The national budget fails to prioritise education, experts sayThe Nepal Communist Party government falls behind in allocating funds for the education sector despite tall promises in the election manifesto.
Despite the government's tall claims to prioritise the education sector, both school and university education failed to get adequate budget for the upcoming fiscal year 2020-21.
The government’s policies and programmes, which set the priority for the new budget, had announced to expand technology-based education at the school level, promote research at the university level and restructure Tribhuvan University, the country’s oldest varsity with 85 percent student share.
However, Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada wasn't generous in allocating funds to implement the government's policies and programmes.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology got Rs 171.71 billion—11.64 percent of the Rs 1,474.64 billion national budget. It, however, is a mere one percent increase from the current fiscal year. The ministry has got Rs 163.76 billion for education from pre-primary to the university level for the current fiscal year.
Though the ministry got around Rs 8 billion more than last year, the additional budget is hardly enough to implement volunteer teacher mobilisation and a mid-day meal programme in all the districts, two new programmes the government has announced.
A total of Rs 6 billion will be spent to enroll volunteer teachers for Science, Mathematics and English subjects while over Rs 1.2 billion will go to the extended mid-day meal programme.
“Where is the budget to expand Information Technology in schools and boost equality in education,” questions Mana Prasad Wagle, former dean at the Kathmandu University School of Education. He said that the government has reduced the budget for higher education against its new policy of promoting research in universities.
The university budget distributed through the University Grants Commission has been reduced to Rs 17.43 billion for the new fiscal year from Rs 17.62 billion in the ongoing fiscal year. Wagle, a noted educationist, remarked that the KP Sharma Oli government is far behind in implementing what the communist parties had promised in their election manifestos before the general elections in 2017. The left alliance of the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre), which later merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), had announced to allocate 20 percent of the national budget for the education sector. This is the third budget from the Oli government.
It is a global principle and the Nepal government’s international pledge to allocate one fifth of the national budget to education. However, it has never reached that mark. The highest allocation the sector got in the national budget was in fiscal year 2011-12 with 17.1 percent.
The government has announced to attain total adult literacy by the fiscal year 2020-21 and bring all children to the school system. The net enrolment at the grade 1, according to the economic survey presented on Tuesday, is 97.1 percent, which means nearly 3 percent children are out of school.
Education experts say those who aren’t in the school system at present are from very poor and marginalised communities. “The government needs a special programme to bring them into the school system,” Wagle said. Education campaigners have long said that children from the poorest section of society are not coming to school unless there is some economic support to their parents. However, no attention has been paid to this aspect.
Wagle, however, lauded the proposal in the budget to get secondary level private schools to support a community school as their corporate social responsibility. “I welcome this innovative provision,” he said. “This needs to be implemented strictly. There are close to 1,500 private secondary schools across the country while state funded secondary schools stand at around 8,000.