Has Pakistan Really Saw A Surge In Education Funding?

The next financial year is about to start and from the looks of things, education might get a budgetary slash this year. Looking back at the last 5 fiscal years might shed some light on the direction and trajectory of education financing, at all levels, for the sector as well as show the priorities and the neglected areas of the education sector.

Pakistan saw a large-scale in education financing boom between FY 2013-14 and 2016-17, which increased from an overall 1.1 percent of the GDP to doubling in FY 2016-17 to 2.2. This increase was led by increased financing from federal, provincial and regional governments in the country. The federal government saw an increase in its percentage of the annual budget by 80 percent between FY 2013-14 to FY 2017-18. Similarly, Punjab increased its budget by 60 percent, Sindh by 87 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa by 99 percent and Balochistan by 120 percent over a period of six years.

A report published by the Academy of Educational Planning and Management (AEPAM) of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, Islamabad does exactly that. The report titled Financing in Education Sector (Public and Private) analyses the past 5 fiscal years to understand how and what has been the state of financing by the state and the private sector for education in Pakistan. The report looks at fiscal years 2013-2014, 2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-18.

This increase, on the surface, seems impressive for a country suffering from economic woes but there are other sides that are much often overlooked. The above increase is measured in the increase in amount and not the percentage of the total budget; another problem facing the education sector is that the major portion of it is being used for non-development purposes.

The share in the overall budget has been on the decline with the share of the budget of Punjab reduced from 32 percent in 2012-13 to a mere 18 percent in 2017-18. Similarly, in Sindh it decreased from 27 percent to 20 percent in the corresponding time period. Khyber Pakhtunkhawa also showed a decrease from 31 percent to 26 percent. Whereas, the share was only increased by the Balochistan government which increased it from 13 percent in to 17 percent in the same time period.

 Sindh gave 14 percent, whereas Punjab only allocated 13 percent of its budget to the higher education sector.

Furthermore, a major chunk of the budget has been earmarked for non-development, recurring expenses. The highest percentage share is of the Sindh government, which allocated 91 percent of the total education budget for recurring expenses for 2017-18. Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, similarly, allocated 82 percent of its education budget for recurring expenses. Balochistan gave 80 percent of the education budget to non-development expense, while Punjab allocated 78 percent of its budget for recurring expenses. Federal government also earmarked 65 percent of the total education budget for recurring expenses.

With most of the money going to the recurring expenses, what remains mostly goes to support the schooling side of the education divide and neglects the higher, technical, teachers’ training and other parts of the education sector in Pakistan. It can be observed from the overall allocation that schools get the priority. The report observes that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government allocated 85 percent of its education budget for schooling. Punjab has followed suite with 83 percent of the money going for the schooling side and Balochistan gave 73 percent. Sindh gave the lowest percent i.e. 60 percent. 

For the higher education side, Balochistan remained the most generous with 25 percent of its budget going to higher education. KP only spent 12 percent on higher education. The federal government allocated its major share for higher education, with 80 percent going to the sector with good reasons as after the 18th Amendment, the federal government was left with little obligation and ran the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) as its major national responsibility.

Other sectors remained much more neglected with less than 2 percent allocations by the provinces for technical and vocational education, teacher education, special education and literacy and non-formal education.  The report suggests major changes on how the financing for education should be approached by the governments in Pakistan and suggests that the federal government should increase the spending on education as a percentage of the GDP to at least 4 percent. For its part, the report suggests, the federal government should enhance its spending on education from 2 percent from its kitty to at least 6 percent. 

The report further suggests that the share of technical & vocational education needs an increase from both the federal and the provincial governments. The report also points to the financial management in place by the governments and suggests a robust financial management system for the sector. An increase in the development side of the budget has also been suggested by the report. Furthermore, it suggests that the gap between allocation and expenditure requires “due attention” and points to the delays in release of funds and the capacity of education managers, institutions, organizations and departments.

Ammar Sheikh is Correspondent of academia magazine. He has covered education sector as reporter in leading English dailies .He can reached at ammar.sheikh@academiamag.com and on twitter@ammarsheikh