The Finance Minister certainly spotlighted basic education and skill development in his Budget 2013/14 announcements. He announced a 17 per cent increase over the previous year in resource expenditure, to Rs 65,867 crore. This will give a boost to the programmes of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Private companies that are already involved public-private partnerships (PPP), such as Educomp, CL Educate, NIIT and HCL Learning, are likely to benefit from the move.
According to Riad Joseph, Tax Partner - Education practice at Ernst & Young, there appear to be no specific announcements on regulatory reform, the PPP framework and incentives for the private sector.
In a fillip to primary education, the Budget has provided for Rs 27,258 crore for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Right to Education Act in 2013/14. The Finance Minister has gone a step further and increased the allocation by 25.6 per cent for Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan, and made a provision of Rs 3,983 crore. In other words, the basic focus remains unchanged. Those who have taken up education programmes, such as Shiv Nadar VidyaGyaan and Azim Premji's fund for education, will see greater involvement in the space.
In terms of higher education, there is not much, but some are excited by the incentive to incubators set up by companies in academic institutions qualifying as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity. "Entrepreneurship in higher education institutions will get a major boost," says XLRI Director Father E. Abraham, SJ, on the 2013 Budget. "We welcome forward-thinking organisations to set up incubators on our campus."
The focus on skill development is significant. The Finance Minister has not only pointed to the good work done by the National Skill Development Corporation, but has subtly scaled down the target from the earlier proposal, which envisaged skilling 80 million youth. The target now stands at 50 million under the 12th Plan. The move points to the stiff challenge the country faces in making vocational education effective. By empowering ministries with programmes and funds, he has taken the edge away from private participation which could have easily been initiated by encouraging more direct entry routes.