Our new Finance Minister Mr. AHM Mostafa Kamal placed the 48th national budget (proposed) of Bangladesh in the national parliament on 13th June. He could not read out fully the printed budget speech due to sickness. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was present in the parliament, came to his rescue. She read out the rest of the Finance Minister`s budget speech in her style which reflected her presence of mind as well as in-built capacity to address any situation. In the mean time this role of our energetic Prime Minister has added new feat to the parliamentary tradition in Bangladesh.
The text of the Finance Minister’s budget speech meanwhile has drawn favourable response from the supporters of the establishment and mixed reactions from the civil society. The media has covered the opinions of leaders of teachers` organisations, though the teacher leaders, to the best of my knowledge have not initiated any programme on the issue. But I am happy to note that student organisations organised programmes to ventilate their views through press conference and students of both public and private universities expressed their view points unhesitatingly which continues till I write this article.The views of the Finance Minister particularly on education attract me as in the past. To quote from the budget speech:
Much of our future depends on how we manage our education system. It is now the demand of the time to ensure selection of competent teachers in all areas of education, provide them with training, and ensure selection of appropriate and timely academic subjects. Our government will take necessary measures from this year to ensure their implementation.
The world is witnessing a transition from the Third Industrial Revolution to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We will have to prepare ourselves to remain at par with the rest of the world. Otherwise, our future will be at stake. Therefore, our classrooms will have to be subject-specific where Nano Technology, Bio-technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Material Science, Internet of Things, Quantum Computing, Block Chain Technology and other similar technologies will be taught. Receiving education in these subjects is now the demand of the time. We have no shortage of students. We lack trained teachers. In order to teach these subjects, we may, as Emperor Meiji of Japan did, have to bring in teachers from abroad, if necessary, in order to meet present day demand. We would like to start these activities from this year, and therefore, adequate budget has been allocated for the education sector in FY2019-20.
Now, the main challenge for us is to improve the quality of education and expand primary education. The Fourth Primary Education Development Project (PEDP-4) is ongoing for the expansion and quality enhancement of primary education. Stipends and school-feeding programmes will continue so as to ensure that education of primary school students is not hampered. The government will build infrastructures for schools, conduct basic literacy programme throughout the country to build a fully literate Bangladesh, and expand digital primary education through the use of ICT. The capacity of primary school teachers will be enhanced by providing practical and modern trainings home and abroad to meet the standard of modern education.
The government has undertaken various programmes for the expansion of quality secondary education, among which trainings for secondary school teachers, construction of classrooms in academic institutions in underdeveloped areas, providing stipends among poor and meritorious students, etc., are the important ones.
Steps have been taken to expand technical and vocational education to meet the growing demand for technical manpower. To reduce discrimination in technical and vocational education, stipends are being provided to students from the Dakhil, Technical and Ebtadayee levels.It is worth mentioning here that currently 28 ministries and divisions are implementing programmes related to education and training. The allocation for this purpose in FY 2019-20 is Tk. 87,620 crore, which is 3.04 per cent of the GDP and 16.75 percent of total budget allocations.
To achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and fulfil the dream of raising the status of Bangladesh to a developed nation by 2041, we have to scale up revenue collection, in particular, income tax collection significantly.
GPE Guidelines on Education Budget Monitoring
The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) a global, multi-stakeholder partnership that seeks to strengthen education systems in low- and lower-middle-income countries and in countries affected by fragility and conflict to ensure equitable, quality education for all, published this year, (2019) in February, ‘Guidelines for the Monitoring of National Education Budgets’. I personally consider the 47-page document very useful in understanding budget, budget flows (revenue and expenditure), budget cycle, major actors in the budget process and its formal presentation. It highlights the importance of national education budget policy dialogue and monitoring and stakeholder engagement The Guidelines mention the 4 tiers /stages of – 1: Budget formulation 2: Budget approval 3: Budget execution 4: Budget evaluation .
GPE leverages the financial support and expertise of donors, developing country governments, international organisations, civil society organisations (CSOs), teachers’ organisations, the private sector, and philanthropic institutions to ensure the delivery of results, with an emphasis on mutual accountability.
GPE recognises that while external aid can be an important means to address funding gaps, the key to the sustainable development of education systems and education outcomes is the national effort in both funding education and maintaining strong public financial management systems. The relative level of education spending in the national budget, especially from domestic resources, has become a benchmark to gauge the credibility and sustainability of national education policies.
The engagement of local education stakeholders in policy dialogue and monitoring of education financing and spending can be instrumental in advocating for adequate national budget allocation and expenditure along with overseeing effective and transparent financial management.
In alignment with Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (FFA), these guidelines for the monitoring of national education budgets are driven by the following principles for education financing: • Increase public funding for education: increase the share of the national budget allocated to education to the internationally recommended benchmarks of 15 to 20 per cent of public expenditure to education and 4 to 6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) • Improve the availability and use of data: improve the availability, monitoring, transparency, and use of financing data, disaggregated by education sub-sectors, including data on the scale and nature of household costs of education; • Prioritise those most in need: prioritise allocation and use of education resources in ways that focus on increasing equity and inclusion, and support the most marginalised populations, including girls and children affected by conflict; • Increase efficiency and accountability: existing resources to be used more efficiently through improved governance and accountability.
Mindset in Bangladesh: A section of people are found to lament about how expenditures for teachers add up 80 to 90 per cent of school budgets in Bangladesh. This group includes people who are educationists, members of the intelligentsia and even parents. Yes, they have every right to criticise loopholes in education, wastage and mismatch in the system. But they need to update themselves with the onward development in education across the world. Credit goes to those brilliant and dynamic people who have the vision to realise that it is education which promotes skill, alleviates poverty and ensures values in terms of social cohesion and family belongingness. It is needless to say that teachers, in the true sense of the term, are the catalysts, trend-setters and torch bearers in this march towards progress through education.
The monitoring of the national education budget along with engagement of the stake holders in the vital tiers of budget process from the beginning to the end expectedly will help a lot in bringing progressive changes in the mindset of those who are still lagging behind. It is high time we took note of the points in the GPE Guidelines on the question of monitoring of the education budget and participation of the stakeholders in the budget process in line with the vision the Finance Minister as stated in his budget speech.
The writer was a member of National Education Policy Committee 2010. E-mail: [email protected]