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Why Budget 2018 would be remembered as the one that revamped the Indian education system

Mr. Mahesh Tejwani     February 11, 2018

For the last three years, the focus of the government has been to improve the 'ease of doing business' through various efforts and it has succeeded to a great extent. As natural progression, the government would also eventually have to focus on 'the ease of living' for our citizens and that was precisely the conspicuous tone of the Budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitely on Thursday.

But, we all know that the key to this transition is education which will create the talent pool for the growing opportunities in the new India and also contribute towards the well-being of the nation. The government should be complimented for acknowledging this basic fact and paying extra attention to education in the Budget.

We have been grappling for years to formulate a comprehensive education policy as we are still following Macaulayism in education. What we need is a total revamp of the system to support and create talents in tune with campaigns like 'Make in India' and 'Startup India'. Against this backdrop, why this Budget is laudable is precisely because of the intent shown by the government to look at education from a 'holistic' angle. And the attempt to measure the learning outcome through a national survey of 20 lakh students should be seen as the first step towards creating holistic approach on education.

The Budget also constructively and positively looked at the two vital factors that did not get enough attention in the past. First is the improvement in the quality of teachers and second is the adoption of technology which will be the biggest driver for education in the future. Both these are key elements of a holistic education approach.

The quality of teachers, both the new recruits and the existing ones, has been a major concern and making the teachers up-to-date through continued education programmes was never cared for. This was addressed to a certain extent in the Budget that promised an integrated B.Ed programmes and training of 13 lakh untrained teachers.

But the present Budget will mostly be remembered more for its thrust on digitalisation in the same way it sought to improve the health and living conditions. The world has been marching fast from black board to digital board while we are lagging behind. The sooner we reach there, the better would be the future of India.

The all-pervading intervention of technology, whether it is teachers' quality or education quality, is the key to our future strides of development. The government has rightly taken note of it and that augurs well for new India, being propagated by our Prime Minister.

Several initiatives like Ekalavya schools, Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) by 2022 with a total investment of Rs 1,00,000 crore in next four years and Prime Minister's Research Fellows (PMRF) all fall in line with this holistic approach on education.

Perhaps what was missing from the Finance Minister were some concrete incentives and support to the private sector which is crucial to improve the overall quality of education, job creators as well as the job seekers.

Still, the Budget has sent a positive sentiment for the educationists and students as education has been taken as a vital trigger in creating a new India where ease of living is better, ease of doing business is better and cutting edge digital technologies are accessible to all citizens, whether in the rural hamlets or in the urban clusters.

Mr. Mahesh Tejwani is the President of Vivekanand Education Society, Mumbai

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