There is a yawning gap between words and deeds. This was made clear in the report released by a prominent education NGO in which it pointed out that if the government is to meet its commitment of dedicating four per cent of GDP to education, Rs1.21 trillion would be required for this purpose. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently renewed the commitment of keeping with the four percent allocation at the Oslo Education Summit. The pledge had consistently been made by the PML-N through its election campaign and beyond that. However, the amount set aside for education in the 2015-16 budget, Rs733 billion, constitutes just 2.68 per cent of GDP. This obviously falls under the recommendation of at least four per cent made by international organisations, including the UN. This sorry state of affairs explains why we have made such limited progress in the education sector. While there has been an increase of Rs154 billion spent on education over three years, nearly all of it coming from the provinces, there has been limited impact on the ground with previous reports by the same organisation indicating the extremely poor state of education in government schools.
Things are unlikely to improve. In the budgets announced this year, Sindh increased its allocation for education by only 16 per cent, the lowest amongst all provinces. Balochistan showed most dedication by increasing its allocation by 39 per cent. The federal government, on the other hand, has made a 21.7 per cent increase.
But even these increases can make only a limited difference given that 80 per cent of the amount put into the head labelled ‘education’ is used to pay teachers’ salaries. As we already know, many of these teachers rarely or never attend school while their own levels of learning are often well below standard. That, however, is not our sole problem. The issue is we need far greater commitment to education if we are to improve the quality of lessons offered at public sector schools and governments are to deliver on their commitments to step up spending on a crucial national need.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2015.
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