Pakistan Spends Less on Education Than Most South Asian Countries

Pakistan is spending 2.6 percent of the GDP on education compared to 7.4 percent in Bhutan, 5.2 percent in Maldives, 3.8 percent in India, 3.7 percent in Nepal, 3.3 percent in Afghanistan, 2.2 percent in Sri Lanka and 1.9 percent in Bangladesh, revealed the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report 2017.

Pakistan is not meeting the education financing benchmark i.e. public education expenditure as a share of GDP and of total public expenditure. This was stated in the GEM report, “Accountability in Education: Meeting Our Commitments”, launched by UNESCO Islamabad in collaboration with Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS).

The report looks at the different ways people and institutions should be held accountable for reaching the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education.

The report further states that Pakistan has monitored the attendance of over 210,000 education staff in 26,200 schools using biometrics: fingerprints and photos, coupled with Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates. As of February 2017, 40,000 absent teachers and 6,000 absconders (employed but long absent) have been disciplined.

A household survey in nine districts in Pakistan allayed stigmatization concerns by asking people to assess their level of difficulty with various aspects of functioning. The survey found a much higher prevalence of disability than official censuses and household surveys did.

In Pakistan, textbooks have been criticized for normalizing militarism and war and including biases and historical errors and distortions. Prominent Pakistanis other than military heroes and nationalist movement leaders are often excluded. Pakistani textbooks published after a 2006 curriculum reform still emphasized wars with India and largely ignored peace initiatives.

They also perpetuated a narrative of conflict and historic grievances between Muslims and Hindus, rather than discussing the potential for conflict resolution and reconciliation. For their part, Indian history textbooks from 2002 put blame on Pakistan and contained clear bias against Muslim elements in the region’s history, maintained in the report.

In Pakistan, the auditor general’s office reported to the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly that $7.5 million of Basic Education Community Schools programme funding had been illegally diverted, as a ministerial inquiry committee had discovered.

The project director transferred the amount to a private account instead of a prescribed bank. NADRA also detected over 2,000 fake teacher employee identity cards and auditors tracked 349 ‘ghost’ schools.

Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training, Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman, admitted that Pakistan is spending 2.6 percent on education but stated that it has been increased from 1.9 percent during the last four and a half years.

The minister further said that people have started enlisting their children in government schools, which is an indication that quality of public schools has been improved during this period.

Baligh-ur-Rehman emphasized that the 2017 GEM Report looks at the topic – accountability in education -which is very relevant and pertinent to Pakistan.  He said that “Democracy is the best accountability where you listen to people and get feedback.”

He also mentioned that,

Financial allocation on education in Pakistan has increased and because of that more out of school children are now in schools. Pakistan has already adopted SDG-4 and has converted it into our national development goals where education is our first priority and we are fully committed towards it.

UNESCO Representative to Pakistan Vibeke Jensen highlighted that,

The ambitious education outcomes, such as those in SDG 4, rely on multiple actors from governments’ right down to students fulfilling often shared responsibilities. But while responsibilities are shared, accountability is not: it is connected to single actors, who are held to account for their individual or institutional responsibilities.

She also stressed that,

Accountability starts with governments as they are ultimately the primary duty bearers of the right to education.

The report stressed that accountability is indispensable in achieving the global education goal. It describes accountability in terms of how teachers teach, students learn, governments act, private sector behaves and donors respond.

The report warns that disproportionate blame on any one actor for systemic educational problems can have serious negative side effects, widening inequality and damaging learning.

There are 264 million children and youth out of school and 100 million young people currently unable to read. The report cites an accountability vacuum with donors not delivering on their aid commitments for those in need. The share of aid to education has fallen for six years in a row.

At the same time, donors increasingly demand that in exchange for aid, countries achieve results that sometimes divert energy away from systemic improvements in the education system.

The report highlights that

No approach to accountability will be successful without a strong enabling environment that provides actors with adequate resources, capacity, motivation and information to fulfil their responsibilities.

It calls on governments to design accountability for schools and teachers that is supportive and avoids punitive mechanisms, especially those based on narrow performance measures.

Further it recommends the governments to allow for democratic participation, respect media freedom to scrutinize education and set up independent institutions to handle complaints.

Dr Jamila Razzaq who has also co-authored a national case study said

A well performing education system in Pakistan can only be built by creating enabling political, social and legislative conditions. This system has to perform well for all learners in the country- whether living in urban centres, rural areas, mountainous regions or remote deserts. This tall order demands not only an efficient and effective accountability system but also a sense of responsibility shared by all stakeholders.

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