Punjab Education budget slashed by 18pc

Lahore, June 17: Despite tall claims about its focus on education, the Punjab government has slashed education sector's development and non-development budget by 17.8 per cent, decreasing the allocation for 2009-10 to Rs45.509 billion from Rs55.401 billion for 2008-09.

The Punjab government has allocated Rs23.125 billion development budget and Rs22.384 non-development budget for the next financial year showing a sharp decline from current fiscal allocations of Rs30.129 billion development and Rs25.272 billion non-development budget. The decrease in development and non-development budget can be calculated as 23.247 per cent and 11.428 per cent, respectively.

For the current financial year, the Punjab government had allocated a budget of Rs54.599 billion for the 35 districts. This year, the budget documents are silent about the allocations to district governments. The White Paper, however, says: "Education is largely a devolved function and after devolution the bulk of expenditures in the education sector are made through Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) transfers to district governments".

According to the break-up of provincial development budget of Rs23.125 billion, Rs13.6 billion (17.345 per cent less) has been allocated for school education, Rs6.125 billion (32.692 per cent less) for higher education, Rs1 billion (45 per cent less) for special education and Rs800 million (36 per cent less) for literacy.

The Punjab government has allocated Rs2.3 billion development budget for the promotion of information technology including a block allocation of Rs1 billion for the Software Technology Park. The remaining Rs1.3 billion has been allocated for the development of information technology sector. For this financial year, the allocation for the information technology was Rs1.5 billion.

The Punjab government has enhanced allocation for the Punjab Education Foundation from Rs3 billion to Rs4 billion a 25 per cent increase.

The government has also enhanced the development budget for sports with an allocation of Rs1.6 billion for 2009-10 against Rs1.5 billion for the current fiscal.

For Tevta, the government has allocated Rs2.3 billion development budget, keeping it on a par with the allocation for the current financial year.

As a major initiative to offer quality education with boarding and lodging facility to children belonging to the poorest segment of the society, the Punjab government has decided to establish the Daanish Schools System with a block allocation of Rs3 billion for the next financial year. In order to provide this school system sustainability, the government is establishing an autonomous "Daanish School System and Centres of Excellence Authority". The Rs3 billion allocation would be used by this new authority.

The government is embarking upon a comprehensive plan of introducing technical education along with computer education in high schools with a total allocation of Rs3.244 billion. The government is providing Rs578 million for the provision of equipment for this vocational education project, which will provide life skills and employability to high school students.

School Education:
Upon successful completion of the Punjab Education Sector Reforms Programme-II (PESRP), the World Bank and Punjab government have agreed to a second phase of education sector reforms with a total financing of $350 million. The programme is primarily meant to address quality, access and governance issues.

Main interventions will include establishment/upgradation of primary, middle and high schools with an allocation of Rs3.5 billion, provision of missing facilities in 1,500 schools with a budget of Rs4 billion and Accelerated Programme for School Education (setting up new schools) with an allocation of Rs700 million.

According to details, the government has decided to upgrade over 600 primary schools to middle schools and 200 middle schools to high schools with the budget allocation of Rs2.5 billion and Rs1 billion, respectively.

In addition, the government has made an allocation of Rs438 million to strengthen the examination system, teachers' recruitment/training, strengthen the district level management and improve governance through empowered School Councils.

IT Labs Projects:
The Punjab IT Labs project, launched by this government last year with some initial spadework, is expected to be completed during the financial year 2009-10, covering 4,286 high and higher secondary schools across the province. For this purpose, the government has allocated Rs2.929 billion. The government believes that this project will be the most significant step toward bridging the information and technology divide between public and high-end private sector education. Dawn

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