Budget reflection in education sector
The budget of FY 2020-2021 has already passed fighting with pandemic and in the same way the next FY21-22 has started with the presentation of the budget proposal of Finance Minister A H M Mustafa Kamal on June 3, 2021. The size of this budget is 6 lakh 3 thousand 61 crore taka, which is 17.47 per cent of the total GDP. The growth target has been set at 7.2 per cent in the budget. Many analysts think that it is an effective budget in the field of health, agriculture and trade, but expectable reflection is not found in ensuring quality education and recovering learning loss caused due to Covid-19.
Quality education is an important topic in the current context. It continues to attract the attention of educators both in the developed and the developing world. UNESCO has highlighted the concept and importance of quality education in the regards of sustainable development. UNESCO has also set the goals, objectives, components and action plan for quality education for the 10 years from 2005 to 2014 as the 'United Nations Education Decade'. This organization has considered quality education as a prerequisite for sustainable development. Many believe that quality education can be achieved even during this pandemic through 'Education for All' and 'Millennium Development Goals' and international development goals.
The actual investment in the education sector in Bangladesh is insufficient compared to the demand, which stands at only 0.92% of the overall education sector and 0.12% of the higher education sub-sector in the national budget, that is much less than the SAARC countries. In Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Nepal, the allocation for education is 4.5% and 3.5% of the total GDP respectively. The current national allocation for higher education must be increased from 0.92% to 2% by 2022 and 6% by 2030. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, it is important to take necessary steps to increase the current allocation of the national budget in the education sector from 8% to 15%.
According to UNESCO's recommendation, in a developing country like Bangladesh, it is crucial to allocate 6% of the GDP to the education sector. Although education is the main means of human resource development, funding for education in Bangladesh is still disappointing. In order to achieve national development, it is essential to enhance the productive forces like education as the main component. The budget allocation in education is negligible. It is found that the per capita annual investment in education and health is $ 5 in Bangladesh, $ 10 in Sri Lanka, $ 14 in India, $ 150 in Malaysia and $ 180 in South Korea.
In the budget of 2021-2022, Tk 94,877 crore has been allocated for the education and technology sector, which is 21% more than the revised budget Tk 85,762 crore of the last financial year. This year, for the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education Tk 26,311 crore, Secondary & Higher Education Department Tk 36,486 crore, Technical and Madrasa Department Tk 9,154.60 crore, Science & Technology Tk 21,204 crore and Information & Communication Technology Tk 1,720 crore have been allocated. Overall, the allocation for education and technology stands at 15.6 percent of the total budget, which was 15.1 percent in the last year's budget. That means, the allocation did not increase in proportion to the total budget during the corona period. However, according to international standards, if a country's education sector is allocated 8 per cent of GDP or 20 per cent of the budget, it is considered an ideal budget. But the disappointing thing is that the allocation for education and technology in this financial year is only 2.75 percent of GDP, which is inadequate indeed.
We know that there are a number of factors that need to be addressed in order to ensure quality education, which requires sufficient funding for education. More money should have been allocated for the formulation of modern and up-to-date curriculum, recruitment of a good number of qualified and trained teachers, preparation of suitable teaching materials and fascinating physical infrastructure, discovery of proper teaching-learning methods, proper evaluation method analysis, keeping continuous monitoring and follow up etc.
Initiatives should be taken to acquaint the students with computer technology at the primary level of education. Children in developed countries have access to various modern technologies, including computers, before they go to school at an early age. Although not so in our country, nowadays many well-to-do families and knowledgeable people try to acquaint children with modern technology. But children from a limited number of families get such opportunities. With this in mind, necessary steps need to be taken and reflected in the budget.
Most of the possibilities that have been reflected in this year's budget are focused on primary and secondary education. For instance, additional allocation to provide 'Kit Allowance' (dress, shoes and bags) and stipends to primary school students at the beginning of the year, implementation of 'Primary School Meal' scheme in all government primary schools in all Upazilas and districts of the country, Training to 2.10 lakh general teachers and 2.75 lakh ICT teachers to ensure science and technology based education, establishing more ICT training and resource centers and formulating integrated education information management system are the remarkable reflections in developing quality education mostly in the primary and secondary levels . Although all these initiatives are like a conventional trend, the allocation of extra funds in this year's budget will surely open the door to a new possibility. There are many English medium educational institutions run in the International Curriculum in Bangladesh, but the lack of any reflection of the budget for those education is really disappointing and an obstacle to achieving the SDG targets.
The budget which has been allocated for the education sectors is not adequate to make up for the education loss due to Covid-19. Corona is disrupting the normal education of more than 4 crore students across the country. Its damage is extensive and far-reaching. In order to prevent this catastrophe in education, at least 15 per cent of the total budget would be better, if allocated to the education sector.
It is true that the people's lives, livelihoods, employment, health and business are given importance in this year's budget. But due to a tremendous catastrophe in the education sector, the way the teachers, students, parents and educational institutions have been affected, the budget could not be reflected accordingly. If any amount for stimuli or benefits of teachers and institutions could be budgeted, it would accelerate the quality of education and make up for the loss of education. Finally, whatever funds are allocated in the education sector that has to be spent through proper supervision, otherwise, it will be difficult to ensure the quality of education and recover its losses.
Dr Md Mahmudul Hassan is a writer, education researcher and Principal, Daffodil International School