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The closure of schools due to pandemic-related lockdowns over the last few years has severely impacted India's school-going children. Many students, particularly in government schools and in rural India, have lost substantial years of education. After nearly three years of massive disruption caused by the pandemic, the country's education sector is looking forward to a new era. The government's primary focus is on upskilling the youth and increasing digitalization in the education sector. The education sector has received its highest-ever allocation of INR 1.12 lakh crore ($ 13.66 Bn) in the Union Budget 23-24. Allocation for school education has increased by 8 percent from INR 63,449 crore ($ 7.74 Bn) in 2022-23 to INR 68,804 ($ 8.39 Bn) crore in 2023-24. The finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a slew of measures to bridge the emerging gaps in education.

First, the finance minister acknowledged the need for effective teacher training and building resilient mechanisms in education delivery. To this end, the government will re-envision teachers’ training through innovative pedagogy, curriculum transaction, continuous professional development, dipstick surveys, and ICT implementation. Further, District Institutes of Education and Training will be developed as vibrant centres of excellence.

Second, the budget also talked about a National Digital Library for children and adolescents that will be set up to facilitate the availability of quality books across geographies, languages, genres and levels, and device-agnostic accessibility. States will be encouraged to set up physical libraries at panchayat and ward levels and provide infrastructure for accessing the National Digital Library resources.

Third, keeping in mind the loss of learning caused by the pandemic, the National Book Trust and Children’s book trust will be encouraged to provide non-curricular titles in regional languages and English to these physical libraries. Collaboration with literacy-focused non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will also be a part of this initiative. Financial sector regulators and organisations will also be encouraged to provide age-appropriate reading material to these libraries in order to instil financial literacy.

Fourth, to make education more accessible to the last mile, over the next three years, the government will recruit 38,800 teachers and support staff for the 740 Eklavya Model Residential Schools, serving 3.5 lakh tribal students.

Fifth, to make the vision of ‘Make AI in India’ and ‘Make AI work for India’ a reality, three Artificial Intelligence Centres of Excellence (CoE) will be established in top educational institutions. Leading industry players will collaborate to conduct interdisciplinary research, develop cutting-edge applications, and solve scalable problems in agriculture, health, and sustainable cities. This will provide the required impetus to create an effective AI ecosystem while also cultivating quality human resources in the field.

Bridging the gaps in India's education sector will be critical as the country's youth comes of age in a rapidly changing world with new systems and new challenges. The measures announced in the Budget 2023-24 will allow the country to ensure continued growth in education.

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