Budget 2023: Allocation for mental health, teachers in primary schools, demand educational leaders

Union budget 2023 will be presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1.

Union Budget 2023 (Representational Image: Shutterstock)Union Budget 2023 (Representational Image: Shutterstock)

Vagisha Kaushik | January 28, 2023 | 07:16 PM IST

NEW DELHI: In union budget 2023, educational firm and NGO founders expect the government to spend on mental health, increase in seats in medical colleges for PG and super specialized courses, and increase in number of teachers in primary schools.

Neerja Birla, founder and chairperson, MPower, an initiative of Aditya Birla Education Trust expects allocation for mental health in union budget 2023. She first congratulated the current government for spotlighting mental health concerns in India. However, according to her, mental health is still a real challenge in India and is shredded in taboo.

“To ensure the momentum of progress in the space we hope for a significant increase in and a balanced budgetary allocation for mental health. Funding should be increased to make outpatient mental health care services available at all Primary Health Centres and bolster community-based services to close the existing treatment gap of up to 83%,” she said.

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According to Birla, the amount of education and training medical students receive in the field of mental health and psychiatry is limited with only 1.4 percent lecture hours and a two-week internship in a medical school. This needs to change and a concentrated effort towards increasing seats in medical colleges for postgraduate and super specialization courses in psychiatry needs to be made, especially in smaller states to facilitate the generation of more mental healthcare professionals in the country, she added.

Incentives should be provided so that more and more experts choose to work in India instead of heading abroad for favourable opportunities, Birla further said.

Budget for primary education

Vineet Nayar, Founder, and Chairman, Sampark Foundation expects a 30% increase in the number of teachers at primary school level. The NGO founder said, “The cascading effects of covid can be seen in significant drop in learning levels but an increase in enrolment in government schools. Unless we substantially increase allocation to education in the upcoming budget we will see this negative trend continue. Education builds the future of our country and we need a 30% increase in the number of teachers and their capabilities to teach in the right way. If we miss this opportunity we would have millions of children who will miss benefiting from the focus on foundational numeracy and literacy skills and next year will be too late.”

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The challenge of balancing the budget is huge and Nayar hopes the government will set the right priorities for the future of the children of this country. Today not only the allocation to education is much lower than what it needs to be, a substantial part of that budget goes into teachers doing non-teaching activities . Thus, what actually reaches the classroom is much lower than what is allocated in the budget.

“I hope we will not just have a substantial increase in education budget this year to fulfil the FLN mission but also draw a red line on using teaching time for non-academic activities, investing in frugal ideas instead of expensive technology solutions that are easy to buy but difficult to use and investment in increasing number of teachers at the cost of everything else because technology is not a replacement of teachers,” he further said.

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