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Wednesday, 30 January 2019 | Pioneer Avenues


On the eve of the Budget, experts from the education field share expectations with PIONEER AVENUES on how to improve the sector

Women-friendly workplace

According to the India Skills Report, 2018, the economic participation of women in the workforce has decreased from 32 per cent in 2016 to 23 per cent in 2018. Typically, the low-level jobs opted by women are now being automated and fewer women seem to be entering high-growth employment areas, as reported by WEF’s The Global Gender Gap Report, 2018. JobsForHer conducted an online survey for women restarters and 38 per cent of them cited childcare as one of the biggest challenges to restarting their careers.

With the Indian Government’s 400 crore proposal this year to reimburse employers for seven of the 26 weeks of extended maternity leave, we hope to see an increase in female participation in the workforce. Outdated skill sets are yet another reason women are keeping out of the workforce. Thirty-four per cent of the women on our survey mentioned reskilling as a necessity for their career restart, progression and job role changes. We hope to see budget 2019 focus on skills development programs for women, a focus on reducing or eliminating hiring biases, family leave policies that include both parents, diversity and inclusion initiatives, equal pay policies to close the gender pay gap, recruiting more senior women leaders and board members and compulsory anti-harassment training to ensure safer working environments for all women.

—Neha Bagaria, Founder & CEO, JobsForHer

Support e-learning

The budgetary allocation for education in 2018 stood at 3.5 per cent of the entire budget, with a special focus on digitised classrooms, ICT-enabled learning, and quality teacher training programmes. However, the overall improvement of the education sector requires more prioritised attention and funding.

The prerequisite for quality education becoming available to all is the free and easy access to quality e-learning resources. This can be initiated by the government through technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality and cloud computing. It is also important to ensure that internet access provided to rural areas is functional so that students from those parts can use it for effective self-learning.

Training teachers on the latest pedagogies and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the need of the hour as they are expected to employ innovative teaching methods and make use of digital tools in the classrooms. However, there is a dearth of 11 lakh adequately qualified teachers in the K–12 segments. Even though the Government is trying to tackle the situation with initiatives such as Teacher Professional Development courses on the digital platform Diksha, this issue also needs prioritising in the upcoming budget. We also hope that the Government provides the infrastructural support for a system of education that is on a par with global standards, and help Indian students face the challenges of tomorrow.

— Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO, and Founder, NextEducation India Pvt. Ltd

Need for reskilling & upskilling

India’s vast young population is one of its biggest assets but keeping in line with the recent disruptions in the education sector, there is a pressing need to skill our youth so that they are equipped with the right skill-sets that complement the country’s growth story. Creating digital content, VFX, animation will continue to grow and thus more training and skilling to supplement jobs in this field shall grow.

Growing adoption of newage technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality and data science have set the stage for new jobs which might not be very common today. To leverage this opportunity in the near future, Government should prioritise re-skilling and up-skilling of not just the existing workforce but also the students in India’s schools and colleges. This would need sufficient funds, more push from the government for vocational training and effective execution at the ground level of the initiatives in order to maximise the results.

— Anil Pant, MD & CEO, Aptech Limited

boost to ed-tech

As expected, we will have 735 million internet users by 2021, so the Edtech sector has a more significant opportunity to penetrate millions of students both in urban and rural areas seeking education. For the next year, we are expecting growth in the Ed-tech sector in terms of reaching students through distance learning and reducing the cost of education. In the overseas education industry, we are expecting collaboration opportunities between public and private sector institutions in India by introducing policies for more expansion in infrastructure, funds availability, private investment, easily accessible quality education, which will be bringing thousands of aspirant students from abroad to Indian institutes for education. Not only this will contribute to our GDP but will also help us rank among the top study destinations and have institutes ranking top in the list of top 100.

—Rohit Sethi, Director, ESS Global Study Abroad Consultant.

Make it tax-free

Two key steps need to be made — Education needs more funding by the government, and it must be tax-free. The budget reserved for education reforms has been constantly declining over the last five years.

In fact, education has been one of the least valued sectors, at 3.7 per cent of the total budget. This number is quite low when compared to other developing countries that spend over seven per cent of the total budget on education, despite higher literacy rates.

Currently, ed-tech is taxed at 18 per cent GST which limits affordability to high-income groups. Education is not a luxury. In fact, online learning is the only way to cater to individual needs at a fraction of the cost.

This should be made tax-free to lower after-school education costs for students.

The budget should be used to digitise schools at a mass level so that every student can access quality education.

It should also be used to up skill teachers and close the gap between the education system and current employer demands.

— Zishaan Hayath, CEO & co-founder, Toppr

Invest in teacher training

The Government needs to identify more opportunities for better teacher training and for R&D in higher educational institutes in Budget 2019. More funds allocation for training the teachers is the need of the hour, especially with various professional skills as they play a major role in shaping the students’ future.

The budget must also look at ways to improve the basic infrastructure of schools, along with setting up of infrastructure for ICT to help the students in receiving engaging and powerful learning content. Also, there is a strong need of passing on the benefits of various student schemes directly to them under DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer). This will plug leaks and will result in more efficiency and effectiveness in the process.

 — Monica Malhotra Kandhari, MD, MBD Group for the education sector.

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