NIPUN Bharat implementation for building foundational skills in early grades. Secondly, enable ‘catch up’ in basic reading and arithmetic skills for those children in elementary grades (Grade 3 to 8) who need additional learning support. Thirdly, from the current base of digital skills, build further digital capability for secondary school students that can help them in ‘learning for school’, ‘learning for life’ and ‘learning for work’.
Dhuwarakha Sriram, Chief of YuWaah at UNICEF
I hope we build on the momentum of increased funding in the education sector even this year. It’s crucial to create inclusive and accessible opportunities for young people. This would entail more targeted investment in implementing career guidance guidelines and vocational education on the lines of NEP along with promotion of 21st-century skills which will be instrumental for youth. We also foresee greater awareness on mental health for young people through policy and advocacy. In essence, we are looking at monumental shifts in the Indian landscape with more educated and skilled youth entering the workforce.
Neharika Vohra, Professor Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
I wish greater allocation for Skill Education and Doctoral scholars in all disciplines. I would also expect that existing universities at the state and centre are allocated budgets with accountability for high tech research centres. Vacancies at all levels in universities must be filled for efficient functioning. Lastly and most importantly, an adequate budget should be allocated for digital transformation of universities.
Meeta Sengupta, Educator
Budget 2024 is expected to certainly highlight progress in education and allocate funding to a headline target that aligns with the manifesto. But the main thrust in the past two years in education has been on using the annual allocations better as the system activates the backend structures that align with the New Education Policy. We are unlikely to see big numbers, but a smart budget speech should include three elements. These include at least one initiative, a listing of progress for ongoing funded programmes and further support for an aspirational long-term programme. In addition, Girls Education in aspirational districts, Foundational and Integrated Skill-based Learning, Internationalisation and Institutional capacity in Higher Education are most likely to be received with applause.
Ms. Ratna Viswanathan, CEO, Reach to Teach
Over the past many years, particularly post COVID-19, it has been evident that although budget allocations are made for very valuable interventions, a large number of them do not come to fruition for a host of reasons. In the interest of efficiency, there is probably a need to step back, look at all the schemes in play and rationalise and consolidate them for the most efficient use of budgetary provisions. With so many moving pieces, there is a need to triangulate at the backend to identify duplication, overlaps and half-finished schemes. This will ensure prioritisation of budget allocations and the most valuable usage of the education budget.

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