After the announcement of the current budget, a lot of attention has been given to the amount being allocated by the federal and provincial governments for education and calls to increase the size of the budget are being constantly made. However, another very important aspect is being overlooked in the process: the question of the actual financial need of the education sector. Answering this question is very complicated – to say the least. Many have tried to answer this question, and there are many benchmarks for an ideal level of needed to improve the education sector. One such is the notion that the government should spend 4 per cent of the total GDP. Another says that around 15 to 20 per cent of the budget should be spent on education. As things stand, Pakistan spends a little more than 2 per cent of the GDP and more than 20 per cent of the provincial budget is spent by each province. Both benchmarks show the opposite picture. Pakistan spends less of the GDP as ascribed by the total GDP spending rationale, while at the same time overspends as per the other recommendation.
It should be noted that Pakistan has significantly enhanced the funding to education in the last decade. However, things don’t look a lot different. Public schools are still in disarray; parents don’t want to send their children to government-run schools; private school chains are thriving and increasing their fee; children in public schools are not learning much.
The simple truth is that the conversion on education needs to move forward from money to actual change. What is needed the most is reform in the education sector. Currently, the education system is plagued by inefficiencies, bureaucratic control, unqualified teaching staff, mismanagement and a struggle to score more numbers. The real problems are being ignored and without addressing the above mentioned problems, Pakistan is not going to improve the education sector in a million years even if the governments manage to get each and every child to a school. What is the use of a degree when children fail to learn anything meaningful?
Pakistan needs to rethink the whole education system from the ground up if we want to really educate the nation. Otherwise, we might face a bigger problem than what we are currently facing: a huge population with a meaningless piece of paper in their hands who are not useful for the society or the economy and will remain unemployable adding to the already burdened nation. It must be understood that the amount of money being spent on education is merely a part of the problem and a much simpler one to solve at that. The real challenge is the education reform.