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May 25, 2016
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Increasing education budgets translating into little change on ground: report

Karachi

May 25, 2016

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Alif Ailaan releases annual district education rankings with Karachi the only
region of Sindh to have made it to list of top 50 areas that ‘performed well’

Karachi

With every passing year since 2013, the Sindh government has consecutively increased the total amount of funds allocated for education spending. Or so it seems.

According to copies of subsequent budgets available with The News, in 2013-14, Rs135,547 million were allocated for education in Sindh.

The allocation was increased to Rs137,695 million in financial year 2014-15 and then to Rs147,877 million in the outgoing financial year of 2015-16.

The numbers don’t lie, say the officials, while citing these very numbers.

But learning outcomes tell a completely different story.

According to the annual district education rankings report launched by Alif Ailaan on Tuesday, for the second year running, Karachi was the only region from Sindh to have made it to the list of top 50 areas that ‘performed well’ in education.

The largest city of Pakistan ranked 43 among all other cities of the country when it was measured for school infrastructure, enrolment rate, retention rate, learning outcomes and accessibility for ranking the quality of education being provided in its public schools.

Why don’t the “hefty increases” in budget translate into improvement in the quality of education?

“That’s because the figures, though accurate, are incomplete. The absolute amount allocated for education may increase every year, but it is not relative to the increase in total provincial budget.  

In fact, if you give the government’s own data a thorough inspection, you will realise the irony of their claims.”

“Although increasing in absolute terms, in percentage terms, the total share of education budget has decreased over the past two years. Though the overall pie of provincial budget keeps increasing, the slice of education does not,” remarked Abdullah Alam, an education researcher associated with the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS).

In 2013-14, the share of education budget was Rs 135,547 million out of the total provincial pie of Rs585,884 million, about 23 percent. Then in 2014-15, the education share was Rs137,695 million out of total budget outlay of Rs688,180 million, decreasing to about 20 percent. In the outgoing financial year too, the share remained 20 percent with Rs147,877 million allocated for education out of total budget of Rs739,302 million.

This dichotomy also reflects in the overall quality of education in the province that already was not up to the par. The district education rankings report by Alif Ailaan states Sindh to be the region with the highest decline in learning score. Moreover, the infrastructure score also decreased by at least three points since last year.

“Sindh’s educational performance is persistently poor, only six districts (Karachi, Naushehro Feroze, Dadu, Larkana, Khairpur and Sukkur) appear in the top half of the rankings table; once again, Karachi is the only district in the top 50,” states the report.

It seems what the officials don’t realise is that the government’s own data indicates just as much too.

The result of first Standardised Achievement Tests (SAT-1) initiated by the Sindh government in 2012-13 gave an overall score of 22 percent for grade 6 students studying in public schools across the province.

In 2013-14, the overall SAT-II score slightly changed with a score of 22.6 percent. In the third year, the learning outcomes stayed at an average of 22 percent.

Again, the outcomes remained unchanged despite consecutive increases in teachers’ training budget since 2013.

The funds allocated for in-service teachers training in the outgoing financial year were increased by more than 50 percent, however it had little impact on the overall learning outcomes of students.

Around Rs1765 million were allocated for teachers training in the outgoing financial year, while a sum of Rs1349 had been reserved the year before. However, as stated above this increase in funds has not resulted in any improvement in learning outcomes of the children studying in public schools.

The reason also lies in the government’s own budget books. Most of the funds and the subsequent increases — are allocated in the salary component of the education budget while the non-salary budget and development budgets seldom see any substantial increase.

According to an analysis of the public financing of education by I-SAPS, 77 percent of the outgoing financial year’s budget of Sindh was allocated for salaries and recurring expenditure. The percentages for preceding years were 78 percent in 2014-15, 79 percent in 2013-14, and 80 percent in financial year 2012-13.

Another reason, according to the country representative of United Nation’s Development Programme Marc-André Franche, is too much emphasis on physical development. “You cannot improve quality just by building more schools and constructing more buildings,” he said. “There needs to better collation of dynamic data for bringing reforms in the way children are being taught in schools.”

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