Education Budget Must Focus On Quality Assurance14 June 2021
Prof. Dr. Md. Mahmudul Hassan:
The FY 2021-2022 is going to be started with the presentation of budget proposal by Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on June 3. The size of this year's budget is 6 lakh 3 thousand 61 crore taka, which is 17.47 percent of the total GDP. The growth target has been set at 7.2 percent in the budget. Many analysts think that the budget is effective for health, agriculture and trade sectors, but due reflection is not found in the proposed budget to ensure quality education and recover the learning loss induced by 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 regards of sustainable development. It also set the goals, objectives, components and action plan for quality education for the 10 years from 2005 to 2014 as 'United Nations Education Decade'. In fact, quality education is considered as a prerequisite for sustainable development. Educationists believe that quality education can be achieved even during this pandemic through 'Education for All', 'Sustainable Development Goals' and other global development policies.
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 percent of GDP or 20 percent 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 require 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 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 their children with modern technology. But a limited number of children get such opportunities.
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 percent of the total budget would be better for 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. Mahmudul Hassan is Principal, Daffodil International School).