Union Budget 2023-24: Ahead of today's session, let's look at few highlights for education sector from last year

This will be the last full budget of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government before the next general elections are held in 2024
Pic: Express
Pic: Express

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will deliver the budget speech in Parliament at 11 am today, February 1. To recall in 2022-23, the budget allocation towards the education sector was only 2.6% of the total funding.

Ahead of the session, education experts hope that the sector will see more allocation compared to the last few years owing to changes imposed on learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic and new technological innovations. Before the budget is presented, here are a few highlights for the education sector from the Union Budget 2022-23.

Launch of e-portal
During the announcement of the Union Budget for the Financial Year 2022-23, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned the launch of an e-portal for a digital ecosystem for skilling and livelihood. Christened DESH STACK, the e-portal will aid in skilling, upskilling and reskilling. "It will also provide API-based trusted skill credentials, trusted skills credentials, payment and discovery layers to find relevant jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities," said the Finance Minister.

Increased allocation for agricultural universities
The sector of agricultural research and education saw a 6% increase in budget allocation for the last financial year when compared to 2020-21. The budget allocation rose from Rs 7,762 crores to Rs 8,514 crores in 2021-22. The worrying factor has been that almost 75% of the allocated sum is spent on items like salaries and pensions in the Department of Agricultural Research and Education. The Standing Committee on Agriculture recommended, back in 2019, that more funds should be provided to the department to promote agricultural research and education.

Attention to mental health
To provide better access to mental health facilities, especially counselling and care services, the National Tele Mental Health programme would be launched, said the minister. She also shared that a network of 23 Tele Mental Health Centres of Excellence will be developed and the nodal centre will be the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, while the technical support for the same will be provided by the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Bengaluru.

TV channels to teach classes
The minister had announced that students of Classes I to XII will soon have access to 200 TV channels where they will be provided supplementary education in regional languages as well. High-quality e-content will be developed for delivery via the internet, TV and radio, said the FM.

Support to anganwadis
The Ministry of Women and Child Development was to extend support to over 2,00,000 anganwadis, which will be upgraded to Saksham Anganwadis under the umbrella scheme of Saksham Anganwadi and POSHAN 2.0.

Animation, gaming, visuals effects were promoted
The FM said that the government is keen on forming a task force to promote the AVCG — Animation, Visual Effects, Comics, Gaming — sector as it offers employment opportunities for the youth.

E-passports for students
The Union Budget 2022-23 announced the roll-out of digital passports or e-passports from the year 2023. These digital passports will be equipped with advanced security features, said the Finance Minister. By 2024, the number of Indians going abroad for higher education is expected to touch 1.8 million. Whether or not a digitised passport expedites the process of possessing that document remains to be seen.

School education received 15% bump
The Finance Ministry decided that the sector would require additional support when compared to the previous year. There has been an allocation of Rs 63,449.37 crore which is 15.6% more than the previous year's allocation of Rs 54,873.66 crore. Of special note is the increase in the budget allocated to the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) and the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS). KVS' budget rose from Rs 6,800 crore to Rs 7,650 crore, an increase of 12.5%. On the other hand, NVS' budget rose by 8.28% from Rs 3,800 crore to Rs 4,115 crore.

Boost to IISERs
While the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) got the highest hike in budgetary allocation of almost 46%, the Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) and the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) got a decent hike of about 37%. But the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), one of the top set of institutes in the country, only saw a 10.53% increase in its budget allocation — from Rs 7686.02 crore allocated in Union Budget 2021 to Rs 8495 crore.

Mid-day meal scheme out, PM POSHAN in
During the Union Budget 2022, the funds allotted for this new scheme — POshan SHAkti Nirman — are Rs 10,233.75 crore which is the same amount that the Mid-Day Meal Scheme had received as the revised budget in 2021. The PM-POSHAN came with multiple additional benefits and was touted to be much more than just a midday meal. It was even said to be better funded. But it appeared that the budget allocation is exactly the same as it was for the Mid Day Meal Scheme.

Not much for Digital India e-learning
The initiatives under Digital India e-learning initiatives received big cuts. The overall budget from Rs 645 crore in the previous year has come down to Rs 421 crore for the concerned year. That's a cut of over 200 crore in an age where everything is becoming increasingly virtual.

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