Union Budget 2021: Govt should provide 12-15% higher allocation to online education

Year 2020 has been quite eventful in many respects. But in terms of the Indian economy, it has been quite challenging, if anything. The year has been an eye-opener for the dire requirement of skilled workers and professionals to further upskill and stay relevant in the dynamic economy of a post-COVID world. Not just lives but even the economy came to a standstill, leading people to lose jobs and stability.

With the Union Budget 2021 all set to be announced soon, there are pertinent proposals to enhance the digital/online education sphere that edtech companies are waiting to hear about with bated breath. I hope the government will boost people’s confidence in online education and encourage them to acquire online degrees by
extending its rule of allowing only 100 top universities to offer online courses under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's futuristic e-Vidya programme.

Allowing more colleges to join the bandwagon of online education and conduct online courses would further enable collaborations between offline universities and edtech providers to eventually help amplify the reach of education.

More and more educators in the edtech sphere can give students myriad choices and further open private-public partnerships (PPP) in this space. Also, with the right guidelines, a high quality, high scale ecosystem can be built for providing superior education.

Many might be aware of the tax benefits for education that can be reaped in terms of availing an education loan and the interest paid. Predominantly, it works in such a way that the parent or the child, repaying the education loan, can start claiming the tax deduction benefits when filing for tax returns.

While this is a very sought-after method used to avail tax benefits and enjoy a seamless education process too,
there should be policy implementation to transpire the same in the online education space too.

With the world going digital, planning, and implementing policies to drive the online education sphere with attractive tax deductions for courses would further propel students to opt for the medium and learn. It is a known fact that online education space enjoys the flexibility of being accessible from any part of the country.

Implementing an astute tax model that also caters to online education would be quite beneficial to students who wish to learn more and bolster their skills for a better future.

With the rise in the online education sphere and myriad edu-tech players offering an enhanced and immersive learning experience, the government should focus on augmenting the investment to better digital infrastructure. Special emphasis needs to be directed towards upscaling the online education experience and skill development process to be tantamount to the global standards. For the same, at least 12 percent to 15 percent higher budgetary allocation needs to be implemented in the coming Union Budget 2021.

According to reports, the current expenditure on education in the country is merely around 4.4 percent of GDP. However, this needs to be marked up to at least 6-7 percent for better results. Further, edtech industry would require a sophisticated digital infrastructure to reach every nook and corner of the country and promote seamless education. A robust knowledge protection framework along with the implementation of tax-free education as well as skill development will help pave the way for more white-collar job opportunities in India.

Edtech companies have proven to be a big asset in the education sector, owing to the pandemic and its effects in 2020. With numerous courses and emphasis on skill-based qualifications, these firms have actually fuelled the teaching engine to encourage more and more professionals to join the bandwagon. Not to miss, the sector has received acceptance from corporates across the globe and online learners with a thorough knowledge of new-age skills backed by industry-driven projects, to work on complex projects, thus receiving desired career outcomes.

The government has also put forth its own ideas with the prime minister's futuristic e-Vidya programme to propel the spirit of education in everyone. Needless to say, the sector has enjoyed tremendous attention and growth opportunities following the pandemic, with speculated expansion in terms of its reach, product offerings, and
employment opportunities.

Edtech players in India have all validated the power of edtech and how it has enabled people to refurbish their skill sets and attract newer employment opportunities. Hence, much of the outcome of how the education sector and online education sphere benefits depend heavily on the 2021 Budget. Eventually, it is the professionals and the young bright crowd that would shape the future and economic growth of the country. They are an investment worth the value.

The writer is Co-Founder & MD, upGrad

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