BUDGET
EDUCATION BE A TOP PRIORITY IN BALOCHISTAN BUDGET 2011-12

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
June 20 - 26, 20
11

Development of Balochistan's education sector has been on of the top priority of the economic managers in Quetta. The Balochistan budget for outgoing fiscal year 2010-11 proposed Rs17.3 billion spending in education, as the province planned to improve the education sector, which suffered years of neglect. The provincial government decided to dedicate 5,000 posts provided by the federal government under Balochistan package to the education sector. It created nearly 2,000 fresh positions to address the problem of schools with single teachers. It allocated an amount of Rs1 billion for missing facilities in educational institutions. An amount of Rs110 million were spent on renovation and provision of facilities to girl colleges in the province.

The province is yet to make significant attainments in the human development index (HDI), which focuses on measurable dimensions of human development such as living a long and healthy life, being educated and having a decent standard of living. Education is the tool for formation of human capital. The provincial government should also prioritize education in the next fiscal year's budget, as serious efforts and consistent policies are needed to combat the prevailing educational backwardness in Balochistan. The situation of educational facilities in all parts of the province excluding Quetta is worst. Efforts should be directed to increase education ratio and improving health standard in the province. It is only the education that can ultimately resolve the conflict in Balochistan putting the province on the path of fast track development and prosperity.

In the next year's budget, the government should allocate handsome amount for girl's education in Balochistan. The province's poor education performance in the aggregate can be attributed largely to its poor record in educating girls. Only about one-third of girls, who should be in primary school, are enrolled in the province. Though mean boys' enrollment rates are not high either, especially among the poor, overall education levels cannot be improved without making a significant advance in the education of girls in Balochistan. The province faces dual problems of high illiteracy and high poverty incidences. Rural Balochistan absolutely lacks the physical infrastructure and educational facilities wherein dropout rate of children is at the higher level. According to an estimate, there are a total of 15,000 settlements in Balochistan. Out of these settlements, 7,000 are equipped with the schools of formal education sector. In most of the districts in the province, the literacy rate among the female is even less than 4 percent.

Investment in professional education will provide Balochistan the required professionals for the development of various sectors of local economy. The better human capital equipped with professional education can be instrumental in increased productivity with modern technology in all economic sectors. This will enhance industrial productivity and increase exportable output of the country. Similarly, business education is essential for the local youth to have some knowledge on business, as the business world is currently developing at a rapid pace. Business education is directed at the study and research in the field of business. The province needs more and more bachelors and masters in business administration.

Local youth are still deprived of the opportunities and facilities, which are necessary to make development in any field of science and technology. Computer literacy is the high demand of present digital age. The former government had provided a fund of Rs39 million for establishment of Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS). The establishment of IT University in Quetta was a welcome decision by the military government. Former government had also launched a project for imparting education at school level at a total cost of Rs1.4 billion. The Federal government and provinces were to equally share the expenditure. About 1,000 computer laboratories were to be set up in schools, each having at least 11 computers.

Present government should also take steps to strengthen IT industry in the province. The key issue is the development and consolidation of IT industry. There will be no use of producing an army of IT professionals without developing and strengthening IT industry in the country. Government should resolve the problems of IT firms, help them build their trade record and place them in the international IT market. Pakistan Software Export Board should play its due role and make a viable strategy for placing Pakistani IT products in the international market. Scarcity of revenue and absence of venture capital are the main issues, which should be resolved by allocating more funds for consolidation of local IT industry. The local companies need a healing touch from the government. If awarding contracts accommodates them, it will help them build their record and play significant role in griping a market for Balochistan in IT nationally and internationally.

Technical education and vocational training (TEVT) system in Balochistan suffers from many structural and operational problems, leading to poor education quality, unequal access, limited resources, low efficiency, and weak linkage with the labor market. High dropout rates and a passing rate of less than half for examinations attest to the inefficiency of polytechnic programs. Finding work for graduates also takes a long time, partly because the skills needed for the jobs available are mismatched with the technical education given.

There are only two polytechnics under the Directorate of Colleges, Higher and Technical Education in Balochistan. The province lags behind other provinces in terms of access to TEVT, with the two polytechnics and 11 training centers serving a population of more than 7.7 million. Former provincial government had approved the establishment of a separate Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) in anticipation of expanding technical education in the province, and support for implementing this is urgently needed. Access to quality TEVT programs also remains limited, especially for the rural populations.

In the budget-2011-12, the government should focus on technical education allocating funds for setting up institutes of technology across the province where youth would be trained in various modern disciplines. Many industries have been envisaged to be established in and around Gwadar. Skilled manpower would be needed for the operation of the port and the allied industries. There is a high need to create technical hands, and skilled labor in wake of the execution of Mega seaport project in the province.