The writer is an
analyst and the
President of all
Budgetary allocations show education is not a priority. 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. Last year, Punjab and Sindh both allocated just 2% of their education budget for technical and vocational education, whereas Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan allocated only a 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. The Economic Survey of Pakistan 2021-22 has pointed out that only 1.77 percent of GDP was spent on the education sector last year while the literacy rate was recorded at 63pc. 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.
All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF), the only largest representative Federation for All Pakistan private schools included Punjab, Sindh, KPK, Baluchistan, Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Kashmir with more than 300 registered Associations; 207,000 private schools; 15,00,000 teachers and 26.9 million students presented Education Recommendations for Budget 2023-24. APPSF recommended to Federal & Provincial governments allocate and spend a minimum of 5% of GDP on education and research for schools and the higher education sector in the new budget keeping in view the effects of COVID-19, the pandemic, recent devastated floods, and high inflation rates. That 25 percent of the education budget should go to higher education and the rest 75 percent be spent on schools, colleges, and technical education. APPSF further recommended Government should announce tax amnesty and the exemption for 5 years for investing in the education sector so that new schools, colleges, universities, and technical and vocational institutes can be established. Unless steered with a purpose, the rapid advance of science and technology may widen inequities, exacerbate social fragmentation and accelerate resource depletion. The government spending on school education remained less than $100, and on higher education remained less than $250 per student per year. We’ve to fix and enhance the heavy budget for research, science, and technology. It has been over a decade since the state made a promise to every child between the ages of five and 16 years of free and compulsory education. The compulsory range of school-going age is stipulated as five to 16 years under Article 25-A of the Constitution. With an increasing population and a burgeoning youth cohort, Pakistan now has more than 75 million children between five and 16 years. Currently, Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) with an estimated 25 million children aged 5-16 not attending school, representing 35 percent of the total population in this age group. The public schooling system only caters to 24 million and the private schooling system caters to 26.9 million, with over 25 million currently out-of-school-children (OOSC). Pakistan is facing a serious challenge to ensure all children, particularly the most disadvantaged, attend, stay, and learn in school. A discouraging decrease in recent education budgets trend has been observed in the total GDP, which is already well short of the 4 percent target. A deeper understanding of the equity challenge for these 25 million out-of-schools-children especially girls, between the ages of five and 16 years is needed, due to their constitutional right. Pakistan needs more than 200,000 schools and 25 million teachers by 2025 to cater to over 25 million currently out-of-school children (OOSC). The Millions of children in flood-hit Pakistan are in dire need of help, school education is at risk for millions of students. Nearly 33 million people including 16 million children affected by the catastrophic floods in Pakistan, and at least 27,000 public & 12,000 private schools damaged or destroyed across the country depriving millions of children of access to education. The UNICEF says children account for nearly half of the 33 million people affected by the catastrophic floods in Pakistan, including approximately 16 million children. Torrential rains have killed more than 2,600 people, including 900 children, and demolished much of the infrastructure vital to children’s well-being. Nearly 3 million students in Pakistan are at risk of being permanently out of school, are enrolled in these damaged 27,000 public and 12000 private schools, as the country grapples with devastating floods that have ravaged the country. The worst-hit Sindh and Baluchistan provinces have a poor track record in reconstructing damaged schools. Statistics from the province’s education department show that apart from the destruction, 7,500 schools have been turned into relief camps across the province, where more than 65,000 families have been sheltered. It is feared that enrollment in government schools will drop by a whopping 50%, meaning that thousands of children will not be able to get their basic education. That Sindh alone is expected to see 2 million school dropouts. The province already has 6.5 million children out of school. These stats are enough to call for an education emergency because research shows that the process of repairs and building the infrastructure of schools tends to be time-consuming and expensive. That Provincial Governments don’t have the resources to make these 49,000 public and private schools functional even after the water is dewatered. APPSF also recommended a special education budget for the Millions of children in flood-hit Pakistan, who are in dire need of help, school education is at risk for millions of students, who also need help to deliver safe drinking water; lifesaving medical supplies; therapeutic food supplies; and hygiene kits to children and families. APPSF also established temporary learning centers and supported the protection and psychosocial well-being of children affected by these devastating floods. But much more is needed to ensure that we can reach all families displaced by floods and help them overcome this climate disaster.
Pakistan needs more than 200,000 new schools, and 2.5 million teachers to cater to over 25 million out-of-school children (OOSC). So, an education emergency, Tax exemption with Amnesty must be declared for all those who would invest in the education sector for the establishment of new Schools, Colleges, Universities, Technical and Vocational Training Institutes, Teachers Training, and other educational Institutes till the achievement of 100% education rate, along with relief packages and interest-free loans for low-cost and affordable private schools and teachers, and all those who would invest in the education sector for the establishment of new institutions. A budget should be fixed to eliminate the menace of child labor, that according to UNICEF, the closure of schools during the coronavirus pandemic had proven to be counter-productive while as many as 40 million children in Pakistan were affected due to schools shut down, and most of them children were compelled for child labor. The establishment of the special education fund, provision of internet devices to the students, provision for establishing new schools, colleges, and universities with properly qualified faculty and funding, promoting a culture of intelligent classrooms, sufficient funding for continuous faculty development programs, and paying special attention towards social sciences and skill-based learning were also among the recommendations. At least 25 percent of all schools and colleges should be converted to high-level technical schools and colleges with foreign collaboration to ensure high-quality skilled workers, and 25,000 students should be sent on scholarships for Ph.D. to top 500 universities abroad annually to pursue emerging technologies. APPSF also vowed and is ready to undertake collaborative efforts to support and assist the government by adopting an innovative approach to overcome challenges being faced by the education sector. APPSF recommended the expansion of matric-tech programs in schools across Pakistan to provide technical training at the matric level. APPSF further suggested major national programs for technology parks, promotion of innovation & entrepreneurship, funding for knowledge economy task force projects in emerging areas of industrial and agricultural importance, promotion of high-tech manufacturing, and value-added exports through appropriate policies and incentives. By broadening & deepening reforms, Pakistan could reach the millions of children who currently get no schooling, thereby improving participation rates in school education at all levels. Targeted investments and programs will be needed to improve completion rates and learning levels.
Pakistan needs more 200,000 new schools, 2.5 million teachers to cater over 25 million out-of-school-children (OOSC). So, an education emergency, Tax exemption with Amnesty must be declared for all those who would invest in education sector.
Despite these challenges, Pakistan’s total public spending on health, nutrition, and education is only at about 3% of gross domestic product (GDP), and in which just 2% of gross domestic product on education which is much lower than for comparable countries, so the recurring budget should be raised and be saved from block allocations. The 2010, 18th Constitutional Amendment devolved responsibility for 17 sectors, including education, from the federal government to the provincial governments in Pakistan. This was accompanied by increased funding to provincial governments from the National Finance Commission (NFC), commensurate with their increased responsibilities. However, further capacity building is required at the provincial and district levels to ensure quality service delivery along with enhanced public spending. The federal and provincial governments should include a separate statement with the budgetary documents, for the government policy for girls’ education; policy measures to be taken for improving girls’ education in terms of resource allocation and its effective utilization, a detailed break-down of the current and development budgets allocated for girls’ education, level-wise enrolment of girls in public schools and state of basic facilities in girls’ schools.
More budget for innovative initiatives, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and other programs need to be introduced by the federal and provincial governments by considering the deteriorating situation in the education sector, to fulfill the missing facilities, and taking special measures on an urgent basis to overcome the increasing challenge of gender disparity, access and quality of education, and worsening situation of gender equity. Education has a vital role to play in developing the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that enable people to contribute and benefit from an inclusive and sustainable future. Education needs to aim to do more than prepare young people for the world of work; it needs to equip students with the skills they need to become active, responsible, and engaged citizens.