A robust education system is imperative to any growing nation. It is all the more necessary when the country is battling a raging pandemic and aiming to become self-reliant. The pandemic has pushed back the progress in the education system by years and has thrown open the inequalities in the sector. The pandemic has also shown how wide the digital gap is. Moreover, India would need to increase its spend on the education sector if it wants to achieve the $5 trillion dream.
An Oxfam study has revealed that teachers fear that a third of the children might not even return to schools after they reopen. Most of these children are likely to be from the marginalised social groups, making the government's support crucial in the recovery of school education and prevention of drop-outs.
As for schools that do reopen and successfully bring back students, it would become necessary for them to implement safety protocols and standard operating protocols and bring in resources to keep the children safe. Funds must also be allocated for the capacity-building of school management committee. Adequate WASH facilities (water, soap and functional toilets) must also be made available in all schools before they reopen in the wake of the pandemic.
In order to bring students back to school the government must also organise back-to-school campaigns in order to reduce the dropout rates. Large-scale mapping would also be required to identify students leaving school and help them get back to class. Some students would also require additional funding.
"In the Union Budget 2021, the education sector should be given more priority, so the effects of Covid-19 can be normalised. Underprivileged students shall be given more learning tools and opportunities to adapt to digital learning methods. More robust platforms should be developed and curated for students to learn with ease and discipline. Moreover, skills like problem-solving, creativity and computational thinking are crucial for the 21st-century kids to face future adversities, just like the COVID-19 pandemic," said Anoop Gautam, CEO & Co-founder, Tinker Coders.
The gender gap that would only widen due to the pandemic must also be narrowed. Girl students are likely to face harsher conditions on their way back to schools. The government would need to undertake community-based initiatives to bring the girl child back to school.
"While quality education holds the key to inclusive growth in India, the public spending on education is at about 4.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) - lower than that of most developing nations. Education in India needs to be recognised as an equaliser - as a crucial instrument that can bridge the socio-economic divide in our country. Income inequality in India stems from the enormous disparity in learning outcomes after completion of education. And, to address this gap, reallocation of resources from other sectors need to be made and re-routed towards building a level-playing field for all students. Budget 2021 needs to focus on investments towards building a robust system of accountability, checks, and balances to level-up the delivery and quality of higher education. Ensuring equal opportunities for students irrespective of caste, class, gender, and region. And eventually, eliminating the need for quota-based reservations for students in the country," said Shaheem Rahiman, CEO of Atria University.
The digital gap has also proven to be a bane of the education sector. As students move the classrooms to their bedrooms, the marginalised are left behind due to lack of resources. The government must ensure that the marginalised students do not get left behind due to the lack of digital resources.
Not only in the foreseeable future, the Modi government has ambitious plans for the education sector as is evident from the National Education Policy 2020. The reforms announced by the Modi government requires an increase in spending. The government also said that it expects to increase spending in the education sector to 6 per cent of the GDP.