Rs 1.2t school plan announced with little cashIn a clear sign of how some of the big ticket items of the budget were rushed through, the unfinished trillion-rupee school reform programme was announced by Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel on Saturday.
In a clear sign of how some of the big ticket items of the budget were rushed through, the unfinished trillion-rupee school reform programme was announced by Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel on Saturday.
While the Ministry of Education was still working out the details of the School Sector Development Programme (SSDP), the new budget has announced to start its implementation from the upcoming fiscal year even without ensuring adequate funding for the multi-billion dollar project from donors.
The annual budget tabled in Parliament on Saturday has allocated Rs26.25 billion for the programme, scheduling its implementation from mid-July. The draft policy, which focuses on boosting up the quality of education and strengthening early childhood development education, is basically an extension of the School Sector Reform Programme (SSRP), which concludes in the current fiscal year without achieving a majority of the targets set during its adoption in 2009.
The seven-year SSDP is estimated to cost Rs1.2 trillion, which is more than the total budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2016-17. “The SSDP has not yet been finalised. But it has been announced in the budget, which means it is going to be implemented from mid-July,” said Hari Lamsal, joint-spokesperson for the Education Ministry. As the 14th Interim Plan also incorporates the SSDP, the government decided to allocate the budget starting from the next fiscal year, Lamsal argued.
Out of the Rs1.2 trillion required, the ministry expects 20 percent funding—Rs 240 billion—from international donors. The donors have only pledged around Rs3 billion for the project. Currently 17 bilateral and multilateral donors are supporting the country’s education sector. Based on a back-of-the-envelope calculation by the Post, from next year the government will have to allocate Rs160 billion annually on an average even if the donor funds come through.
“The SSRP failed largely in the lack of a legal framework. If the budget is not ensured on time, the SSDP will also fall through,” said Bishnu Karki, an expert involved in the SSDP planning.
As the six-year SSRP largely failed in the absence of Education Act that is required to clear the legal hurdles, the SSDP carries a majority of the earlier plans. An estimated Rs260 billion was spent for the SSRP but the primary goals of school restructuring and teacher management remained unmet.
The Act was necessary to restructure school education in basic (grades one to eight) and secondary levels (grades nine to 12) from the existing primary (grades one to five), lower-secondary (six to eight), secondary (nine to 10) and higher secondary (grades 11 to 12) levels.
The amendment bill was not endorsed though it was presented in Parliament twice. The plan to provide compulsory education, form the Central Examination Board after dissolving the Higher Secondary Education Board was not achieved either due to the legal hurdle.