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Budget 2023-24 Expectations: Realise goals of NEP, push up gross enrolment ratio in higher education

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Budget 2023-24 Expectations: Realise goals of NEP, push up gross enrolment ratio in higher education

The budget should aim at pushing up India's gross enrolment ratio in higher education towards 50 percent. To enable this, investments in organisations, technologies, and people engaged in online education at different levels are needed

Mohan Lakhamraju Last Updated:February 01, 2023 10:56:00 IST Budget 2023-24 Expectations: Realise goals of NEP, push up gross enrolment ratio in higher education

Representational Image. News18

While online education has been around for some time now, the recent pandemic has greatly emphasised its value, attracting students’ and professionals’ attention and, indeed, even the government’s. The past two years have witnessed change—not just in the number of students accessing online learning but also in educational policy and curriculum delivery.

The National Education Policy 2020 also gave a lot of impetus to online higher education and it has the potential to make high-quality learning accessible to millions of people across the country. In fact, one can argue that online higher education is the only way to realising the 50 percent gross enrolment ratio objective of the NEP 2020. It costs anywhere from Rs 2 to 5 lakhs per student to develop physical campus infrastructure.

If 20 million additional learners have to be catered to, the investment in physical infrastructure needed would be 4 lakh crores, an unfathomable amount. Whereas with online higher education, both access and quality learning can be offered with much lower investment and consequently, it can be much more affordable.

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Realise goals of NEP ‘20

The 2023 Budget should have provisions to realise the goals of the NEP ’20 and push up India’s gross enrolment ratio in higher education towards 50 percent. To enable this, investments in organisations, technologies, and people engaged in online education at different levels are needed. Hopefully, policymakers see the big picture and incentivise organisations who are out to reform the sector.

Lower GST for reskilling, upskilling

A great start to this effect would be to have provisions on lower GST rates for reskilling and upskilling courses. Currently, learners are being charged 18 percent, making these courses expensive and unaffordable to many learners. Lowering GST will allow such courses to be taken up by a broader spectrum of learners, particularly those financially incapable of accessing formal higher education. Affordable pricing translates into meeting the high gross enrolment ratio target set by the government for higher education, leading to increased workforce employability.

Incentivise professionals who advance their skills

When a nation’s workforce improves its skills, its productivity and global competitiveness increase, thereby resulting in faster GDP growth. Therefore, it makes sense to incentivise professionals to invest in themselves and advance their skills by providing tax-saving incentives. This is similar to what is already being done to incentivise long-term savings by providing tax-saving options through Section 80C.

The government may consider offering a tax deduction of up to Rs. 50,000 for professionals investing in upskilling themselves. This is done in several countries like the US, UK, and Singapore, where a certain amount spent by professionals in obtaining relevant training or updating their skills is tax deductible.

Additionally, with the growing need to develop pedagogy tailored to different groups of learners comes the third expectation: Edtech companies should be allowed to formally collaborate with universities on both a national and international scale. This will enable the delivery of online and hybrid learning programs to a much larger audience, bringing world-class curricula, educators, teachers, instructors, and innovative pedagogy to the table.

Need better support for edtech

There is a sense of anticipation among stakeholders hoping for better support for the edtech sector, support that’s very much needed to bridge the gap in education access from a technology and policy perspective. ‘Quality education’ is extremely important at the moment, and there is no doubt that online education, in conjunction with favourable guidelines, will help a sizable portion of our population experience it. The realisation of the laudable objectives of the NEP in the future will be determined by the decisions taken today.

The writer is Founder and CEO, Great Learning (@Great_Learning) Views expressed are personal

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