Focus on education in National Budget: Hope and anxiety

Quazi Faruque Ahmed   | Published: June 06, 2018 21:02:32 | Updated: June 08, 2018 21:18:10

Finance Minister Mr. AMA Muhith will present the National Budget of Bangladesh for fiscal year 2018-19 today at the Jatiya Sangshad, our national parliament. This is the last budget of the present government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina .Obviously all concerned are waiting eagerly to see what the proposals in the budget in respective areas. Meanwhile, much brainstorming and pre-budget discussions have taken place on agriculture, industry, business, information technology, women empowerment, health and various areas. But as usual, relatively much less has been discussed on education. Still, few talk shows, fewer articles and news items on education in the electronic and print media was spotted over the last couple of days.

LIST OF 11 EXPECTATIONS: Different stakeholders of the education sector including teachers, guardians, educational institution management committee members, present & former students in the meantime have listed 11 expectations for education in the coming National Budget. The National Front of Teachers & Employees (NFTE) organised a discussion meeting on June 01, 2018 to highlight issues they considered are vital for the coming budget in regards to education particularly. Their list of expectations include among others, (1) Enhanced allocation in education prioritising development of learners, students and congenial infrastructure of educational institutions in line with Bangladesh National Education Policy 2010 and SDG 4 of the United Nations with the aim to ensure quality education. (2) Earmark 6 per cent of GDP and 20 per cent of total budget for education. (3) Appropriate fund for library and laboratory of educational institutions. (4) Creation of special fund for students and teachers having records of innovation, entrepreneurship and research work. (5) Full pension, recreation, festival allowance for teachers of Education Board and University approved non-government teachers at par with their government counterparts as they teach the same syllabus having same academic qualification (6) Provision of monthly pay (MPO) for the eligible teachers in non-government schools and colleges, some of whom are rendering services without due pay/salary even for almost a decade which is clear violation of human rights.(7) Fund for establishment of a Technical & Vocational University for planned skill development to help employment and self-employment generation in the country.

FINANCING EDUCATION IN WORLD CONTEXT: In December, 2017, the Varkey Foundation conducted a comprehensive global study on the hopes, fears and aspirations of parents across the world about choice of schools, financing in education, quality of teaching etc. It was found that the most important factor for parents when choosing their child's school, alongside location, is the quality of teachers. However, priorities do vary by country. For example, in Finland, consideration of the wishes of children is the second most important factor behind location. Regarding funds for their child's school, most parents would want them spent on teachers on priority basis. This is closely followed by investment in computers/technology and extracurricular activities. Buildings and other facilities are particularly important to some parents in South Korea, Italy and Vietnam. Former Secretary of Education of the USA, Arne Duncan, also laid emphasis on teachers. "If you want to improve student achievement, invest in teachers, teacher education", he said.

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.

We need to pay due regard to teachers to ensure development of our young learners. If we fail to learn from others in the world, we will be lagging behind and have to pay hefty price in the long run. I am hopeful education will be given due credence in the 2018-19 budget and the wheel of progress will roll smoothly.

Professor Quazi Faruque Ahmed is member, National Education Policy Committee.

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