The writer is an
analyst and the
President of All
Budgetary allocations show education is not a priority of the ruling class. Pakistan’s public education spending as a percentage of the gross domestic product is gradually declining. For each successive government, education has apparently been a top priority in theory only, and within the realm of education, getting out-of-school children in Pakistan back to schools and increasing and easing access to higher levels of education have proven to be major challenges. While all political leaders at the helm of the country’s affairs claim to have a special place in their hearts for education. Governments in Pakistan are known to make only hollow promises regarding the importance of education, but what is truly more worrying is the fact that whatever little allocations they manage to make, those in power have consistently appeared incapable of utilizing those allocations to the full. After the 18th Amendment, provinces get their own finances for education. Punjab and Sindh both allocated just 2% of their education budget for technical and vocational education, whereas Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan allocated only 1% percent share of its education budget for the same. Provinces allocated less than two percent for other sub-sectors, such as teacher education, special education and literacy, and non-formal education. Unfortunately, all the provinces couldn’t spend the allotted budget they earmarked for the education sector for the last many years. Instead of boosting the Higher Education Commission’s budget, which was already slashed by the PTI government, the newly established federal government has proposed cutting it by more than half to Rs30 billion for the fiscal year 2022–23, compared to the previous allocation of Rs65.25 billion, which is slashing the HEC budget will be more problematic. The varsities will be forced to halt ongoing development projects, research activities and hiring of new faculty members to meet the expenses. Likewise, the students will bear the burden of a three to fourfold hike in tuition fees by next year. Similarly, they would have no choice apart from firing cooperative teachers and reducing the pension amounts of retired professors and staffers. The varsities will also be forced to close various departments and stop introducing new courses.
Budgetary allocations show education is not a priority of the ruling class. Governments in Pakistan are known to make only hollow promises regarding the importance of education, but what is truly more worrying is the fact that whatever little allocations they manage to make, those in power have consistently appeared incapable of utilizing those allocations to the full.
The Economic Survey of Pakistan 2021-22 has pointed out that only 1.77 per cent of GDP was spent on the education sector last year while the literacy rate was recorded at 63pc. Cumulative education expenditures by federal and provincial governments in FY2021 remained at 1.77pc of GDP. Education-related expenditures during FY21 witnessed an increase of 9.7pc, reaching Rs988 billion from Rs901bn. The cumulative education expenditure by the federal and provincial governments in the financial year 2020-21 totaled 1.77 per cent of GDP against 1.9 per cent in 2019-20, 1.98 per cent in 2018-19 and 2.12 per cent in 2017-18. The spending, however, went up from Rs901.013 billion in 2019-20 to Rs988.032 in 2020-21. It was Rs868.022 billion in 2018-19 and Rs829.152 billion in 2017-18. Rs. 65 billion have been allocated for the non-development expenditure of the HEC. Rs. 44 billion have been allocated for the development schemes of the HEC as well. Overall, the budget for the education sector has received a cut by 1.5 percent from Rs. 91.970 billion for the current fiscal year to Rs. 90.556 billion for Education Affairs and Services in the federal budget for 2022-23.
We can see that Pakistan’s education spending for 2017 was 14.54% which was a 0.52% decline from 2016; spending for 2016 was 15.06%, a 1.88% increase from 2015; spending for 2015 was 13.19%, a 1.89% increase from 2014 and spending for 2014 was 11.30%, a 0.21% decline from 2013. The actual percentage share for education out of the entire budget has declined in all but one province, and there too, the education budget saw no real term increase. In Punjab, the percentage share of education in the overall budget decreased from 24% in 2014-15 to 19% in 2018-19, whereas it went down from 21% to 18% in Sindh. In Balochistan, it decreased from 21% to 18%. However, the net allocation remained the same in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 26%.
All provinces couldn’t spend the money they earmarked for the education sector during 2017-18. Sindh had the highest rate of under-utilization at only 29%.
The country’s literacy rate was 62.8 per cent in 2020-21 compared to 62.4 per cent in 2018-19. The percentage went up from 73 to 73.4 in men and from 51.5 to 51.9 in women. The narrowing down of the men-women disparity was also reported. The area-wise analysis showed the literacy ratio increased from 53.7 per cent to 54 per cent in villages and from 76.1 per cent to 77.3 per cent in cities. All provinces recorded higher literacy rate. It went up from 66.1 per cent to 66.3 per cent in Punjab, from 61.6 per cent to 61.8 per cent in Sindh, from 52.4 per cent to 55.1 per cent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and from 53.9 per cent to 54.5 per cent in Balochistan. The enrolments recorded during 2019-20 were 55.7 million compared to 53.1 million in 2018-19 showing an increase of 4.9 percent. It’s estimated to surge to 58.5 million next year. The nationwide educational institutions totaled 277.5 thousand in 2019-20 compared to 271.8 thousand in 2018-19 with the likelihood of the tally reaching 283.7 thousand in one year. Similarly, the number of teachers came to 1.83 million in 2019-20 compared to 1.79 million last year with a likely jump to 1.89 million within a year. There was a budget cut for the higher education regulator, HEC, in the year 2021-22. The federal government initially allocated Rs42.45 billion for the HEC to implement 168 development projects of public sector universities and higher education institutions but later rationalized and curtailed the funding to Rs32.338 billion. Despite HEC’s demand in an increase in the education budget, the government has decided to cut costs. Pakistan’s public education spending as a proportion of GDP is expected to be 1.7 percent in the fiscal year 2021-22, down from 1.9 percent the previous fiscal year, the lowest in the region.
Following the 18th Amendment, the Federal Government has primarily been funding higher learning, with education being divided between different regions. In budget 2022-23, Rs. 74.609 billion has been set aside for Tertiary Education Affairs and Services, accounting for 83 percent of the total allocation under this sector. For 2022-23, the government has set aside Rs. 3.786 billion for pre-primary and primary education, compared to Rs. 3.021 billion in 2021-22, Rs. 8.863 billion for secondary education affairs and services, compared to Rs. 7.632 billion in 2021-22, and Rs. 2 billion for administration, compared to Rs. 1.915 billion in 2021-22, which was later changed to Rs. 2.028 billion. On the side of Development works, for the FY 2022 an amount of Rs9.7 billion was allocated in PSDP FY2022 for 24 ongoing and four new development projects of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training. An amount of Rs2.8 billion was also allocated for six ongoing and three new education-related development projects.
On the school’s education side, as an election slogan, Single National Curriculum (SNC) has been introduced to minimize disparities in the country’s education but failed due to non-seriousness and non-commitment. But unfortunately, SNC’s implementation has not been successfully done in Islamabad, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan even till the academic year 2021. Even in Balochistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir, paperwork for the implementation couldn’t complete till the academic year 2022. Moreover, Sindh has rejected the adoption of SNC. Although SNC is a major reform in the country, unfortunately failed due to a lot of challenges in order to implement it in true letter and spirit. These challenges included the government’s weak political will to implement; capacity building of the existing teachers; induction of new teachers as per the requirements; and uplifting of the educational facilities in the main cities and far-flung areas of Pakistan. Although various initiatives have been taken at federal and provincial levels to raise the standards of education in terms of quality education as part of our commitment to accomplish Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Pakistan’s allocation for education is nothing to write home about really. But worryingly, the center and the provinces seem incapable of fully spending what little they decide to spend for uplifting a sector most important for national progress. The government is also very much focusing on improving both the quality and coverage of education through effective policy interventions and enhancing the allocation of resources, but the required reforms and improvements in the education sector cannot be achieved without the allocation of a minimum 5 percent of the GDP for education in the budget with full utilization of the budget and active participation of the private sector. There was a need to involve all stakeholders for the timely release of funds as well as capacity building of education managers, institutions, organizations, and departments. The regular, smooth, and fair utilization of the budget require interaction and coordination between various departments of regions and provinces. It is important to figure out what are the causes of poor utilization of the budget. The present and previous data indicate that there is a dire need to develop a robust financial management system for education sector.