Pre Budget Byte 2022: Vivek Varshney, Founder, SpeEDLabs India

Vivek Varshney

As all eyes are on Union Budget 2022 that is all set to be announced on February 1, 2022, Digital Learning spoke to a few industry experts about their expectations from the Union Budget 2022.

Vivek Varshney

As the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman prepares to announce the Union Budget 2022 in a few days, educationists have called for an upbeat message to the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As Covid exigencies are not there this year, there should be an increase in Department of School Education allocation to more than Rs 60,000 Cr in order to compensate for the rationalization in the 2021 budget. I would like to see increased allocation for Schools, Teacher Training to ensure that learning gaps created by Covid disturbance are filled. I also expect a separate budgetary allocation to implement NEP 2020 at ground level. As a start-up, we expect tax relief and schemes to support the start-ups working in the digital learning space. The government should continue investing more in Adarsh Vidyalays (Modern Schools) as this will give a boost in enrollments and improved infrastructure. Overall, as a country we should aim towards 5%-6% of GDP as allocation for Education.

Looking beyond the immediate threat of the coronavirus, there have been multiple reports of children abandoning school altogether during the pandemic. Despite significant efforts from governments, low connectivity and access to digital devices have severely hampered efforts to roll out remote learning. In India, 42 percent of children between 6-13 years reported not using any type of remote learning during school closures. Students are directly being promoted from class 2 to class 4 without any fundamental learning, this is quite worrisome. Additionally, the government should also focus on allocating funds towards National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) implementation.

Importance of Hybrid education

Since all the educational institutions have been forced to conduct learning virtually since the outbreak of the virus, there should be more investments in the Hybrid education models as blended learning will be the way forward.

Hybrid education should be given paramount importance. The research found that student-teacher engagement, when regular and reciprocal, is a strong predictor of success in children’s learning, especially for younger students. However, the surveys found that most students had little or no contact with their teachers after schools closed.

Budget for girls and Scholarships

As per the scheme, Rs 3,000 is deposited as a fixed deposit in the bank accounts of eligible candidates which they can claim with interest upon passing Class 10 and attaining the age of 18 years. The allocation was reduced to nearly ₹165 crores in 2018-19 and to just below ₹9 crores in 2019-20. With such a downfall in allocation, some fear that the scheme can be closed altogether. Government should revamp the necessary measures to make sure girls do not drop out of the education system. The allocation for scholarships needs to increase as in the last 2 years, there has been no extra allocation in this direction.

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