By Zubeida Mustafa
WHILE the federal and provincial budgets announced in June have shown an increase in the allocations for the education sector as in previous years the government has failed to display the political will, social commitment and economic capacity to promote education sufficiently in a country where 74 per cent of the population is illiterate.The fact is that, increase in funds notwithstanding, Pakistan is still a long way from the goals the framers of the Sixth Five-Year Plan had laid down in 1983, which would have boosted literacy to 48 per cent and primary school enrolment ratio to 75 per cent.
With only one more year to go and the budgetary allocations for 1987-88 having been announced, it is clear that few targets in the education sector will be met.
On the contrary, in absolute numbers there will be more illiterates in Pakistan in 1988 than there were in 1983 while the quality of education would have declined perceptibly.
That is because the pace of development has been slow and the population growth rate has continued to be high — it is said to be 2.8 per cent today.
The financial allocations for education have grown over the years, but not considerably enough. Next year, education is to receive Rs 17.1 billion for development and non-development expenditure from the federal and the provincial governments.
This is an increase of 15 per cent over this year’s expenditure. But the increase was 29 per cent for two successive years in 1986-87 and 1985-86.
Another characteristic of the coming year’s budget is that it follows the traditional pattern of division of resources between the development and non-development sides. The revenue expenditure for non-development is three-fold that for development. While education has been allocated Rs four billion in the ADPs, Rs 13 billion will be spent to meet the recurring costs.
It is plain that expansion in the education sector has been painfully slow. One reason for this is the paucity of resources allocated to education. This year only 2.3 per cent of the GNP was spent on this sector which has been described by our planners as vital for human resource development.
This is no doubt an improvement over the preceding year’s figure of 1.9 per cent but it is still far from the four per cent of the GNP recommended by UNESCO for Third World countries.
Until there is a reordering of priorities, the necessary funds for education will not be forthcoming, In 1987-88 defence will consume Rs 42 billion (according to the revised federal budget) which is more than double of what the Federal Govern ment and the four provinces will spend on education.
The expenditure on education in the federal budget might actually be curtailed because the revised federal budget envisages a reduction of Rs 5.1 billion in the ADP and Rs 5.12 billion in the revenue expenditure.
Another reason for our failure to achieve goals is the heavy leakage of funds on account of corruption, inefficiency and low productivity. Because of poor utilisation of funds, the percentage achievement of physical targets has been much lower than that warranted by the amount spent.
The allocations made to various sub-sectors of education in the outgoing year point to the inability of the government to draw up and implement a scientific and feasible educational strategy. It failed to distribute the resourcs among the different sub-sectors as it had planned.
For instance, college education received 9.8 per cent of the education funds when it should have got 6.5 per cent. Technical training, on the other hand, received only seven per cent when its planned allocation was 11 per cent. The shortfall in technical training is significant for this important sub-sector has consistently been allocated a low share in the education budget.
There is a sudden about turn in the federal ADP for 1987-88 which slashes the funds for primary education, secondary education, teacher’s training and the universities — by 48 per cent and 40 per cent in the case of the last two — and gives a boost to technical education by 56 per cent.
Another sub-sector which highlights the lack of planning is that of mass literacy. LAMEC’s inconsistent approach has been reflected in the frequent change of its stewardship and strategy. As such its budget has followed an unsteady pattern.
From Rs 31 million in 1983-84 it declined to Rs 21 million the following year to register a phenomenal rise in 1986-87 when it was Rs 388 million. It will be Rs 400 million next year. Thus the government would have spent in five years Rs 150 million more than what the Sixth Plan had envisaged without achieving the physical targets.
If the education sector suffers from a paucity of funds it is not at all understandable. In 1985-86, the government imposed the Iqra surcharge of five per cent on imports to mobilise^ funds for education. It collected Rs four billion in 1985-86 and Rs 4.1 billion in 1986- 87 under this head. Next year a sum of Rs 4.5 billion is expected to be raised.
But this fund has not been accounted for and the Iqra Board which was to draw up plans for using the Iqra surcharge has still not been constituted.
Moreover, subscribing to the World Bank inspired concept of user charges, the government has raised the tuition fees in educational institutions. As a result the cumulative revenue receipts from education in the federal and provincial budgets have jumped up phenomenally from Rs 74.6 million in 1983-84 to Rs 283.6 million in 1986-87. They will be Rs 290.3 million next year.
In spite of this increased income from education receipts and Iqra surcharge, the government has failed to meet the Sixth Plan target of providing an outlay of Rs 19.8 billion for this sector. The five-year allocation for the development of education — presuming that the 1987-88 allocation is not cut — adds up to Rs 14.2 billion (71 per cent of the Plan outlay).
As would have been expected, the Sixth Plan’s physical targets .will not be met either. It is estimated that while the target for opening primary schools which was a measly one of 4198 in five years will be exceeded — 13,393 schools would have been opened in 1983-88 — the mosque school target will not be met.
Although the mosque school scheme was central to the education programme in the rural areas it has failed to take off. Only 18,126 schools (of the 40,000 planned) will be opened till 1988, the achievement being 45 per cent.
The Plan had also envisaged that by 1988 there will be 10,200 middle schools and 5,530 high schools in the country. In 1987 we have 6,448 and 4,988 of these respectively. Obviously the target will not be met in the coming year.
Even more disconcerting is the government’s failure to raise the enrolment ratio of the primary school age children. The Plan target was to have 5.6 million additional children enrolled in classes IV. On the contrary, only 2.8 million additional enrolments would have taken place by 1988, that is, barely 50 per cent of the target. Even in the case of improvement of existing schools only 55 per cent of the target is to be met.
In two other respects, the Sixth Plan strategy for education has failed dismally. To meet the growing need ;-200-,000 new school teachers were to be trained. Only 70,000 have been trained so far.
This of course does not take into account the qualitative aspect of the training which the Plan had emphasised.
It hardly needs to be pointed out that the poor quality of teacher’s training is an important factor in the falling standard of education in Pakistan.
As for the trade schools 200 of which were to be established to take the pressure off the institutions of higher education, not much has been heard of them.
The poor performance of the government in the education sector is regrettable, especially if it is recalled that human development, political stability, economic productivity and the quality of life of the people depend on their literacy level and educational status.
Source: Dawn 27 June 1987