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July 2, 2016

Funds for education


July 2, 2016

On paper, there is very little objectionable about the allocation made for education in the annual budget for Sindh. At nearly 20 percent of the total budget and totalling Rs176.4 billion, education has received the greatest percentage share from all the provinces’ budgets. Budgets, however, especially in Pakistan where unrealistic projections and pipedreams trump harsh realities in the budget-decision making process, tend to deliver less than they promise. As evidence, one need only look at the Sindh government’s performance over the last year where it spent only about 30 percent of the total amount budgeted for education. It is convenient for governments to announce a flashy figure even when they know it will not spend it or will be repurposed for other uses. Getting the Sindh government to commit a significant amount for education is a small battle won, especially after the passage of the 18thAmendment when primary and secondary education was devolved to the process. But there is a larger war to be fought and that is where the Sindh government has usually fallen short. The budget does not reveal how much of this money will be wasted on ‘ghost’ schools and teachers that exist only on paper to fatten the coffers of government supporters. Bringing professionalism and integrity to education cannot be done through money alone.

To accurately gauge the possible impact of the education budget, one needs to have details of how the money is going to be spent. The government has decreased funding for pre-primary and primary education while significantly increasing it for secondary education. One of the biggest problems in public education is that the percentage of all school-going girls enrolled decreases after every additional year of schooling. If the extra funding for secondary schooling is going to be used to get girls to enrol then it will be money well spent but if it only goes for existing schoolchildren then it will be an opportunity wasted. As it is, science and social studies now tell us that the first few years of a child’s growth are the most important in determining their future and so the government might want to concentrate more on that period of a child’s education. The Sindh government has also promised to decentralise decision-making in education – but one cannot take such an assertion at face value from a government that is yet to hand over power to locally-elected officials. That, too, is the problem with the education budget. It is hard to trust this government and thus judgement has to be reserved till proof of performance is shown.


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