BY SIVARAMAKRISHNAN VENKATESWARAN
Managing Director, Oxford University Press, India
The upcoming budget poses a big fiscal challenge for the Government in the face of measures it has had to take to manage a Covid-19 impacted economy. The widespread disruption of formal teaching and learning brought to fore several issues that need immediate redressal.
Foremost, the Union Budget 2021 must address the serious issue of ‘digital divide’ as learning came to a standstill for the less privileged following the nationwide lockdown last year. Investments in ‘digital highways’ should augment connectivity infrastructure to enable anytime, anywhere remote learning and teaching, especially for the less privileged.
Similar investments must be made towards teacher professional development for pedagogical reorientation of our educators following NEP and the impending National Curriculum Framework review that is underway.
Professional development will also support upskilling of educators to enable them to efficiently drive digital and remote teaching in the post pandemic world.
Finally, we expect the Government to reconsider its decision of keeping books out of the GST ambit. While books were kept out of GST, all the inputs are taxed, and the publishing industry cannot claim offset for these taxes. This results in input taxes adding to the cost of publishing. If publishers can claim offset of these taxes, it will help to bring down the cost of learning resources, thereby benefiting the learner.