The Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS) in collaboration with the Campaign for Quality Education (CQE) organised a Post-budget Policy Dialogue on Effectiveness of Education Financing in Punjab at the Pearl Continental Hotel yesterday.
Dr Salman Humayun, the I-SAPS executive director, stressed the need for transparent allocation and expenditure of funds in the education sector. He said the ultimate criterion to determine the effectiveness of public spending is students’ learning.
According to Dr Humayun, almost 45 per cent of children who are of school going age are out of school. He said Rs3 billion had been allocated by the Punjab government to provide missing facilities in primary and elementary schools.
He added that out of the 21 per cent schools that are without toilets, 13 per cent were for girls. The Punjab government, the doctor said, had allocated Rs21 billion for missing facilities in girls school from 2004 to 2011, however it had failed to address basic facilities such as toilets.
(Read: Modest increase in education spending)
The dialogue included talk about the Daanish Schools for which the government has allocated almost Rs3 billion. The participants questioned if it was worth allocating money on new infrastructure when it could well have been used to upgrade the older infrastructure. Rs3 billion they claimed was sufficient to upgrade 660 schools from primary to middle level and 500 schools from middle to matric level.
The dialogue included brief talks by Abbas Rashid from the Campaign for Quality Education and Ahmed Ali, a research fellow at the I-SAPS. Rashid highlighted the need to develop context-related research and added that the government research apparatus was under funded in this context.
Rashid identified teachers, community, medium of instruction, curriculum and medium of examination and testing as key sites for reform. He stressed the need for a broad consensus in curriculum so that students across the country are provided with a consistent syllabus for uniformity in education.
Describing the compliance of Article 25-A of the Constitution, Ali told the participants that it makes it compulsory for the state to provide free and mandatory education for children between the ages of 5 to 16. Ali asked the chairperson to call the government’s attention towards determining what constitutes free education and the lack of appropriate legislation in this regard.
Chaudhry Javed Ahmed, chairperson for the Standing Committee on Education in Punjab, added that children of all public representatives, bureaucrats and teachers should be required to study in public schools so as to ensure that the difference that exists between the public and private education sector is not fuelled by public representatives.
The participants urged political parties to develop education wings by incorporating experts in the field who can collaborate with the likes of organisations such as the I-SAPS and CQE.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2011.