Budget 2021: Expectations for the education sector
The pandemic has severely impacted education in our country with over 200 million children losing out a year full of schooling. This situation is even more dire in smaller towns and cities in India where affordable private schools have struggled to provide requisite online learning since last year owing to lack of technology infrastructure, school fees and teachers who were equipped to teach online.
In addition to students and parents, teachers too have been severely impacted as many faced job cuts or mental pressures to train themselves quickly to adopt to online teaching.
In view of these disruptions in the learning process, it is important that some corrective methods through fiscal measures be undertaken in the upcoming general budget.
Teacher relief fund for APS - According to recent report more than 50 per cent private schools have uncollected fee that accounts for anywhere between 13 to 80 per cent of annual revenue. If this scenario continues teachers’ salaries and technology infrastructure upgradation for hybrid learning will be severely impacted in 2021 as well. Therefore, the government should consider budgetary allocation to set up a relief fund to provide easy credit or teacher salary fund for affordable private schools that struggled through Covid 19.
Pilot fund for PPP for Government Schools - Given that government schools are already lacking infrastructure and good quality teachers, the current shutdown of schools can have long lasting impact on children studying in these schools. A Public-Private Partnership to improve learning outcomes in government schools is desired so that the gaps in learning that students are currently facing can be closed at the earliest. A pilot fund can be set up that facilitates different state governments to work with private partners in helping government schools provide excellent learning accessible and affordable for all.
Budgetary allocation to overhaul School Based Assessment - As envisioned in the National Education Policy the progress of students for school based assessment needs to be redesigned as per the guidance of the National Assessment Centre, NCERT and SCERT to provide a more holistic picture of each learner. This can be a game changer in helping students develop the right skillsets as per their aptitude. Budgetary support to get this going in full steam needs to be accommodated among the education initiatives in the upcoming budget.
Learning Gaps Fund – Learning Gaps developed among students after a year of school shutdown owing to Covid19 is the next big challenge in education. Most schools are already contemplating on ways to fulfil these gaps since students may not be thorough with conceptual understanding and this can have long lasting impact. A fund that particularly helps affordable private schools to address these gaps in learning by making provisions for refresher courses or bridge programmes between two classes will be definitely benefit students in covering up the lost year.
Monetary support for Data connection in schools – Hybrid learning which is a mix of offline and online schooling is here to stay and will help schools become future ready. The government must provide at least one data connection in every affordable private school and government school so that they are connected to the digital knowledge ecosystem and no further loss of learning happens on account of lack of digital infrastructure in schools.
(By LEAD School Cofounder & CEO, Sumeet Mehta)