Early Scope

Budget 2016: Effective investments must be made in education and skilling

By: Narayanan Ramaswamy and Gaurav Kumar | February 22, 2016 12:06 AM

“India will provide the largest workforce to the world in the decades to come,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his speech at the World Youth Skills Day.

“India will provide the largest workforce to the world in the decades to come,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his speech at the World Youth Skills Day. This goal presupposes a conducive ecosystem in the education and skilling space, with next few years being crucial to get it right. Now, as the finance minister prepares the Union Budget, let us look at different sections of this ecosystem, in terms of what is happening and what can strengthen the cause. ICDS

In the preschool space, the schemes from the ministry of women and child development stand out. Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)—one of the flagships since 1975—provides services to 80 million children. However, in terms of the number of beneficiaries for preschool education, there has been a marginal increase, of about 3%—from 3.6 crore to 3.7 crore between March 2012 and March 2014—and our estimates suggest a similar increase next year too. Budget allocations that can give a push in the number of students are needed. On the policy front, the National Early Childhood Care and Education policy has to be strengthened in areas of state adoption and integration with ICDS. We have to recognise the growing private preschool industry. It may be prudent to provide for national and state-wide forums to bring common norms and minimum requirements in the areas of teacher quality, safety, security, and physical infrastructure.

SSA

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has been effective to achieve a net enrolment ratio (NER) in primary education to 88.1% in 2013-14. But NER in upper primary and secondary education is a matter of concern. India has achieved success in terms of ‘reach’ (the number of primary schools has increased by 34.5% during 2000-01 to 2013-14), but needs to work on in terms of quality. It’s time SSA looks at allocation and disbursement based on learning outcomes. This will happen if there is a fundamental shift in our measurement parameters, probably provisioning a central body to focus on learning outcomes in schools.

Teacher training

Recently, KPMG in India in association with CII undertook a detailed study on the Right to Education Act, and a key criteria that emerged for it to succeed was the quality of teachers. The centrally sponsored scheme of Restructuring and Reorganisation of Teacher Education has to be strengthened with specific interventions in teacher-training programmes and performance of teachers. A national plan for teacher-training institutions, including and strengthening existing institutes at all levels, is also required.

RMSA

The Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), launched in 2009, has to be revised. The gross enrolment ratio in secondary and higher education stood at 76.6% and 52.2%, respectively, in 2013-14, which while is a big improvement, but still is a concern as the number of dropouts is significant. To address this, we have to accord greater priority to vocational education, and prioritise and strengthen vocationalisation of secondary education that was revised and approved in 2011. A coordinated effort in bringing together government, NGOs and private training providers to look at this as an opportunity is needed.

Saakshar Bharat

Saakshar Bharat—launched in 2009— has made remarkable strides in helping increase female literacy rate from 53.67% in 2001 to 64.64% in 2011. Here, regional disparities need to be given a thrust in Budget allocations.

NARA

In the higher education space, we saw states adopting the private universities route, which has given rise to a large number of new universities. Again, quality is a key concern here. A fundamental first step towards this journey is accreditation. The National Accreditation Regulatory Authority for Higher Educational Institutions Bill 2010 (NARA), seeking to maintain academic quality by making it mandatory for every higher educational institution to be accredited by an independent accreditation agency, is still pending. Currently, 28% universities and 14% colleges have been accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council. To improve the quality of higher education, it is imperative to develop a dynamic accreditation framework which can help monitor the quality and standard of education imparted at both private and public institutions. NARA can help build a community of accreditation agencies—in the government, NGOs and the private sector.

Foreign institutions

The lapse of the Foreign Educational Institutions (Entry and Operations) Bill in Parliament is a big miss. Our tentative stance (with ambiguous Bills) has raised concerns with foreign universities and it is time a clear stand is taken. The government’s initiatives such as Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities and Start-up India are expected to benefit with the presence of these institutions in a big way.

Skill India

The ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship has been taking an effective approach to go horizontal and partner with relevant ministries. It is prudent to participate, strengthen and guide the existing skilling and vocational training programmes, rather than look at this ab initio. The success mantra for Skill India is the 3S framework emphasised by the Prime Minister—speed, scale and sustainability. Speed comes with involving State Skill Development Missions; scale by involving the industry; and sustainability comes with quality and standards. There is a huge underutilised infrastructure for training with the government, public and private organisations that has to be tapped into. A catalyst to the skilling programme could come from setting up regional skill development centres—one in each state capital—which can act as a hub for skill development institutions, with spokes across districts in that state. A multi-skill, residential centre with training and lab facilities could act as a training centre for faculty and help bring a regional flavour in assessment and accreditation—including Recognition of Prior Learning and implementation of National Skills Qualification Framework. The amended Apprentices Act is forward-looking, with significant changes in bringing non-engineering students into its fold. This needs to be strengthened to mandate more industries and increase the intake to accommodate higher inflow of trained manpower.

Increased budgetary allocation is needed for revival of traditional, tribal and rural skills. This should be backed by employment/self-employment opportunities. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana for skilling rural youth—which had a budgetary allocation of R1,500 crore—needs to be strengthened.

The aspiration of the country with the world’s largest working-age population to become the skills capital of the world is apt. Fundamental to this is providing quality and affordable education to all and imparting appropriate training and skills to its youth. Given the education and skilling sectors’ budgetary constraints, effective utilisation of monetary allocations is critical. The emphasis has be on innovation, results and progress, and backed by greater accountability and transparency in the entire system.

Ramaswamy is partner & head, Education Sector & Skill Development; Kumar is associate director, KPMG in India. 

 

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