Regardless of the allocation, the sector may face the same hurdles it went through since the government suspended physical classes in March last year
Just like the previous year, the allocation for the education sector in the upcoming fiscal has gone up but it lacks a roadmap of utilizing the money in the process of rescuing the sector – now facing serious challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Regardless of the allocation, the sector may face the same hurdles it went through since the government suspended physical classes in March last year.
Moreover, there was a serious lack in proper implementation of the budget allocation during the 2020-21 fiscal.
For example, dropout and child marriage increased alarmingly over the past one year. But no plan has been devised in the budget to check the issues in the coming fiscal. There is also nothing specific to overcome the difficulties in taking online classes.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal yesterday proposed Tk71,952 crore for the education sector which is 11.9% of the total budget in the next fiscal year.
The allocation in the outgoing fiscal was Tk66,401 crore, with only Tk56,000 crore spent as yet.
The proposed allocation is only 2.09 % of the GDP (gross domestic product), while the UNESCO suggests allocating 4 to 6% of the GDP to education.
Additionally, the figure is also less than that in some other South Asian countries. For instance, India spends 4.6% of its total GDP on education in its Union budget.
Experts fear that if the government fails to properly implement the budget under a unique framework, the authorities will have to face huge challenges to mitigate the academic loss during the pandemic.
Also, the future job-seekers will never be able to cope up with the future job market, they say, insisting on stricter measures to curb early marriages.
Urging teachers to be more technically sound and demanding their smooth access to the internet, the experts say that the teachers must be given proper training so they can conduct online classes during the pandemic.
The budgetary allocations
The primary education sector will get Tk26,314 crore in the next budget, up from last year’s Tk24,938.
Allocation for the secondary and higher education sector saw a rise – from Tk33,118 crore in the outgoing fiscal to Tk36,485 crore.
Moreover, Tk9,154 crore was allocated for technical and madrasa education, whereas, the figure was Tk8,344 crore in the outgoing fiscal year.
In the current fiscal year, an “Integrated Health Science Research and Development Fund” has been formed for the development of research in the field of health education and technology.
Like the current year, Tk100 crore has been proposed for the next financial year so that measures can be taken to build awareness on autism and neuro-developmental disorders.
Efforts and struggles
The government aims to bring 40 million students under the program of Amar Ghare Amar School using online platforms, Bangladesh Betar and community radio.
However, only 14 million primary students have managed to receive online education as yet. Also, online classes have been introduced in 15,676 out of 20,499 secondary schools and 700 among 4,238 colleges, which the experts term a massive academic loss.
This apart, 42 out of 49 public universities and 92 among more than 100 private ones are conducting online classes, according to the finance minister.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS)-2019 report, there are a total of 171,779 educational institutes across the country with a little over 39.83 million students.
The Education Watch Report 2020-21, published by Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), found that 58% of students surveyed were not technologically equipped with electronic devices or smart phones to access distance learning services.
To ensure participation of the students in online classes at the university level, soft loans had been provided to 41,501 financially insolvent students to purchase smart phones, the minister said.
“ICT-related training of 80,800 teachers and training of 50,000 secondary school teachers are underway in the current fiscal,” said Musfata Kamal, hoping that around 2.10 lakh teachers and 2.75 lakh ICT teachers would be trained in the next fiscal year.
“Our fourth priority sector is the overall development of human resources including education and skills enhancement,” he said.
Brac University Professor Emeritus Manzoor Ahmed said that the education budget must be used properly to curtail school dropouts and mitigate academic loss.
Campaign for Popular Education (Campe) Executive Director Rasheda K Chowdhury said that only a good national plan and proper allocation could prevent the dropouts.
Syed Manzoorul Islam, former professor at Dhaka University, said that the allocation had been raised slightly, but it was still lower-than-expected to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.