THE government’s efforts to put up a smokescreen by combining together the allocations for the education and the technology sector in national budgets, despite a demand for separate education allocation having been persistent for long, so that a seemingly higher amount for education gives a feel-good flavour are unpalatable. But it does not come out to be a do-good approach either for the education sector or for the citizens on whom the money is spent. What the government has further done in the budget proposal for the 2019–2020 financial year, placed in the parliament on June 13, is that it has combined a substantial amount set aside for the implementation of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant with the allocation for the technology-driven development projects that are contained in the combined education and technology allocation, all making the allocation for education look higher. The combined allocation for education and technology as proposed, therefore, stands at 15.2 per cent of the total budget outlay of Tk 5,231.9 billion while the allocation proposed for only education stands at 11.68 per cent. The combined figure places the allocation higher than what it is for transport and communications, with 12.2 per cent. This is unacceptable.
While the allocation for education in the national budget for the 2018–2019 financial year was about 11.4 per cent of the total outlay, accounting for about 2 per cent of the gross domestic product, the allocation for education in the budget proposal for the 2020 financial year has slightly increased to 11.68 per cent of the total outlay, accounting for about 2.1 per cent of the gross domestic product. The allocation appears insignificant compared with Bangladesh, along with others, having committed to increasing allocation for education to 6 per cent of the gross domestic product as laid out in the Dakar Framework for Action signed at the World Education Forum in Senegal in 2000. This was meant to achieve the universal coverage of basic education and to overcome current deficits. Governments were also expected to ensure that at least 7 per cent of the gross domestic product is allocated for education in five years and 9 per cent in 10 years. Nineteen years after the Dakar declaration, Bangladesh’s education spending hovers around 2 per cent of the gross domestic product, which is the lowest even among South Asian countries. The allocation for education should increase if the government wants to derive meaningful benefits out of it and there has for long been a demand that the allocation should be at least 5 per cent of the gross domestic product.
The quality of education has in recent years come to be criticised for a declining standard. The decline has already more than once been reflected in the admission tests for universities and in public examinations. Even government surveys have pointed out that there has been a wide gap, especially in primary education on which government agencies do some research, between what the government wants to teach the students and what the students actually learn. The government must step up to the plate to plug the gap and to improve the quality of education in a uniform manner all over Bangladesh. The government must increase the allocation for education to make that happen. Putting up a smokescreen to camouflage deficits will hardly work.
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