Education is undoubtedly a major driving force for development in any country. There is a direct relationship between education and poverty alleviation.
It is true that the government has increased budgetary allocations to the education sector over the years, attaching top priority to it, but the allocation this year is still far behind the expected level. In terms of percentage of GDP, Bangladesh spends 2.2% for education which remained almost static for the last few years. The Unesco declaration says that the allocation for education should be at least 20% of the national budget and 6% of the GDP. This clearly shows that we lag far behind this global standard of allocation.
The Maldives spends around 8.5%, Vietnam around 6.6% and India 3% of their GDP for education. Again, the education sector witnessed a rapid growth with the increase in students, teachers and intuitions in the last decade. But increase in the allocation for education has not been proportionate. This sector received Tk. 29, 213 crore in the fiscal year 2014-15, which is 11.66% of the total budget and 10.96% more than the revised budget of the outgoing fiscal year.
An allocation of Tk. 13, 673 crore was set for the primary and mass education ministry and the rest for the education ministry. The percentage of total allocation, however, does not match the figure five years ago. In the revised budget for 2010-11 the percentage was 14, which slid to 11.4% in 2012. In the 2012-13 fiscal year the percentage stood 11.1%. “The allocation is not sufficient even for implementing the fundamental commitment like the National Education Policy 2010 and National Skills Development Polity,” educationist Raheda K. Choudhury said.
It is good that the government has understood that political interference has seriously downgraded our education, which the minister vows to remove. He said: “We will exert our highest efforts to make school and college management system more democratic, participatory, accountable, transparent and free from partisan interest. The system of forming committees in schools and colleges will be changed to free the intuitions from political interferences and corruption.” There have to be clear guidelines in this matter. He also talks about quality of medial education which is very important at this juncture. We are producing thousands of medical graduates every year through our public and private medical colleges but fail to produce quality doctors. We spend a lot of our national money every year for treatment outside the country. We must think of this issue also very seriously.
The writer is Program Manager, BRAC Education Program and Vice-President, Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA).