LAHORE: Academics in Punjab gave mixed reactions over the allocations for the provincial education budget in FY2017-18.
Some hailed the amount, while others slammed it for not prioritising research and bettering the quality education.
The Punjab government, on Friday, unveiled a Rs1.97 trillion budget, out of which Rs345 billion were earmarked for education. The allocation made up 17.51 percent of the total budget. Out of the total, Rs74.1 billion, or 21.47 percent, was earmarked for development schemes in this sector.
For schoolteachers, the budget brought good news as it announced Rs9 billion for upgrading teachers’ basic pay scales. Teachers had been demanding a pay scale increase for years. Lahore and other parts of the province saw several protests by teachers over this very issue.
In her budget speech, Punjab Finance Minister Ayesha Ghaus Pasha said as many as 0.3 million teachers would benefit from the move and the process of upgradation would begin from January 2018.
Primary School Teachers (PST) will be upgraded from grade-9 to 14, Elementary School Teachers from grade 14 to 15 and those ESTs, who are in grade 15, will get to 16. Those ESTs who are already in grade 16 will get two annual increments and a similar incentive will also be given to SSTs.
Reacting to the announcement, Punjab Teachers’ Union (PTU), in a statement, said the allocation of Rs9 billion for upgradation of teachers pay scales was a welcome decision. It added the government would fulfill promises through such a move and it would improve the education sector.
However, some schoolteachers were still skeptical over the announcement. The major doubts were over the timing of the promotions. According to the budget announcement, teachers would be bumped up a scale in January 2018.
College teachers believed the budget was too school-centric. Talking to The Express Tribune, Punjab Professors and Lecturers Association (PPLA) President Hafiz Khaliq Nadeem said the government ignored colleges and the focus remained on schools. He said that only a small amount was allocated for colleges, while the problems and needs of public colleges of the province were ignored. “Scale upgradation has only been announced for schoolteachers and we have been demanding this same for quite some time. Why has the government ignored college teachers for scale upgradation in the budget?” Nadeem asked.
Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) Punjab President Dr Javad Ahmad said it was heartening that the government dedicated a handsome amount for education in the budget. However, he added the allocation for higher education [universities] was not enough. “I have reservations over the way the division was done”. He added the majority of the allocation was to establish new colleges.
He said a separate allocation was needed for the development of universities. “Pakistani universities are not of international standard and a lot of funding is needed to achieve that,” he concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2017.