The school education budget for the fiscal year 2013-2014 is expected to be approximately Rs200 billion with almost Rs16.5 billion to be allocated as development budget, said Deputy Secretary Schools Education Department Qaiser Rasheed.
Rasheed added that the department had decided not to propose any development funding for Danish Schools in the next budget.
Rasheed was speaking at the pre-budget seminar on future developmental interventions of the School Education Department organised by the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative - Punjab in collaboration with the SED and the United Nations Children’s Fund. The seminar highlighted the department’s recommendations for the year 2013-2014.
Institute of Social and Policy Sciences Research Fellow Ahmed Ali said the education spending gives the perception that Punjab is treating education as a priority.
He said that primary school education allocation had increased from Rs83 billion in 2011-2012 to Rs88 billion to 2012-2013. But Ali said the failure to release the funds timely affected the performance of the department. He said that the government should allocate the budget in keeping with the ground realities and the department data. He also spoke against block grants.
“It has been three years since Article 25-A was inserted in the Constitution … Despite commendable efforts by the Punjab Education Commission nothing substantial has been done for the provision of free and compulsory education.” Ali said the Punjab Education Commission had formulated a draft but the previous government did not open it to public debate.
In the next 15 years, Ali estimated, around Rs464 billion would be needed as the school education budget to cater to the 9.6 million out-of-school-children in the five to 16 years age group. He said the budget currently stood at Rs156 billion.
Rasheed said that while Rs15 billion had been set aside as development budget for the previous fiscal year, only Rs6 billion had been released till February, 2013. Rasheed recommended that funds should be placed at the disposal of the department at the start of the fiscal year.
He said the department had proposed Rs16.5 billion for development but had also recommended that all funds allocated should be released to Account 4, which avoids lapsing of the funds in case they are not utilised by the end of the year. In order to avoid centralisation of allocated budgets, he added, funds for all devolved departments should be released to Account 4.
Rasheed described some major interventions the department plans to undertake. These included construction of hostels, replacement of computer labs, introduction of early childhood education, reconstruction of dangerous school buildings and the provision of IT labs in high schools.
The SED also hopes to provide additional classrooms in schools that have reported high enrollment.
Planning and Development Department Additional Secretary Rana Hassan Akhtar said the Danish School scheme was indeed a burden but one which now needed to be owned up to. “If you compare Danish Schools with other government schools, the expense is far greater but since so much has been invested in the scheme the effort should not go in vain.”
Akhtar said there was a huge gap between allocation and release of funds this year.
SED secretary Aslam Kamboh said that the department had decided to allocate performance based budgets for schools. Under this programme, schools would be allocated funds based on their performance on factors including enrollment, school furniture and teacher performance, he said. This programme has been proposed for nine districts this year, to be expanded to 18 districts next year.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2013.
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