- Written by Peter Michael Magury, Research Fellow, Development Indicators Research Program, PNG National Research Institute Peter Michael Magury, Research Fellow, Development Indicators Research Program, PNG National Research Institute
Education remains a key priority of the government but it has not escaped the budget cuts in the last few years, starting from 2017. Expenditure in education in 2017 (K1,162.5 million) was 11.4 percent less than the 2016 supplementary budget of K1,312.5 million. There have been some trend shifts in the allocations, and it is noted that for the last few years, the education sector has been receiving smaller slices of the pie. A total of K1,293.4 million was allocated to the Education sector in 2018, and K1,378.2 million in 2019, corresponding to a marginal increase of 6.2%. However, the fund allocated to education sector from 2020 (K1,242.7 million) to 2021 (K1,094.8 million) decreased by 11.9%.
This reduced funding has continued to show disparity and inequality in the allocation of funds among the sub-sectors of education. The disparity and inequality exist without any overarching rationale for the level of Government funding that particular types of institutions should receive to produce quality outputs.
This article looks at gaps in education financing and prioritisation in the following sub-sectors of education:
1. Formal General Education
The formal general education consists of basic and secondary education. This has been the priority of the government in terms of education financing. The average annual budget for basic and secondary education from 2017 to 2021 is K370.3 million. As a percentage of total public expenditure on education, spending on elementary, primary and secondary education represents about 30 percent from 2017 to 2021. Overall, basic education represents 16.2 percent while secondary represents 13.8 percent of the total public expenditure on education.
2. Inclusive Education
Early Childhood Care Development: The current national education system structure shows that the establishment of early childhood care and development (ECCD) is non-existent. Currently there is no budget allocation for ECCD implementation.
Special Needs Education: One of the key pillars of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) plan is equity. Equity has many dimensions, but one of the areas being increasingly appreciated is the needs of children with varying levels of learning challenges, or, as popularly called, children with disability. There has been limited attention provided to this area within the education sector financing. On average, a total of K1.09 million has been allocated to the Special Needs Education from 2017 to 2021. This represents 0.1 percent of the total public expenditure on education.
3. Alternative Pathway
Non-Formal Education: The Department of Education (DoE) has been implementing the national literacy policy through the National Literacy and Awareness Secretariat (NLAS). The NLAS which is tasked to coordinate literacy programmes has not been performing its functions well due to consistently being under funded. The average annual budget for NLAS from 2017 to 2021 is about K13.7 million (1.26%) of the DoE budget.
Flexible Open Distance Education (FODE): Even though funds have been provided on an annual basis to meet the costs of managing and implementing FODE activities, these funds have been inadequate to fully meet the costs of operating and sustaining such a massive education system. The average annual budget for FODE is K13.7 million (1.26%) of the DoE budget.
Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET): There are inequities in Government financial support to TVET. The education budget shows that many TVET institutions are not receiving adequate funds from the government and other sources to support their current number of students at an acceptable level of quality. The average annual budget for TVET is K28.19 million (2.59%) of the total public expenditure on education from 2017 to 2021.
The reduced funding has continued to show disparity and inequality in the allocation of funds among sub-sectors of education. It is more pronounced in FODE, vocational, TVET and non-formal education. The majority of education funding goes towards basic and secondary education.
This article was first published in the Post-Courier’s 10 June 2021 edition and on its website’s commentaries and features page.