There is no alternative to raising the education sector's share in the national budget. It needs to be at least 3 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
The current allocation of 2.1 percent is the lowest among the South Asian countries.
Speakers at a video conference said this while underscoring the need for increasing budgetary allocation for the education sector to overcome the losses caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
The government needs a master plan to prevent dropouts and ensure quality education from pre-primary to the tertiary level. But it needs a huge budgetary allocation for that, they said.
The video conference styled "Tackling the Impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Education Sector of Bangladesh" was organised by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem) yesterday.
Moderated by Dr Selim Raihan, executive director of Sanem and professor of economics at the University of Dhaka, the webinar hosted an expert panel discussion where academicians, economists, researchers, government officials, journalists, and development practitioners joined.
Syed Manzoorul Islam, former professor at the University of Dhaka's English department, said, "Bangladesh was less prepared for the Covid-19 outbreak. But it is laudable that the government shut all the educational institutions on March 17."
"But at least 30 percent of students will never come back to schools. The government has to undertake multiple initiatives if it wants to save the education sector from such a disaster."
"The stipend should be raised to Tk300-400 from Tk150. Also, the government will have to supply the study materials. If it fails, the whole nation will suffer for a long time.
"Also, the academic year could be shortened to 10 months after the pandemic, minimising the semester duration and at least 10 percent of the syllabus."
Campaign for Popular Education (Campe) Executive Director Rasheda K Chowdhury said, "All the students could not be reached at for online classes. Namely, the students of hilly, haor and char areas are being deprived of learning through online classes. The government needs to give it a serious thought."
"Child labour, early marriage and malnutrition will also increase school dropouts. Only a good national plan and standard budgetary allocation can prevent dropouts."
Director General Directorate of Primary Education Md Fasiullah said, "The government is serious about the education sector."
"We have already taken up many prompt initiatives such as starting online classes and distributing stipend to tackle the ongoing crisis. We are also making a plan to face future challenges," he said.