In the previous Union Budget, education was listed as one of the ‘nine pillars’ that would transform the country. With this year’s Budget round the corner, we, the educators, are anticipating that the sector will get the attention as well as the financial backing it truly deserves. But, before we discuss the expectations, let’s take a look at the reforms of 2016-17.
After much ado, the Union government finally introduced a standardised National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admissions to all medical colleges in India. But its hurried implementation left the students confused over whether to follow the CBSE or the state syllabus?
The sector witnessed a few other initiatives too. Prompted by the demonetisation wave towards the end of 2016, the CBSE made it compulsory for all affiliated schools to embrace cashless transactions, starting from January 1, 2017. This is expected to further Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Digital India.
This year, too, we expect the government to bring in educational reforms attuned to the philosophy of Digital India. Following are some aspects which call for the government’s attention and also fund allocation.
Early skill development
In the last few years, the government has taken many initiatives on the skill development front. But all these have been directed towards graduate and postgraduate students. Ideally, skill development should start at a much younger age, when the mind of a child is like clay which can be moulded easily. At this impressionable age, they would benefit if they are introduced to computing, communication and numerical skills. We expect the government to formulate policies and allocate enough budget to develop life-skills among kids.
Teacher training regulations
The dearth of quality teachers is a major impediment in imparting education. To overcome this issue, certain measures have to be undertaken on a war-footing. First, incentives should be aligned such that teachers are motivated to perform well in their jobs. Second, it is necessary to keep teachers abreast of the developments in the sector as well as upgrade their technological skills. This can be achieved by imparting periodic training and conducting assessments to gauge their skills. Those found lacking the requisite skills should be provided assistance to meet their job requirements. Budget allocation should definitely touch upon these nuanced issues.
Standardisation of exams
Last year, NEET was implemented in a jiffy. Now we expect the government to invest more time, money and resources to successfully implement the standardisation, and also to extend it to other examinations. State board students appearing for JEE Mains often bear the brunt because the syllabus is aligned only to the CBSE. A standard curriculum across all boards could help them. However, that’s a mammoth task, and needs adequate time, funds and planning.
Improvement and implementation of technological infrastructure is a prerequisite in the education sector. Technology-driven education should be made mandatory in schools. If students have to be prepared for future jobs, their learning process has to be seeped in technology. However, the government would have to be vigilant that dust does not settle over technological initiatives after the initial euphoria has died down.
The government should encourage research on pedagogical innovations, so that we edupreneurs could learn a thing or two from their findings, and take up their suggestions while designing educational solutions. The Union Budget should allocate funds to set up research centres and sponsor independent researchers to focus on architecting teaching methodologies that are tailored to meet the requirements of children in our country.
The author, Beas Dev Ralhan is CEO & co-founder, Next Education India Pvt Ltd. Views are personal