Representational image of college students in India
Representational image of college students in India | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
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New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in the Union Budget 2020-21 that the education sector would be opened up to Foreign Direct Investment.

The FDI announcement headlined the many steps the government is planning to take in education. The overall allocation for the sector went up by over Rs 5,000 crore — it will be Rs 99,300 crore in 2020-21, up from Rs 94.853.64 crore in 2019-20.

“External commercial borrowings and FDI to be leveraged to improve the education system,” Sitharaman said in her Budget speech.

The finance minister also announced the setting up of a police academy and a forensic science university. However, she did not give any details on where these would be set up, or by when.

Also read: 2019 was the year when India’s education system took a backseat under Modi regime

Programmes for youth

Nirmala Sitharaman read the education budget along with the one for skills, focussing on employment generation and making students job-ready. She announced an apprenticeship degree and diploma programmes, and said these would be provided by 150 higher education institutions.

For students who are unable to access higher education, degree-level full-fledged online education programmes will be offered by higher education institutes, mostly those that are in the top 100 in National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).

Sitharaman also announced that urban local bodies across the country will provide internships for young engineers for a period of up to one year, with a view to giving practical training to the students.

She also announced a single exam for international students wanting to study in India, as ThePrint had previously reported. The exam, called IND-SAT, will be held in African and Asian countries, for benchmarking foreign candidates, Sitharaman said.

National Education Policy

Nirmala Sitharaman also talked about the much-anticipated National Education Policy, which can be announced any time now. “The National Education Policy will be announced soon. Discussions are going on between various stakeholders in the states. We have received over two lakh suggestions on the policy,” Sitharaman said.

The NEP is yet to be approved by the Union Cabinet.

It is set to include many schemes for both the higher education and school education sectors. For the school education sector, there is a lot of focus on improving foundational literacy and making pre-school a part of formal schooling, which will require funds.

In the higher education sector, the policy outlines the setting up of liberal arts universities on the lines of IITs (engineering) and IIMs (management), among other things.

In 2018-19, Rs 56,536.63 crore was set aside for the school sector, and the remaining Rs 38,317.01 for higher education.

Research scheme stuck

A National Research Foundation (NRF) was announced in Budget 2019-20, pushing the total allocation for research up to Rs 609 crore from Rs 350 crore. The NRF, however, never took off.

It is expected that the scheme will be launched in earnest once the NEP is finalised.

Also Read: Modi govt dumps ‘liberal’ in favour of ‘holistic’ in its new draft of education policy


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