Education

Federal Budget: Shadow and substance

On May 26, 2017, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented the federal budget for financial year 2017-18. Apparently, there was great news in the budget speech for the education sector: the budget for the sector had been increased almost six times compared with the previous fiscal year’s allocations. However, there was no mention in the budget documents that almost half of the previous year’s allocations for education sector remained unutilised. Interestingly, the finance division released only Rs8 billion from the Rs. 21 billion to the HEC till May 2017.

The budget proposals for financial year 2017-18, show that the Centre will spend Rs90.52 billion on federal education and related services in the upcoming fiscal year. The allocation is nearly Rs6 billion higher than the allocation under this head last year. Besides, Rs25.5 billion allocated for 105 ongoing schemes, the government has set aside Rs. 9.1 billion for the 62

About Rs200 has been set aside each, for establishment of the National Centre for Cyber Security and the National Centre for Robotics and Automation. Rs100 is allocated for establishment of a National Centre for Human Nutrition and National Centre for Basic Sciences. About Rs78 million has been kept for bridging the job market skill gap for general postgraduate degree holders.

new projects, mainly focusing on development, research and innovation.

The major chunk of the budget, 75.4%, will be spent on tertiary education and related services. The break-up of the figures shows that pre-primary and primary education will receive Rs8.75 billion, secondary education Rs10.8bn, and tertiary education Rs68.25bn. Administrative costs will account for Rs1.29bn of the total allocation.

An allocation of Rs35.66 billion for the Higher Education Commission (HEC) was also made in the budget. This budget includes allocations for establishment of a National Sports University, Pakistan Academy of Social Sciences, and drug addiction preventive programmes in higher education institutions, among others.

Among the new schemes, Rs20 million is earmarked for the Pakistan Academy of Social Sciences, Rs100 million each for the PM University Olympics and the PM’s electric wheelchair scheme for university students.

As in the previous years, a handsome amount has been earmarked for scholarships. Rs550m has been allocated for the Fulbright Scholarships Support Programme of HEC-USAID Phase-2, while Rs527m allocated for the Pak-USAID Merit and Need Based Scholarship Program (Phase-II).

However, the ministry included 70% of the projects from the previous fiscal year, which remained incomplete. The Federal Education and Professional Training Division got more than Rs2 billion in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for fiscal year 2017-18. In PSDP 201617, the allocated funds for the federal education were Rs512.764 million.

As per the budget documents, Rs2961.926 million have been allocated for ongoing and new schemes for projects all-over the country. Three new projects have been included, but all of them are unapproved so far. As per details, Rs2,385.926 million has been set aside for ongoing projects, while Rs576 million allocated for new projects. The new projects include capacity building of education managers and Rs26 million has been allocated for the scheme.

The allocated amount for new schemes also includes the development of academic and research infrastructure at the University of Gwadar, with total funding of Rs200 million, while Rs400 million has been earmarked for establishment of the National Science and Technology Park at the Central Campus of the National University of Science and Technology. Rs240 million has been allocated for the establishment of sub-campuses of public sector universities at the district level.

On the school side, Rs1.46 billion will be spent on the establishment and operation of Basic Education Community Schools (BECS) in the country. Similarly, for the National Education Reform Initiative, Rs500 million has been set aside and for the project of teaching Holy Quran in Basic Education Community Schools (BECS) and National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) schools, Rs. 50 million has been allocated. Rs16 million has been allocated for Vocational Schools in public private partnership. However, the status of all these schemes is unapproved. That means these schemes would not be able to get funding until their approval, and allocations for them may remain unutilised throughout the year, according to some experts.

Meanwhile, under the outgoing schemes, a total of 10 projects are under way including a Educational Leadership and Institutional Programme, establishment of a National Curriculum Council (NCC) Secretariat, improving human development indicators, mainstreaming of madaris, modernisation and standardisation of the examination system, best teachers awards, vocational schools in public-private partnership, participation in trends international mathematics sciences, use of data for educational planning and management using and establishment and operation of the Basic Education Community Schools in the country.

For establishment of the NCC Secretariat, Rs39 million has been allocated, while Rs40 million will be spent on the National Best Teacher Awards and National Teachers Training Institute.

For mainstreaming of seminaries, Rs16 million has been set aside and for Improving Human Development indicators Rs737.180 million earmarked with a focus on Millennium Development Goals relating to education. Rs500 million would be spent only on a National Education Reforms initiative.

About Rs200 has been set aside each, for establishment of the National Centre for Cyber Security and the National Centre for Robotics and Automation. Rs100 is allocated for establishment of a National Centre for Human Nutrition and National Centre for Basic Sciences. About Rs78 million has been kept for bridging the job market skill gap for general postgraduate degree holders.

The budgetary allocations make special mention of the new project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Rs160 million has been allocated for establishment of national institutes of applied technologies and specialised research centres to support CPEC initiatives.

Also, Rs150 million has been allocated for a medical college at federal level and Rs200 million for enterprise resource planning system. Rs90 million set aside for award of 50 scholarships for Masters degree classes in Punjab and 50 scholarships for Chinese language for students from Gwadar.

Rs170 million has been announced for a science talent farming scheme, while Rs200 million for strengthening of core network and expansion of PERN footprints through CPEC’s optic fibre.

In fiscal year 2017-18, five new universities, including University of Baltistan (GB), University of Chitral, Agriculture University in Dera Ismail Khan, University at Gwadar and Federal University in Hyderabad, Sindh, will be launched.

The ongoing schemes of the HEC include establishment of a Women’s University, Multan, for which Rs339 million has been earmarked, while Rs300 million would be spent on the provision of higher education opportunities for students of Balochistan and FATA.

The officials in the HEC admit that the overall budget has been increased, but express concerns that the proposed budget has not been approved by the HEC Board, and even the provincial governments and other stakeholders have not been consulted. That means, they fear, the allocations would never be released to the HEC.

An official at the HEC told Cutting Edge that almost 89% universities -160 out of 183 — are the ones which are under the domain of provincial governments. According to the Federal Audit Report, 47% of the total development budget, Rs1,324.67 million, out of 2,762.30 million, remained unutilised.

The previous history of utilising the HEC allocations is not very encouraging either. In 2014-15, 28 out of 54 and in 2015-16, 37 out of 56 new development schemes indicated in PSDP, remained unapproved and thus failed to receive the budgetary allocations made in their names.

In 2016-17, the number of new development projects decreased to 39, out of those only four were approved, which meant the release of funding is conditional to approval by competent forums.

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