Educationists have called for increasing budgetary allocation and mobilising more resources for the education sector in the budget for FY 2021-22 to help ensure inclusive and equitable education in the country.
The experts also said sufficient budgetary allocation is a vital need for the education sector to produce more skilled and efficient manpower including in the health sector to combat situations like the coronavirus pandemic.Mentioning that skilled manpower is the key to combating any crisis, the educationists stressed higher budgetary allocation to create more skilled teachers and trainers to produce skilled manpower in the education sector.
Referring to the country’s significant progress in improving access to education and attaining gender parity in the primary and secondary levels, they said there are still a lot of things to be done for taking the country’s education to a global standard.
Talking to the Daily Sun, educationist Prof Manzoor Ahmed said Bangladesh’s budgetary allocation in the education sector is poor compared to other countries.
Apart from the allocation, there is also a need for proper implementation of the allocation to ensure quality education, he said.
“We have to make a post-pandemic recovery plan for our students as they have already legged far behind due to closure of educational institutions for a long time,” Prof Manzoor said.
Mentioning that primary students in West Bengal are getting food at home from the government during the closure, the educationist also said the government should think about providing similar assistance to the students.He also suggested keeping sufficient budget allocation to support distance learning and ICT-based learning in educational institutions.
Prof Manzoor also suggested strengthening school feeding programmes for curbing school dropout and child marriage during the pandemic.
Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) recently arranged an event on the upcoming education budget where they proposed at least 20 per cent of the total budget for the education sector.
CAMPE also demanded a ‘stimulus package’ for the education sector, saying that many private educational institutions are disappearing and teachers are leaving their profession due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing at the CAMPE programme, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation Chairman Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said the 2020-21 FY budget was a traditional budget despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If the upcoming budget remains as usual, it will be difficult to overcome the crisis facing the education sector amid the pandemic,” he said.
The economist also proposed short, medium and long term plans to make up the losses in academic activities caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “If we cannot recover the education sector, we will not be able to achieve development in the country,” he also warned.
Educationist and CAMPE executive director Rasheda K Choudhury said “Education must not be deprioritised in planning and financing. We are heading towards a learning catastrophe from a learning crisis due to the pandemic.”
“Amid the pandemic, education is not getting importance in planning, programmes and budgetary allocation all over the world. Of course, we have to give priorities in economy, health, agriculture and infrastructural development but we also have to give special attention to the education sector,” she said. Experts said although allocations have increased in size, as a proportion of the total budget and of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the education budget has either remained the same or has declined.
Educationists say the government’s expenditure on education as a proportion of GDP has been hovering around 2 per cent for the last several years, which is lower than many other South Asian countries such as Vietnam, Bhutan and Nepal.
The education sector’s share in the budget is falling for the last few years. In the revised budget of the 2010-11 fiscal year, for example, the figure was 14.3 per cent.
The proposed education budget for FY 2020-21 was Tk 66,000 crore, or 11.6 per cent of the national budget against the allocation of Tk 61,118 crore for education in 2019-20 FY, which was only 2.1 per cent of GDP and 11.68 per cent of the total outlay.
The budgetary allocation for education was only 2.09 per cent of GDP and 11.4 per cent of the total budget in 2018-19 FY, 2.09 per cent of GDP and 12.6 of the total budget in 2017-18 FY, 2.09 per cent of GDP and 16.1 per cent of the total budget in 2016-17 FY, 2.18 per cent of GDP and 14.3 per cent of the total budget in 2015-16 FY, and 1.85 per cent of GDP and 11.7 per cent of the total budget in 2014-15 FY.
The educationists said the allocations in the education sector over the years have been sufficient at all as Bangladesh has committed to the Dakar Declaration and other global forums to spend 6 per cent of GDP or allocate at least 20 per cent of the national budget for education.
UNESCO also recommends a similar budgetary allocation for the education sector.