To bridge the gap, the government should focus on smart budgetary allocation and collaborate with private players
Ahead of every budget session, the spotlight is always on the primary sectors like healthcare, defence and education. Expectations are shared on many platforms to apprise the government of the needs of various sectors. The government also pays ears to the demands and expectations of industries. However, the upcoming budget is a massive responsibility for the government as expectations are more than the previous ones due to an unprecedented change worldwide.
As we can expect, the budget will be focusing more on reforms and economic revival post-COVID era. Healthcare, personal finance, infrastructure and education are expected to be the priority for the government. Here, I would like to specifically discuss education as this sector has witnessed many changes in the recent past.
Following the pandemic, the government has announced a slew of reforms for almost all sectors. The education sector has seen many new things such as new National Education Policy, the introduction of online education, announcements to increase public spending on education to nearly 6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product and several others. However, many areas are still to be addressed in formal education, be it primary or higher. One of the utmost issues is the vast void between rural and urban education across the country.
Many discussions have been done about it, but the results haven't been as promising as expected. According to a recent report by the National Statistics Office (NSO) titled 'Household Social Consumption: Education', the rural-urban divide in education is in several contexts. Therefore, while increasing public spending on education, the government must also pay attention to allocating resources to the sector. Nearly more than half of the students in primary classes cannot read textbooks or solve simple mathematical problems. The percentage is further rising. The reason being, they don't have access to resources.
I expect that the budgetary allocation for education will smartly address the gap in education expenditure between rural and urban areas, especially for schools. In rural areas, a student's expense till higher education is Rs 28, 157 while in urban areas it is Rs 84,172. This itself tells the story; hence, the government should bridge this gap so that access to quality education is equal for all.
This gap extends to the digital divide in education as well. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, where most schools resort to the online education model, this data becomes especially significant. As per the NSO report, only four per cent of the households in rural areas have access to online instruments for education while 23 per cent compared to urban households. Whereas only 14.9 per cent of rural households have internet facilities against 42 per cent among urban households.
This gap is wider for the number of schools and teachers in rural areas. Many teachers in rural areas are not tech-savvy. It has defeated the purpose of online education rolled out across the country. However, the government has taken several measures to ensure regular quality education and roll-out teachers' training program.
To bridge the gap, the government should focus on smart budgetary allocation and promote private players to increase online education adoption. Although the government is fully equipped to roll-out online education plans, walking hand-in-hand with private players will effectively fulfil the goal.
The author is Founder & CEO of Financepeer
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