Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is set to present the Union Budget for the financial year 2024-25 on February 1. As the day nears, industry experts from all domains have started putting out their predictions and expectations. The budget for the year will set the pace for the future of our education sector, which has seen radical shifts in the past few years. Leading to a technology-driven environment, the Union Budget will significantly impact education. The education sector has drastically transformed from traditional rote learning to a more skill-based approach.
CEO & Co-Founder Manu Smadja, MPOWER Financing, says “As India gears up for its upcoming Union Budget, we’re particularly excited about developments in the education sector. With the nation’s ambition to become the third largest economy by 2030, and a vision set for Amrit Kaal 2047, it’s crucial that this year’s budget strongly emphasizes education and skill development. We hope to see an increased allocation to higher education in particular. This commitment will be a testament to India’s dedication towards fostering a generation equipped with knowledge and skills, crucial for global competitiveness. Moreover, as India continues to be a global powerhouse in STEM, any policies in this budget further boosting students’ aspirations in this dynamic field would be welcomed. Finally, we appreciate the government’s vision to harness 25% of the global workforce from India by 2047. The remarkable contributions of the Indian diaspora and the increasing number of Indians in global leadership roles already demonstrate the potential of our youth. This budget has the potential to be a transformative milestone for the national and international educational landscape, setting the stage for a brighter, more skilled future.”
Tech integration has greatly benefitted learners in tier 2 and tier 3 regions, providing access to quality and affordable education. The flexible nature of online learning has also eradicated various barriers. The enhanced educational budgetary allocations reflect the government’s continuous effort and commitment to propelling a conducive learning ecosystem as we wait for the Union Budget 2024-25.
Here are the key predictions and words from the industry players.
Greater Public Education Investment and Changes in the Education GST
The Education Commission (1964–1966) suggested that a minimum of 6% of GDP should be allocated to education to attain a discernible rate of increase in educational accomplishments. The New Education Policy 2020 also suggests that public education spending should account for 6% of GDP. Given that India’s education budget has never allocated this much share to education, we can expect a hike in the education allocation from GDP. The budget for education has remained around half of the necessary proportion. The education sector is expanding rapidly; therefore, funds can be expected to align with the market size and growth.
Additionally, we can expect the government to reduce GST on educational services to ensure access and achieve the gross enrollment ratios at different education levels. The EdTech sector is one fundamental pillar in shaping education post-COVID and is expecting potential tax breaks. Since the pandemic accelerated the adoption of online learning, industry stakeholders support strategic measures that lower Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates on digital educational material and services. Reducing the current 18 per cent tax slab is necessary to improve the cost efficiency of online learning, which will help edtechs and students. We can also expect enhanced investment in digital infrastructure supporting online education and teaching innovation.
Rohit Gupta- Co-founder of College Vidya: “In the eagerly awaited interim Union Budget, there’s a lot of buzz and hope surrounding support for online education startups. Many are anticipating strategic measures from the government, like financial incentives for tech advancements, research grants, and tax benefits. It’s seen as a move to push the creation and widespread adoption of cutting-edge educational technologies, essentially fostering innovation in the online education sector. Moreover, this budget might include initiatives to bridge the digital divide, like providing affordable internet access to remote areas, which can be a game changer for the whole education system. We expect the government to launch a new online education campaign, like Mutual Fund. These steps will not only boost online education startups but also make quality education more accessible across the country.”
Looking forward to the Budget 2024, we anticipate more government funding and support for EdTech initiatives. For seamless tech integration in education, the financial priorities should be aligned with the National Education Policy of 2020.
Digital education can help in improving enrollment at the tertiary level of education. Digital University would help the student community through vernacular education and ICT formats. The availability of digital education in the vernacular assures nationwide access to quality personalised education. More importantly, there has been a drastic shift in the educational landscape in India in the last few years. From conventional education to going digital and hybrid, marked by transitioning from rote learning to a dynamic, skill-centered approach, technology is at the core of this shift and has acted as a catalyst, especially in regions where access to quality education has been a challenge. For students in these places, EdTech efforts have not only increased accessibility to education but also made quality education affordable.
Gaurav Goel, Co-founder and CEO of Toprankers, says, “As we sail into this year, our focus remains on bridging the social gap, providing quality education and enhancing the learning outcomes of students. With the upcoming union budget 2024, we eagerly anticipate allocations that boost the educational infrastructure, including cutting-edge technologies, enhanced accessibility across diverse regions and a conducive regulatory environment for education technology players. These initiatives will play a key role in accomplishing the objectives of NEP 2020. I am confident that this budget will serve as a driving force, steering India towards a future where education becomes the cornerstone of progress and prosperity for all.”
Internationalise Higher Education
The NEP 2020 suggests various initiatives to market India as a top study-abroad destination to offer quality and latest education. To achieve this, the government must consider partnerships with eminent universities abroad to provide online and hybrid degree programmes.
Recent measures, such as the University Grants Commission Regulations 2023 and the International Financial Services Centres Authority Regulations 2022, permitting international higher education institutions to open campuses in India, are a step in the right direction. This will also reduce grants and application timelines to promote improved research and development.
For instance, the establishment of campuses by esteemed universities such as IIT Madras in Zanzibar and IIT Delhi in Abu Dhabi highlights the start of the internationalisation of Indian education to reach a worldwide audience.
Looking at the Union Budget 2024, we anticipate sustained financing and support for internationalisation initiatives. For India to be seen as a centre of excellence for international education, the budget’s contribution to these internationalisation efforts must be sustained and increased.
In addition, technology-assisted teacher training requires attention to enhancing human resource capability. We can expect the establishment of a distinct fund for tech-enabled teacher training in the education sector. Funds towards teacher training would improve the quality of education in Indian government and private institutions while advancing technology in education.
Prof Arvind Sahay, Director at MDI Gurgaon shares, “The Indian Union Budget 2024 is anticipated to focus on economic recovery and growth, with an emphasis on key sectors such as healthcare, infrastructure, and education. In the education sector, there may be a push for increased allocation of funds to enhance digital infrastructure, promote technology-driven learning, and bridge the digital divide. Investments in state-of-the-art infrastructure, technology integration, and research facilities will be crucial for staying globally competitive. The budget may also prioritize skill development initiatives to align with the evolving job market. In particular, I expect initiatives supporting the development of online learning platforms, digital infrastructure of educational institutions, and applications of AI in various areas of citizen life. Further, the budget should prioritize initiatives for faculty development, teacher training, ensuring a skilled and motivated teaching workforce especially at the primary level. I believe that efforts to address the affordability and accessibility of education, especially for marginalized communities, may feature prominently. Not to forget, given the global emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, the budget could allocate resources to strengthen these fields.“
Schemes to Foster Tertiary Education, Bring Vocational Education for Skill Development and Aid Students’ in Financial Support
The education system in India has a good enrollment base in primary education that narrows down as students move towards tertiary education or university level. Post-secondary education needs the government’s support, and in the upcoming budget, we expect affordable student loans and the government to explore refunds to make it simpler for students from low-income families to apply.
Rohit Sethi, Director of ESS Global, said, “In the upcoming interim budget, the maximum loan amount available for studying abroad may be raised by the government. This might be especially useful for programmes that have high tuition costs or are located in costly locations. To help students afford education loans, the government may provide subsidised interest rates. The government’s priorities and the overall situation of the budget will be major factors in deciding whether or not education loans alter.”
Another proposition that can work wonderfully is the government paying a portion of interest on behalf of the students. This can reduce the financial burden on students and effectively bridge the enrollment gaps, encouraging young students to pursue and complete their higher education. We can also expect adequate funding for scholarships for post-secondary education to boost enrollment at the tertiary level of education.
The vocational component in secondary education is another crucial area that the government need to work decisively on. Vocational education is the stepping stone for skill development, and students must get access to required programmes at the secondary education level. The New Education Policy 2020 also outlines vocational education to be introduced to students early in the career-choosing process since this would significantly impact the skilling of India’s labour force.
Union Budget 2024 allocation to the education sector and its outlines on distributing and investing funds within the industry will shape the Indian educational landscape. We hope for transformative decisions aligned with the New Education Policy 2020 that can pave the way for education opportunities that are qualitative, accessible, affordable, and holistic.