Education Spending Declines as Literacy Rate Lags Behind Others in the Region

Pakistan’s public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP further declined and was estimated at 2.3 percent of GDP in 2018-19 compared to 2.4 percent in 2017-18, revealed the Economic Survey (2019-2020) released on Thursday.

According to the Human Development Report, 2019 Pakistan is ranked 152 out of 189 countries in the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) ranking.

Pakistan has not exhibited improvement in key educational indicators, such as literacy rate, gross enrolment ratio, and expenditure on education, as compared to regional countries.

Pakistan’s literacy rate, at 57 percent, lags well behind its neighboring countries. The primary school dropout rate is 22.7 percent (3rd highest in the region after Bangladesh and Nepal), which is alarming given it as at the stage of formative learning, the survey noted.

According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) Survey, 2018- 19, the literacy rate of the population (10 years and above) is 60 percent as compared to 58 percent in 2015-16.

The literacy rate is higher in urban areas (74 percent) than in rural areas (51 percent). Punjab has the highest literacy rate, with 64 percent followed by Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (excluding merged areas) with 57 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (including merged areas) with 55 percent and Balochistan with 40 percent.

Pakistan has not made adequate progress in improving education outcomes. A literacy rate of only 60 percent (40 percent of its population remains unable to read or write) considerably limits opportunities towards acquiring skills and technical knowledge for higher productivity and better-earning levels, the survey noted.

Gross Enrolment Rates (GER) at the primary level excluding Katchi (prep) for the age group 6-10 years at the national level during 2018-19 remained at 87 percent as compared to 2015-16.

Province wise data suggests that Punjab showed improvement from 93 percent in 2015-16 to 95 percent in 2018-19, Sindh remained stable with primary level GER at 78 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (excluding merged areas) improved to 89 percent in 2018-19 against 88 percent in 2015-16, while Balochistan witnessed a decline from 59 percent in 2015-16 to 57 percent in 2018-19.

Net Enrolment Rates (NER) at the national level during 2018-19 slightly improved from 65 percent in 2015-16 to 66 percent in 2018-19. Punjab witnessed an improvement of 73 percent in 201819 as compared to 71 percent in 2015-16. Sindh showed an improvement of 58 percent in 201819 as compared to 56 percent in 2015-16. Pakhtunkhwa (excluding merged areas) witnessed declined from 67 percent in 2015-16 to 66 percent in 2018-19, while Balochistan remained stable with primary level NER at 40 percent.

The survey noted that the education-related expenditure increased by 4.7 percent (to Rs 868.0 billion) in 2018-19. The provincial governments are also spending a sizeable amount of their Annual Development Plans (ADPs) on education. Punjab increased its expenditure in 2018-19 to Rs. 371.8 billion as compared to Rs. 340.8 billion in 2017-18, which shows an increase of 9.1 percent.

Expenditure on education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also increased to Rs. 152.7 billion, as compared to Rs. 142.6 billion last year, which shows an increase of 7.1 percent in 2018-19. Balochistan has increased its expenditure from Rs. 52.8 billion in 2017-18 to Rs 55.3 billion in 2018-19, which shows a growth of 4.8 percent. A minor decline of 2.1 percent has been observed in Sindh, as expenditure on education stood at Rs. 162.6 billion in 2018-19 as compared to Rs. 166.0 billion in 2017-18.

During the fiscal year 2019-20, the government has allocated Rs. 29.047 billion to HEC for implementation of 138 development projects (128 ongoing & 10 new projects) of public sector universities/ higher education institutions. During July-March, the fiscal year 2020 an amount of Rs. 22.738 billion (around 80 percent of the total allocation) has been authorized to HEC for meeting expenditure against ongoing project activities.

The government is making efforts to introduce a single national curriculum all over the country. The phase-I of the single national curriculum for class 1 to 5 has been developed and its implementation would be completed by March 2021.

The phase-II of Single national curriculum for class 6 to 8 would be ready by March 2021 and implemented by March 2022, while phase-III curriculum for class 9 to 12 would be ready by March 2022 and enforced by March 2023.