Panellists at a policy dialogue on Thursday emphasised the need to increase the education budget and underlined the importance of optimising use of available resources to improve the state of basic education in the public sector.
During the dialogue on “Education Budget: Post-Devolution Scenario-Two Years Down the Lane”, organised by the Pakistan Coalition for Education, panellists argued that the low fiscal allocation for education means that the public sector cannot provide even the most basic educational facilities to school-going children. As a result, public sector schools have become synonymous with poor quality education and parents who can afford to, will prefer to send their children to private schools, panellists noted.
Around 10.9% of schools in Pakistan are without buildings, 37.7% lack boundary walls, 33.9% have no drinking water facility, 36.9% lacks toilets, and 59.6% schools have no electricity, according to statistics shared at the dialogue.
Moreover 505 schools lack a proper building in Punjab, 11,669 in Sindh, 1,113 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 681 in Balochistan, 2,705 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 183 in Gilgit-Baltistan, and 908 schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
These missing facilities contribute to the high dropout rate, panellists noted. The literacy rate in Pakistan is 57% and annual education expenditure is 2.1% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is the lowest in the region. In comparison, Bangladesh spends 2.6% of its GDP on education, India 3.3%, Iran 5.2% and Nepal 3.2%.
Zehra Arshad, chief of the Coalition for Education, said Pakistan has one of the largest populations of children of school-going age, but the government has not developed any education plan to address basic education problems.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2012.