Published in The Daily New Nation on Wednesday, 27 April 2016
Enough allocation for human development
LACK of enough budgetary allocation in transforming the demographic dividend into human capital stymies the country setback to attaining higher growth. While Bangladesh needs to get robust policies in place to best utilise the youthful populace and prepare for the imminent challenges to accelerate growth, the best tools which are education and training are becoming substandard. In expert view, 20 percent of budgetary allocation and six percent of the national GDP should be invested for quality education but in Bangladesh, it has been around 12 percent and 2 percent. Bangladesh cannot graduate to a middle-income country without increasing the resource allocation by 1 percent to 8 percent of the GDP.When a country has more people to work, save and pay taxes, there is an opportunity to step up growth and development. Until 2030, the percentage of youths in terms of the total population will increase. So, the nation should reshape the education system from the primary to tertiary, and vocational in the line of moulding the future and must create not only more jobs but also better jobs ensuring higher wages and productivity. But, in the name of creative exam methods, introduction of MCQ pattern of questions, rampant high grades in public exams, lack of proper educational facilities, mushrooming of kindergartens and universities without quality checking and misgovernance in the sector have alarmingly deteriorated the education sector.
Meanwhile, a CPD research finding showed that the total expenditure on education was 1.6 percent of the GDP in 1990 which increased to about 2 percent in 2000, and since then it has been around that level. Among the South Asian countries, it is 5.6 percent in Bhutan, 4.6 in Afghanistan, 4.1 in Nepal, 3.9 in India and 2.5 percent in Pakistan. Educationists said the government made a global commitment that it would increase the allocation on education to 4 percent of the GDP and 15 percent of the national budget. It is not understandable how Bangladesh can achieve the other 16 goals of SDG without achieving the SDG goal on education. Increasing expenditure on education is a must for quality education in keeping with the 7th five-year-plan and SDG, but it requires an efficient plan. And to utilise the demographic dividend, the country needs, as per the UNDP report, to create 25 million jobs between 2016 and 2030, which means 16 lakh new jobs should be available every year. To stimulate the job market, the government needs to improve the business environment to encourage new businesses as well as foreign investments. Under a proper leadership, establishing the rule of law, moulding the education sector to increase efficiency and enabling equity in the judicial system can enable Bangladesh to reach its desired goal. For all the changes, investment in education should be the first step.