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. The government’s allocation of Rs. 97.098 billion for Education Affairs and Services in the federal budget for the fiscal year 2023-24 has drawn attention and criticism for its modest increase of around 5.5 percent compared to the revised allocation of the current fiscal year. Last year, instead of boosting the Higher Education Commission’s budget, which was already slashed by the PTI government, the newly established federal government 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 was more problematic. With Pakistan’s public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP estimated at 1.7 percent for the fiscal year 2022-23, the country holds the lowest regional ranking in terms of education funding. The need for greater investment in the education sector to address the challenges and gaps in quality education has been emphasized by experts and education advocates. Since the 18th Constitutional Amendment, education has been devolved to the provinces, and the federal government primarily focuses on financing higher education. In line with this, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has been allocated Rs. 59.71 billion under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the fiscal year 2023-24, reflecting an increase from the previous year’s allocation. While the minor increase in the education budget allocation demonstrates a degree of attention to the sector, the modest growth has raised concerns about the government’s commitment to addressing the pressing challenges in education. 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 a 1% percent share of their education budget for the same. Last year, 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 ongoing development projects, research activities, and hiring of new faculty members to meet the expenses would be seriously affected.
Pakistan needs more 200,000 schools and 25 million teachers till 2025 to cater 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. But, budgetary allocations show education is not a priority of the ruling class.
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. We can see that Pakistan 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, which was 62.8 percent in 2020-21 compared to 62.4 percent 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 percent to 54 percent in villages and from 76.1 percent to 77.3 percent in cities. All provinces recorded a higher literacy rate. It went up from 66.1 percent to 66.3 percent in Punjab, from 61.6 percent to 61.8 percent in Sindh, from 52.4 percent to 55.1 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and from 53.9 percent to 54.5 percent 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 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.
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. 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 to allocated 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, the recent devastated flood and high inflation rate. 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 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. Pakistan needs substantial investments to enhance access, quality, and inclusivity in education, ensuring a brighter future for the country’s youth and sustainable development overall. The regular, smooth, and fair utilization of the budget requires 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 the education sector.