Despite a marked improvement in education delivery in the last decade, Punjab still faces a huge educational challenge with 13 million children out of schools, said Engr Qamarul Islam Raja, provincial lawmaker and chairman of the Standing Committee on Education. He was speaking at the launch of a research report, titled “Public Financing of Education in Punjab,” organised by the Institute of Social and Policy Sciences (I-SAPS) at a local hotel on Wednesday.

Bushra Anjum Butt, provincial lawmaker and member of the Standing Committee on Education, and Qaiser Rashid, deputy secretary for planning and budget at the Punjab School Education, were also present. “According to the latest Pakistan Economic Survey, Punjab has now the highest net primary enrolment, gender parity index and literacy rate in Pakistan,” said Engr Raja. Not only 13 million children of aged between five and 16 years are out of school, said Abdullah Alam, a researcher at I-SAPS, but also the ones studying in schools are not learning as expected.

“All these challenges are significantly linked with the magnitude of available financing and more importantly the efficiency in use of these resources,” said Alam, explaining that I-SAPS, through its perpetual analysis reports on public financing of education in Pakistan, has been serving as a watchdog to stimulate policy response for enhancing effectiveness in education budget spending.

Alam while highlighting the issues faced in the education sector of the Punjab he said that despite the increase in education budgets, its share in the total provincial budget has decreased over the last 3 years. In 2013-14, 26 percent of the provincial budget was allocated for education while this year, the share has been reduced to 20 percent of the provincial budget of Punjab. About the utilisation of the allocated budget of the education sector, Alam said that allocated budget for education is not utilised in full. During the last fiscal year 2014-15, 18 percent of the budget remained unutilised pointing towards absorption issues.