The highest allocation has been proposed for the education sector in the upcoming budget of the 2019-20 fiscal.
The credit for such an increase goes to the government 'mega' project of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant as the government is counting the allocation of the science and technology ministry and the information and communication technology division as the allocation for the education budget, according to the budget of 2019-20.
All these sectors were termed as 'education and technology'. As the Rooppur power plant is a project under the science and technology ministry, the proposed allocation of Tk 149.80 billion (Tk 14,980 crore) for this project in the 2019-20 fiscal has been counted as the allocation of the education sector.
"I didn’t understand the reason to include the allocation of the Rooppur power plant project in the education and technology sector,” said AB Mirza Azizul Islam, former advisor to the caretaker government.
"This project is supposed to be included in the power sector."
"Confusions have been created in the allocation of the education sector by allocating this way," Mirza Azizul told Prothom Alo.
Earlier, education and religion were joined in the development budget while science, information and communication technology was a separate one. If the education and religion is counted as a single sector, the total allocation stands at Tk 611.18 billion (Tk 61,118 crore).
The allocation for the science and technology ministry is Tk 164.38 billion (Tk 16,438 crore).
A total of Tk 19.3 billion (1,930 crore) has been allocated for the information and communication technology division. Counting the allocation for all these sectors, the government says the allocation for the education and technology sector is the highest, Tk 794.86 billion (Tk 79,486 crore).
Secretary of the secondary and higher education division of the education ministry, Sohorab Hossain, declined to make any comment on the issue as he did not yet see how the estimation was actually shown.
He, however said, "Several ministries other than the education and the primary and mass education ministries also carry out education related works.”
Citing an example of the cadet colleges which were run under the defence ministry, Sohorab said, "The allocation for education related works in other ministries also means spending more for education.”
Educationists and entrepreneurs have been alleging for long that the required amount is not allocated for the education sector. They pointed out that skilled human resources could not be created due to fund crisis.
Over the years the allocation is around only two per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Internationally, six per cent of the GDP is a standard allocation for the sector.
"We've not been considering education as a sector for investment in the budget," educationist Syed Monzoorul Islam said.
"As per the Dakar Declaration, it requires at least 20 per cent of the total budget to be allocated for education for allocating six per cent of the GDP for education.We're far from that,” he added.
The total estimated expenditure for the Rooppur nuclear power plant project is Tk 1,130 billion (Tk 113,092 crore). The project was launched in 2016 and is one of the largest projects of the country so far. Already Tk 160 billion (Tk 16,000 crore) has been spent in the project in last three years. Another project of railway line modification and construction is underway for carrying accessories to the Rooppur plant. A total of Tk 1.85 billion (Tk 185 crore) was allocated for this project which was included in the education sector too.
There are more sectors which have no relation with the education sector. A total of Tk 25.73 billion (2,573 crore) has been allocated for those sectors. The sectors include the construction of power plant and railway line, the assessment of hypo thyroid outbreak, the establishment of the national gene bank and the project for building ICT infrastructure at the parliament secretariat.
Even the project for attracting investment has entered into the education and technology sector.
For example, a total of Tk 2.57 billion (Tk 257 crore) has been allocated for building hi-tech parks at Gazipur, Sylhet and Rajshahi under three projects of the science and technology ministry. In total, 184 projects have been taken under the education and technology sector, according to the Annual Development Programme (ADP) documents. There are 46 projects under the science and information communication sector.
Excluding the technology sector, the education sector ranks second in the allocation, with a proposed expenditure of Tk 611.18 billion (Tk 61,118 crore) amounting to over 11 per cent of the total budget. Total allocation for the education and technology sector in the next fiscal is Tk 794.86 billion (Tk 79,486 crore), which is about 15 per cent of the total budget. The transport and communication sector tops the allocation with Tk 648.2 billion (Tk 64,820 crore).
The percentage of the allocation for education reaches 2.11 of the total GDP if the technology sector is excluded, which is only 2.05 per cent in the current fiscal. Bangladesh ranks 34th among the 35 Asia-Pacifica countries in education budget allocation.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin.