Budget 2021: Can MoE Help Improve Digital Access With Less Funds?

An expert explains how the Education Ministry will have to rejig funds to focus on accessibility & school revival. 

2 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

As budgetary spending on the coronavirus-hit education sector reduces by over Rs 6,000 crore, the Union Ministry of Education may have to repurpose funds towards improving access to digital education, reviving financially-drained schools and setting up a system of assessing exactly how much education has been lost in the many months that students have spent without education.

In order to understand how the ministry can make the best use of funds available to it, The Quint spoke to Bikkrama Daulet Singh, Co-Managing Director, Central Square Foundation, who highlighted key spending priorities for education in 2021.

Budget doesn’t address digital divide. How can this be improved?

There's an issue of device ownership in a lot of homes and also of connectivity. So, I think the government has to think of eventually creating provisions for children to have access to tablets and connectivity so that they can access this high quality content. Some money should be allocated for some pilots in states to actually distribute devices with content and then create a programme for ensuring usage.

What about students who may have dropped out?

I think there should have been a dedicated budget for school opening and awareness drives on enrolment and for remediation. I would expect that MoE would now actually put in place this budget from the money that it has.

How can schools be revived?

In our survey, we found out that because of non-collection of fees, majority of the teachers in the schools were not being paid for obvious reasons. These are not large schools which have surpluses they can draw on. I think the answer is eventually to ease regulations in the private school sector so that a lot of these schools can get access to credit and loans and they can professionalise and we can have chains of schools. So, I think the answer is to liberalise the private school sector.

What are the key aspects of NEP that must be implemented?

  • First is the Nipun Bharat scheme, which is a foundational learning mission, which is to ensure that every child over the next five years  acquires foundation learning skills by grade 3 or grade 5.
  • Second is an expenditure around edtech and digital education and here already, the MoE allocated some money towards this and again this year they will have to do this towards increasing the budget of ICDS schools.
  • The last thing I would mention is conducting the national achievement survey across private and public schools – and also it will tell us where children are after the pandemic.

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