Education Budget 2019: From tax-free education to an upskilling allowance, here’s what education experts want

By 2020, the average age of people will be 46 years in the US, 42 years in Europe, 48 years in Japan, but only 27 in India. This means that India’s demographic dividend is a huge scope for us to capture the job market and can be a big boost for the country’s economy. But this can only happen if today’s youth and students are provided with the correct skills to help them secure future jobs. For that, we need a good education budget.

1. All-over increase in Education Budget

“While it might sound ambitious, there is a need to double the current levels of spending in the two areas of public education and public health as a percentage of GDP. Spend on Education as a percentage of GDP is still around 3% versus the aspirational goal of 6%. Lots of developing and developed countries in the world have already been earmarking and spending close to this ballpark (as a percentage of GDP) on education.

Given the widespread inequality and poverty in India, education needs to play a critical role in bringing about intergenerational social and economic mobility with primary public education standing out as the most important area of focus.

“The upcoming education budget needs to take initiatives such as allocating bigger spending on education, provision for proper teacher training along with higher pay and administrative incentives.

2. Tax-free education to boost ed-tech

Zishaan Hayath, CEO & Co-founder, Toppr:

“Two key steps need to be made – education needs more funding by the government, and it must be tax-free. The budget reserved for education reforms has been constantly declining over the last five years.

Currently, ed-tech is taxed at 18% GST which limits affordability to high-income groups. Education is not a luxury. In fact, online learning is the only way to cater to individual needs at a fraction of the cost. This should be made tax-free to lower after-school education costs for students.”

Shobhit Bhatnagar, Co-founder, Gradeup:

“In a country with over 200 million students, online education can play a major role in improving learning outcomes at a large scale. The government needs to actively support early stage industries like ed-tech that can create impact at scale.

Today, the GST rate for all educational services outside of schools and colleges is 18%, which is same rate bracket as discretionary items such as perfumes, chocolates etc. The government should move educational services to a no GST or the 5% slab.”

3. Better skill development initiatives

“In the previous Budget 2018, the government took key steps in skilling and also increased the funds. In this Budget session 2019, we expect that the government should take key steps in raising the quality of skills to levels demanded by a potential employer or even required for a person to start one’s own business.

The focus should be on integrating strategies to increase skilling outcomes and sustain economic growth. Current skill development initiatives should be integrated with nation-building mission programmes.

4. Better student guidance and career counselling

Prateek Bhargava, Founder & CEO, Mindler:

“We at Mindler believe that allocation for funds to drive career counseling and guidance initiatives are a critical need at the ground level. There is a big need to drive students towards careers which are in sync with their abilities rather than blindly following a few career domains.

5. More research funds

Dr. Jamshed Bharucha, Vice Chancellor, SRM University AP, Amaravati:

“Quality education needs to be made available to all. If we have to keep up with western nations and with regional neighbours in fields of science and technology, our educational institutions need to step up funding on research for a wide range of applications from health sciences, bio-medical, genomics, data science, machine learning, agriculture and food production, space and astrophysics.

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