“Budget 2023: Education, EdTech segment expect tax cuts, GST reduction, focus on digital education”
Spokesperson : Vijay Victor, assistant professor, Accounting, Economics and Finance, T.A. Pai Management Institute, Manipal
Date: 23rd January
The education and the EdTech segments have high hopes from the Union budget that will be presented on February 1 by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. They expect tax incentives, GST reduction, and continued focus on digital space from the budget.
Many of the stakeholders in the segment feel that in the previous budget, several policies were favourable to the education sector, and since then, there has been a shift towards more liberal policies regarding online degrees. The UGC has also paved the way for foreign universities to establish campuses in India.
The education sector posted 11.86 per cent growth in 2022. This trend is likely to continue this year as well.
“Higher allocation for education and a reduction in taxes is what people are hoping for from the Union budget 2023. Online education programmes have become very popular after the pandemic, and the demand for these programmes has seen significant growth. During the Covid years, the department of higher education and UGC have done a phenomenal job and have taken several steps to support and aid this growth. The government will reportedly launch India’s first digital university in 2023, indicating their strong interest in boosting the adoption of online learning platforms,” said Ambrish Sinha, CEO, UNext Learning.
He said the EdTech sector also hopes for a GST revision, to get the benefit of lower slabs. This will help us offer more affordable programmes. “Academic partnerships between educational institutions and EdTech are imperative for the holistic growth of the online education space. The government, through the UGC, is said to be formulating guidelines to facilitate cooperation between education technology companies and universities. It is important for the government to quickly implement these guidelines to fully leverage the potential of this collaboration,” Sinha observed.
He said considering the looming unemployment, there needs to be an increased budget allocation for the development of new-age learning skills, and emphasis must be laid on private partnerships with the EdTech sector to make the workforce remain competitive. “To globalise our education system, the budget should recommend the use of objective, multiple-choice exams at all levels of education.”
Many experts feel that as the pandemic worries simmer down, the focus should be reverted to infrastructure and capacity building in the education sector. Focus on digital education should be continued with more funding allocated to improve the quality of e-content. “Shifting the GST slab for the EdTech apps from 18 to 12 per cent or even five per cent would give an impetus to democratising education and promoting multi-modal learning along the lines of NEP. Attracting foreign students under the ‘Study in India Scheme’ to top public and private institutions will improve the rankings of these institutions,” observed Vijay Victor, assistant professor, Accounting, Economics and Finance, T.A. Pai Management Institute, Manipal.
Victor said to realise the objectives of NEP, more funding must be released to facilitate innovations in the curriculum and teaching practices, like a shift from pedagogy to heutagogy or more student-centric learning practices for effective discourse in digital and distance education. Research funding should be generous yet competitive to improve the quality of research output.
In 2022, the Union budget had honoured the exponential rise of EdTech in the education sector by allocating funds amounting to Rs 40,828.35 crore for higher education while Rs 63,449.37 crore was granted for school education and literacy. Although this seems great from the macro perspective, there are still challenges for the EdTech sector at the micro level.
“We expect that the foundational infrastructure for digital learning must receive adequate impetus in the budget in the form of financial and other policy incentives such as tax support and subsidies for private players who come forward to invest and contribute in this direction. At the same time, given the pivotal role that the quality of teaching plays in terms of learning outcomes for learners, the budget should make provisions that would incentivise and help in improving the teaching methods and techniques of instructors and teachers. The improved quality of teachers would not only result in students acquiring holistic learning but also make them adequately future-ready in light of the challenges that they might face in a more tech and skill-based workplace of the future. The budget should also ensure that digital technologies are utilised to the fullest in order to bridge the so-called access divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’,” pointed out Aarul Malviya, founder of Zamit.
A few experts also believe that there should be stress on investing in bridging the skill gaps that have developed due to lack of in-person learning due to the pandemic. “Teachers need to be prepared as well. This means investing in professional development and training opportunities that will help us effectively implement blended learning methods in the classroom and utilise the technology-enabled infrastructure. I am advocating for a budget dedicated to programmes and resources that will help our students and teachers receive extra support and opportunities to succeed. At the same time, tier 3 and Tier 4 cities still struggle with online education due to tech-based infrastructure challenges. Lack of internet speed, digital devices or computer systems stands as a big challenge for online courses. Hence, the EdTech industry is anticipating for the government to make these services accessible for all. Further, the industry’s key demand is lowering GST on online learning and resources for a fair and equivalent system for offline and online education providers,” remarked Rishabh Khanna, founder and CEO of Suraasa.
There are still a few other experts who feel that though the government has taken extensive initiatives in skill development and has catered to STEM education macros, there should be a continued focus on micro factors as well. “Reducing excise duty on lab equipment used in education, focusing on reducing GST on kits that are made in India, reduction of GST on STEM courses, content, VR and AR equipment will ensure that experiential STEM education can be made available to all,” said Ritika Amit Kumar, co-founder and CEO, of STEM Metaverse.