Budget 2019: Govt Aims to Change the Face of Higher Education in India With New Education Policy

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In her maiden budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposes several plans to transform the education sector in India, including a New Education Policy, a National Research Foundation and a Higher Education Commission.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday announced that the government will bring in a new National Education Policy to transform India’s higher education system to one of the best in the world.

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The new policy proposes major changes in for both school and higher education. Other prominent aims of the policy include a better system for governance and greater focus on innovation and research.

The union budget allocated ₹94,853.64 crore for education sector in 2019-20, of which ₹56, 536.63 crore has been pegged for the school sector and rest ₹38,317.01 crore for higher education. This is a substantial increase from last year.

The total allocation for research and innovation has been increased from ₹350 crore last fiscal to ₹609 crore in the current fiscal.

Here are some of the new initiatives proposed by the Government in the budget 2019-20 for improvement of the education system in India:

National Research Foundation

The new Finance Minister announced a plan for setting up of a National Research Foundation (NRF) to fund, coordinate and promote research in the country. She said that the foundation will assimilate the research grants being given by various ministries independent of each other.

“The funds available with all Ministries will be integrated in NRF. This would be adequately supplemented with additional funds,” Sitharaman said in her Budget 2019 speech.

World Class Institutions

Sithraman also announced allocation of Rs 400 crore for the 2019-20 fiscal to build world class educational institutions in India. This represents a three-time increase over the revised estimates for the previous year. It is part of an effort to get more Indian institutes into the global high league.

She highlighted that while there was not a single Indian institution in the top 200 in the world university rankings five years back, there are three now – two IITs and IISc Bengaluru.

“This has been achieved due to concerted efforts by the institutions to boost their standards and also project their credentials better,” she said.

Study in India

The budget proposed a scheme called ‘Study in India’ to attract foreign students to study in Indian universities.

The minister said India has the potential to become the hub of education and the ‘Study in India’ programme will focus on bringing foreign students to the country.

Higher Education Commission

The regulatory mechanism of higher education in India will be radically reformed and a Higher Education Commission will be set up, Sitharaman said in her speech.

She added that a draft law on setting up a Higher Education Commission of India will be brought during the year ahead.

New-age skills for youth

To make the Indian youth ready to take up jobs in foreign countries, Sithraman said that the government will focus on imparting new-age skills to students in newer areas like artificial intelligence, internet of things, big data and robotics, as well as language training.

The government is targeting to train 10 million youths of the country with industry relevant skills under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, in order to create a big pool of competent manpower.

Post-budget reaction quotes from industry leaders:

Aakrit Vaish, Co-founder and CEO, Haptik:

“The demand for specialised skillsets in niche technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning has increased drastically. The government has recognized and addressed this schism by pledging to train 10 million youth in industry relevant skills like AI, IoT and Big Data.”

“We, at Haptik are also constantly empowering the developers and enthusiastic engineers to build next-generation conversational AI on a daily basis. We are delighted to see that our government is also putting efforts to improve the skills of our youth in newer areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Robotics.”

Pankaj Muthe, Program Manager, Academic Program, APAC, Qlik:

‘’The government’s continued push to improve the quality of higher education in India is extremely commendable. The allocation of INR 400 crore to create a world-class higher education ecosystem in the country will definitely improve the quality of talent that joins the workforce. The focus on the amplification of skills in new-age tech domains such as AI, IoT, Big Data, and Robotics will also help to address the severe skills shortage that businesses across India are facing at present, apart from opening newer avenues of career growth for Indian professionals.”

“The government should also make stronger efforts to incorporate data literacy training at the grassroots level and incentivise organisations to launch data literacy training initiatives for their employees. Doing so will equip current and future Indian professionals with the required knowledge and competencies to navigate the data-driven world of tomorrow,” he added.

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