What is the importance of the annual budget?

Every year during May, June and July the national and provincial assemblies, newspapers and TV shows are full of debates around the budget. Every Pakistani woman and man needs to have some level of awareness of the budget because this is where the provincial and federal governments present their financial plans and priorities. The budget debate is supposed to be an opportunity for governments to demonstrate how they intend to use public funds to fulfill the needs of the people through allocation of resources. This is why the budget is integral to understanding the current governments’ political will as well as the most prominent demands of the public.

What is the education budget?

The education budget is the amalgamation of funds allocated for education by all four provincial and the federal governments for education. Since education is a provincial subject, as per the 18th amendment passed in 2010, the majority of the education budget comes from the provinces. However, the provision of free education to all Pakistani children is the collective responsibility of all governments. In fact, higher education falls under federal jurisdiction, which means although education is a provincial subject, the federal government retains a significant share of the responsibility to pay for it. Every year, the budget speech reveals allocations planned for the upcoming financial year. The federal budget is the first to be announced, generally at the end of May or early June. The provincial budgets are announced subsequently over the month that follows. Once all five budgets have been presented, we know the total amount of funds allocated to education for the upcoming financial year.

What expenditures are accounted for in the education budget?

The education budget intends to fulfill the country’s education needs. The education budget can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Current budget: this includes recurring expenditures on education, like salaries for teachers
  2. Development budget: this includes the money allocated to schemes and projects set to commence in the new financial year, like new classrooms, science labs and technology investments

The lion’s share of the current budget goes towards teachers’ salaries and pensions. Major expenditure such as infrastructure and lab equipment are part of the development budget.

Considering budgets from the last four years, we find that on average 82% of the overall education budget is for current expenditure, and about 18% for development.

What does Pakistan need in terms of education? Is the current education budget able to fulfill these needs?

Pakistan is obligated to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 5 and 16 as per Article 25-A of the Constitution. Until the results of the ongoing population census are ready, we can only estimate the total number of children in Pakistan in this age cohort. According to the government’s projections and estimates, there are currently 53.6 million children in Paksitan, 22.6 million of whom are out of school. A very small proportion of the remaining 31 million children actually receive quality education. Of the government schools available, the vast majority are primary schools. One of the major reasons for so many children being out of schools is the severe lack of middle, high and higher secondary schools. It is absolutely clear that the needs of Paksitani children are not being met, in terms of the number of schools available to them of the quality of education being imparted in government schools. All politicians and political parties are aware of the scale of education crisis in Pakistan, which is why all parties’ manifestos include promises specific to education.

Why do we need the education budget to increase?

If we want to fulfill the oft-repeated promise of 4% of GDP being spent on education by 2017-18, then we need to allocate at least an additional Rs. 402 billion towards education in the 2017-2018 budget. The demand for higher allocations is based on the unmet needs of Pakistani children and the clear political commitments made to address them. These needs include:

  1. Many of the existing school facilities are dangerous, require repairs and lack even the most basic of facilities
    Basic facilities are missing at schools
    Total Schools 151,999
    Total schools with buildings not available 11,262
    Total schools with electricity not available 60,158
    Total schools with drinking water not available 43,063
    Total schools with latrines not available 41,289
    Total schools with boundary wall not available 36,907
  2. The existing number of classrooms do not have enough space to facilitate an additional 22.6 million children. Therefore, at least 565,949 more classrooms need to be built
    Money required for new classrooms to accommodate all out-of-school-children
    Total out of school children 22,637,942
    Minimum standard: students per classroom 40
    Total classrooms required 565949
    Total expenditure at NCW rate of 1,650,000 per classroom (PKR) 933,815,107,500
  3. 22.6 million children do not have access to education and at least 565,949 teachers are needed to teach them in the aforementioned classrooms
    The amout of money it will take to recuit teachers at minimum wage for all out-of-school-children
    Total out-of-school-children 22,637,942
    Bare minimum teacher student ratio 1 teacher to 40 students
    Total teachers required 565949
    Total yearly expenditure for teachers' salaries @15000 each (PKR) 101,870,739,000
  4. We do not have enough middle, high or higher secondary schools - over 80% of all government schools are primary schools
    Vast disparity in the number of schools at the primary and middle/secondary levels
    Out of school children in Pakistan 22.6 Million
    Out of Primary Schools 5 million
    Out of Middle and High Schools 17 million
    Number of primary schools 121,674
    Number of middle and high schools 30,582
  5. It is often said that there are better alternatives to government schools. Whatever those alternatives are, they have costs associated with them.
    The amount it shall cost to enroll all OOSC (using the rate per child that the Punjab Education Foundation's Non Salary Budget allocates)
    Number of out of school children in Primary Schools 5,025,968
    Rate per child the PEF allocates (PKR) 500
    Total per month cost of enrolment (PKR) 2,764,282,400
    Total yearly cost (PKR) 24,878,541,600
    Number of out of school children in Middle Schools 6,400,844
    Rate per child the PEF allocates (PKR) 600
    Total per month cost of enrolment (PKR) 3,840,506,400
    Total yearly cost (PKR) 34,564,557,600
    Number of out of school children in Secondary Schools 11,211,180
    Rate per child the PEF allocates (PKR) 900
    Total per month cost of enrolment (PKR) 10,090,062,000
    Total yearly cost (PKR) 90,810,558,000
    Total Monthly expenditure to enroll all out-of-school-children in schools (PKR) 16,694,850,800
    Total Yearly expenditure to enroll all out-of-school-children in schools (PKR) 150,253,657,200

In order for the government to fulfill its constitutional obligation to the children of Pakistan, the current government’s promise of spending 4% of GDP on education must be fulfilled. Concurrently, a dramatic improvement in how this money is used is urgent.