The Union Budget presented by finance minister Arun Jaitley also had a segment talking about a series of steps towards building a stronger foundation for the youth of the country and budding citizens. Starting with the introduction of a system that would measure the annual learning outcomes in the schools of the country, the budget talked about ‘SWAYAM’ platform that would offer more than 350 online courses and the replacement of CBSE by the National Testing Agency for all the entrance tests of higher education amongst other things. Showing the government’s awareness about the many problems plaguing the education system in the country, the budget showcased some steps and the funds allocated to them towards improving the same.
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The objective of ‘Swayam’ is to ensure that education reaches every nook and corner of the country and also help the students to move away from bookish knowledge to a more practical teaching. The content for all online courses will be prepared by seasoned academicians from coveted institutes like Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management, to name a few. The virtual presentations that are prepared by the professors will be available online. In order to increase the reach of ‘Swayam,’ steps will be initiated to connect it to DTH channels, which are dedicated to education.
The proposal to set up the National Testing Agency (NTA) in Budget 2017-2018 is aimed at helping the Central Board of Secondary Education to focus on the core issues rather than on conducting exams. The NTA will be established as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation. It will hold higher education examinations such as NEET and JEE. Presently, most of the coveted exams are conducted by CBSE. However, it is yet to be clear if NTA will hold one single exam and there will be no state level exams.
Increasing the reach of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras (PMKK) , Jaitley proposed for extending it to at least 600 districts of the country from the existing 60.
PM Narendra Modi had always laid thrust on “Skill India” and this was reflected in Jaitley’s budget as he mentioned the proposal to set up 100 India International Skills Centres in different parts of the country. The finance minister has earmarked Rs 4000 crores for the ‘Skill Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion programme (SANKALP).’ This will provide market relevant training to more than 3.5 crores youth. Jaitley also allocated Rs 2,200 crore for the next phase of Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE).