While closely analyzing the Maharashtra and Delhi Budget 2021-22, especially from the education technology point of view, they present a case study that is contrasting
If the recently announced Maharashtra and Delhi Budget 2021-22 are to be closely analysed – especially in the context of education technology (EdTech) – they simply present a situation that can be stated as nothing but paradoxical.
THE RIGHT MOVES
The Maharashtra Budget 2021-22 did manage to introduce measures to improve the overall quality of school education and modernise higher education facilities available in the state. For instance, with measures like allocation of Rs 1,391 crore for higher and technical education and plans of setting up Science and Technology Parks and a Skills University, the government provides a fillip for building scientific and technical capabilities, as well as skill development of the youth, which are essential components for creating a larger base of an employable workforce of the future. Also, the State government has proposed to introduce the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum in Ekalavya schools from Class I to Class V in the next three years. The Scheme for Translational and Advanced Research in Science (STARS) with the World Bank would also give a quality of school education a boost.
MISSING THE MARK
However, having said that, the general education sector has witnessed a cut back on expenditure by over Rs 6,000 crore in the Maharashtra Budget 2021-22. At the same time, the Maharashtra Budget 2021-22 completely misses out on a roadmap for education technology (EdTech), which has had a prominent role to play in ensuring education continuity during the Coronavirus pandemic.
A CASE STUDY IN CONTRAST
At the other end of the spectrum, the Delhi government has allocated Rs 16,377 crore to education in the Budget 2021-22, which accounts for almost one-fourth of the entire budget.
Keeping up with the impetus on online learning in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual model schools with the idea to promote any-time learning, any-time teaching will be launched by the Delhi government. Plans are afoot to open 100 schools of excellence, and teaching training will also be given special attention, where the focus will only be on studies, teachers, children, enrollment, and curriculum. In addition, the Delhi government will open a new law university as well as a new teachers' university. The launch of a mentorship programme, ‘Youth for Education’ has also been announced.
IN SEARCH OF THE HOLISTIC APPROACH
In the Maharashtra Budget 2021-22, adoption of a more holistic approach was anticipated from the state government when it comes to assessing the progress of digitization in education, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Moreover, all this while, the state’s efforts have led to schools receiving some digital equipment, training to enhance the digital skills of teachers, and community participation, but it mostly remains as a tick-the-box approach.
THE DIGITAL GROWTH STORY IN EDUCATION
The digital transformation of the education sector had not only enabled the virtual space of learning from home post-Covid-19 pandemic, but it also introduced the potential to bring wide-scalability and regional education. In the education sector, it is expected that schools and educational institutions will continue with the hybrid format of learning, which remains heavily dependent on the application of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Blended learning, which is a hybrid form of teaching and learning that involves both classroom and online learning, will hold the way forward. This has the immense potentiality to provide quality education to children.
Further, the online education market is anticipated to grow manifold with the number of new EdTech start-ups rising introducing innovative e-learning solutions and apps. Also, with the online mode of learning gaining prominence among several educational organisations, the overall higher education sector is set for major overhaul and development in the forthcoming years.
In short, EdTech is the future of creating equitable opportunities in education and improving delivery standards. The Maharashtra Budget outlay, however, doesn’t give much clarity about the EdTech sector, something which remains the need of the hour.
(The author of this article, Mr Rustom Kerawalla is Chairman, Ampersand Group)