Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Restarting OrangeGlass - With Education Focus In Budget '11

It has been nearly 1.5 years since this blog last saw a post and many significant developments have happened in the tech, media and business world since. A case in point is the strong growth of Twitter and its increased usage, at least in the tech, media and startup world. No wonder then, that a lot of people (including myself) are more active 'tweeters' than they are bloggers. That perhaps explains the lack of activity on this blog. (And I can hopefully get away with that excuse?)

On a more serious note, the advantage of Twitter is perhaps is its disadvantage as well. While it works great for sharing short, quick opinions and resources that one comes across, it doesn't work so well to share more detailed views. You can be as creative as you want to limit what you have to say to 140 characters, but there's a totally different pleasure in writing a detailed and a more 'thought-through' blog post running into a few hundred words or even more. Also, Twitter is a lot more dynamic with the timeline changing by the minute, sometimes even by the second and it becomes difficult to keep a track of what you have shared and the discussions around it. People do retweet and add their comments some times, but those don't add as much value as comments on a well-written blog post. Also, a blog and blog labels with the blog help in much better archiving than by searching through hash tags on Twitter.

(Note to myself: With all said and written(?), now please be regular in posting henceforth.)

Developments In Education Space In India

Over the last 2 years, I have spent a significant amount of my time in the education space in India and we are surely going through very interesting times. Developments like the CAT turning into a computer-based test in 2009 (and the 'fiasco' that ensued), the extension of CCE by the CBSE into lower classes will no doubt lead to increased use of technology.Considering that there are nearly 2,500 entrance exams in India and most of them expected to turn into online/computer-based tests soon and even schools and colleges adopting technology for learning and assessment, there's surely a large opportunity in this space.

On the other hand , the focus creating a large talent pool to meet the growing human resource demands of various industries has led to an strong thrust on vocational skills development. So much so that a unique public-private partnership, National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) has been set up with a corpus now of Rs. 15,000 crore to produce 150 mn skilled workers by 2022 in 21 sectors as diverse as Construction, Automobiles to Food Processing, Gems & Jewelery to Travel & Tourism.

To get a better sense of NSDC's vision and plans, here is presentation by Yuvaraj Gadala shared at the NASSCOM Product Conclave held in Bangalore last year. (This was part of session on 'Funding From Govt/Quasi Govt Sources' held at the Product Conclave and I was part of the organizing team for this session. Thanks Indus for the opportunity! More about this on Indus's blog)

Highlights Related To Education From Budget 2011

Interestingly, skill development seems to be a major area of focus in the announcements related to education made by the Finance Minister in his budget speech. NSDC seems to well on course to reach its target of skilling 150 mn people by 2022. In fact, the Finance Minister expects that this target will be met two years in advance. He has allocated an additional Rs. 500 crore to the NSDC for the coming year. NSDC also seems to be moving quite fast in disbursing funds having already sanctioned 26 projects worth Rs. 658 crore and these projects alone are expected to train 40 mn people over next 10 years. What's also interesting is that of the 20,000 people trained in FY 2010-11, 75% have found placements. One would have expected these numbers, those of number of people trained and those of placed to be higher, but I am sure these will surely look better over time.

Here are some key points related to education from the FM's speech -
  • Total Allocation To Education
    • Rs. 52,057 crore | Up 24% from previous year's allocation
  • Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan(SSA) - centrally sponsored scheme to provide free and compulsory education to children in age groups 6-14
    • Allocation of Rs. 21,000 crore to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan(SSA) | Increase of 40% over previous allocation of Rs. 15,000 crore
  • National Knowledge Network - connecting education institutes through optical fiber backbone
    • NKN will connect 1500 institutes of higher learning. 190 institutes will be linked during 2011, connectivity to all institutes by Mar 2012
    • Link to the NKN Website - http://www.nkn.in/
  • Scholarships for SC/ST students in classes ninth and tenth
  • Special grants to certain education institutes
  • Focus on Skill Development
    • Additional funds of Rs. 500 crore for National Skill Development Corpn (NSDC) for next year (NSDC has a corpus of Rs. 15,000 crore)
    • NSDC to achieve its mandate of skilling 150 mn workforce two year ahead of stipulated target of 2022
    • NSDC has sanctioned 26 projects worth Rs. 658 crore, these projects are expected to train 40 mn people over next 10 years
    • Of the 20,000 people trained in FY 2010-11, 75% have found placements

Excerpts from the Finance Minister's speech with items related to education -


Puttu said...

Good one mate. Couple of basic questions
1.How is Sibal's vision of RTE be realized?
2.Allocation to NSDC is done by central govt.Shouldn't state govt be interacting closely with these? To rephrase shouldn't budget to skill development and training be allocated by state govt also?
3. NSDC's target can only be achieved iff the training staff is strong and sustainable. How is this being addressed.?
4.Heard that number of skills projected on NSDC are less than in China.. This scares me :-)

Correct me if i am naive/wrong in understanding :-)

Nikhil said...


Thanks for the comment. Don't think there's anything about being wrong/naive related to these. In fact, developing a point of view and an opinion take years together!

Let me take a shot at responding to your questions.

1. Don't think RTE is Mr. Sibal's 'vision'. Even if it were, it'll surely be one of his '100 days' promises. Sometimes I wonder if the movie 100 days was inspired by him or if it is the other way round!

See this - http://www.google.co.in/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=kapil+sibal+100+days

Anyway, I think that government initiatives with such large scale are not effective unless there is constant monitoring and high accountability. Examples - Sarva Shikshana Abhiyan, Golden Quadrilateral Project, MNREGA etc.

Also, the RTE makes it mandatory to reserve 25% of seats in private schools for students from economically weaker sections and naturally the private schools are up in arms against this. Such initiatives perhaps sound good only on paper, literally!

2. Actually NSDC is a public-private partnership. The state governments are working on this in their own ways as well by providing funding to training institutes and working with corporates to ensure placements for trained people. As an example, the Karnataka government has recently partnered with TeamLease - http://blog.teamlease.com/2010/07/inauguration-of-karnataka-employment.html

3. In fact, one of the 21 areas identified by NSDC for vocational skill development is education and training itself! Some of the interesting training models being developed involve working closely with corporates for on job/on field training so that there's no need for dedicated training staff.

4. Not sure about China's projections. I'll save this for another blog post, but even if NSDC's projections are met, it'd still not be sufficient for India's youth to be gainfully and productively employed. It's actually quite a scary prospect!