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The State And Its Education Expenditure Or The Lack Of It

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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. Ammar Sheikh gives the details of what has been going on with respect to educational expenditure in the last few years.

or each successive government, education has apparently been a top priority. In theory at least. 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 country’s affairs claim to have a special place in their hearts for educating the people of this country, facts and figures often suggest that that special place is probably too special to be revisited once it has been set up.Given the repeated claims of our leaders, it might be pertinent to assess what the federal and provincial governments in Pakistan actually allocate to the education sector and how much of that amount is actually utilized. Makes for a compelling study.

Budgetary Allocations

According to Public Financing in Education Sector 2019 report produced by the Academy of Educational Planning and Management at Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, the federal and the provincial governments have enhanced their education budget in the last five years, or between 2014-15 and 2018-19, precisely.The federal government’s allocation for education increased from Rs 93.407 billion in 2014-15 to Rs 131.150 billion in 2018-19, an increase of 41% over the years. On the other hand, provinces increased the budgetary allocation for education by 47% in the same period. 

According to Public Financing in Education Sector 2019 report, the federal government raised its education budget by 41% between 2014-15 and 2018-19, while provinces increased the budgetary allocation by 47%

Punjab increased the allocation for education from Rs 259.628 billion in 2014-15 to Rs 383.254 billion in 2018-19, an increase of 48%. Sindh, in similar vein, made an increase of 41% from Rs 146.262 billion in 2014-15 to Rs 205.655 billion in 2018-19. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province upped the allocation from Rs 106.835 billion in 2014-15 to Rs 168.199 billion in 2018-19, an increase of 57%, while Balochistan increased its budgetary allocation for education from Rs 45.765 billion in 2014-15 to Rs 63.261 billion in 2018-19, an increase of 38%.

 

The Number Game

But despite the apparent increase in budgetary numbers, 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 from the overall budget decreased from 24% in 2014-15 to 19% in 2018-19, whereas it went down from 21% to 18% in Sindh. The percentage share of education budget against the total budget of Balochistan decreased from 21% to 18%. However, the net allocation for education in terms of percent of total budget remained the same in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 26%.Even with this allocation, a major chunk of the education budget remains reserved for recurring or running expenses.

In Punjab, the percentage share of education in 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%

In Punjab, almost all of the budget for 2018-19, a whopping 91%, went to recurring expenses, the most among all provinces. Similarly, Sindh allocated 88%, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that allocated 87% of its total education budget for recurring expenses. Balochistan earmarked 83% of the total for recurring expenses while the federal government earmarked 66% of its total education budget for recurring expenses in 2018-19.The overall ratio of development versus recurring budget allocation in provinces during 2018-19 was: 1:8 in Punjab;

1:10 in Sindh;

1:7 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and 

1:5 in Balochistan.

 

Primary Focus

All provinces have given to the school segment of the education generously, with primary to higher secondary segments getting most allocation.Punjab allocated 86.33% of its education for primary to higher secondary education. It was followed by Balochistan allocating 81.94%, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 80.94% and Sindh 77.42% of their respective budgets to primary to higher secondary education. Among all the provinces, Balochistan allocated the highest share of it education budget, 15.97%, for higher education. Sindh set aside 14.11%, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 11.18%, and Punjab only 9.67% of the total budget to higher education. The federal government allocated a major share of its education budget, around 82% of the total, to higher education, mainly because of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan and the fact that 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.

 

Utilization

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.According to the report, all provinces couldn’t spend the money they earmarked for education sector during 2017-18.

According to the report, all provinces couldn’t spend the money they earmarked for education sector during 2017-18. Sindh had the highest rate of under-utilization at only 29%

Sindh had the highest rate of under-utilization among all the provinces. It managed to spend only 29% of the education budget in financial year 2017-18.In 2018-19, Punjab utilized Rs 334.256 billion against an allocation of Rs 356.500 billion (94%), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa utilized Rs 130.252 billion against an allocation of Rs 155.977 billion (83%). Sindh utilized Rs 145.863 billion against an allocation of Rs 204.775 billion (71%) and Balochistan utilized Rs 47.570 billion against a Rs 53.925 billion-allocation (88%).In a separate report, it was found that in the first six months (July-December) of the FY2019-20, a total of Rs 42.9 billion was allocated for development projects for the education sector in Punjab. Of the total, only Rs 15.33 billion or 35.73% was released until December 2019.

 

Per Student Cost

At the national level, Pakistan spent Rs 20,145 in 2017-18 per student, the report noted. It found that the highest per student cost was in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, which spent Rs 38,293 in 2017-18. Balochistan was a close second with Rs 37,957, Gilgit-Baltistan spent with Rs 30,207 per student, Islamabad Capital Territory spent Rs 27,498, Sindh Rs 23,760, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa spent Rs 22,333 on every student, FATA Rs 20,903 and while Punjab spent Rs 16,069 per student in the period mentioned.However, the report said that the average per student cost at the national level increased from Rs 18,885 to Rs 20,145 in the last four years i.e. 2014-15 to 2017-18.

 

Takeaway

Per the report, what Pakistan needed was realistic targets and pragmatic implementation and monitoring mechanisms. Furthermore, there was also a need to ensure timely release of funds to initiate activities in time and to accomplish those activities within given timeframe, it suggested. The report said the gap between allocation and expenditure required due attention of relevant authorities at both the federal and provincial levels. For this, it noted that 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 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 budget. The present and previous data indicate that there is a dire need to develop a robust financial management system for education sector,” the report added. 

While the discussion above and the report’s recommendations bring several key problem areas to light, it remains a fact that many such remarkable reports lay buried in dust in the darkest corners of offices concerned with education across Pakistan.What we need is someone wielding true power actually read such reports and see what a catastrophe our education sector is headed to and then take concrete action. In absence of the same, we can only assume nothing will change much by the time the next big report is rolled out.