Education remains ignored in the budget as the government has proposed Tk66,401crore, which is 11.7 percent of the total outlay, for this sector in the Fiscal Year 2020-21.
The allocation is just 2.09 percent of the GDP (gross domestic product), which is much less than that in any other South Asian countries.
As a result, experts anticipate that the country's quality of education will continue to produce certificate holders who cannot cope with the job market.
This year, experts were hoping that the budget will address the probable rise in dropout cases due to fresh poverty caused by the impacts of Covid-19 and child marriage, but their hopes were dashed in the budget.
All educational institutions in the country have been closed since March 17 this year in a bid to tackle the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
The government launched online classes for students, but many among them – especially those in the rural areas – could not take advantage of the facility due to technological barriers such as the unavailability and high cost of internet connections, smartphones and televisions.
Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education, a non-government organisation, expressed her disappointment over the budgetary allocation for the education sector.
"It is obvious that early marriage and child labour will increase due to increased dropouts. But no initiatives are being taken to tackle these problems. Many students are missing out on learning now, and a good number of them will be irregular at schools," she said.
Analysts have been demanding special allocation to curb the number of dropouts and increase the allocation in this sector to at least 15 percent of the total budget outlay to ensure quality education.
But that did not happen. Instead, the allocation is getting lower in terms of GDP for the past one decade.
The allocation has been hovering around 10-12 percent, except once in 2016 when it was over 14 percent, according to budget documents.
"We have been strongly demanding that the education budget be increased. But we are being ignored. The budget is the lowest even among the South Asian countries. It is unfortunate," said educationist Syed Manzoorul Islam.
"Our teachers and researchers cannot conduct research due to the shortage of funds, and it is tarnishing the image of our universities."
The ratio of the education budget to the GDP has been hovering around 2 percent over the last 15 years, which is lower than many other Asian countries.
The 2017-18 Global Education Monitoring Report compared the spending of GDP of 205 countries in 2015.
According to the report, Bangladesh spent 1.9 percent of its GDP for education that year, while war-torn Afghanistan spent 3.3 percent, Bhutan 7.4 percent, India 3.8 percent, the Maldives 5.2 percent, Nepal 3.7 percent, Pakistan 2.6 percent and Sri Lanka 2.2 percent of their GDPs.
Bangladesh committed in the Dakar Declaration and other global forums to spend 6 percent of its GDP or allocate at least 20 percent of the national budget for education. Unesco also stipulates similar budgetary allocation for the sector.
Professor Emeritus of Brac University Manzoor Ahmed said, "We had given some suggestions to the government to counter the losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We had asked that an additional Tk5,000 crore be allocated for a quick response initiative to prevent dropouts and to ensure enrollment and quality education.
"We had also demanded that the amount of stipend be increased from Tk150 to Tk300 at the primary level. But it is not reflected in the budget. It was important to allocate at least 15 percent of the total outlay. Unfortunately, the allocation is still below 12 percent."
He continued, "The ongoing online classes have created discrimination, as many students from rural areas could not attend those classes. It is important to set up a digital mechanism so that all students can attend the online classes. But it is also absent in the budget."
Of the education budget, Tk33,117 crore has been allocated for the Secondary and Higher Education Division, Tk8,344 crore for Technical and Madrasa Division, and Tk24,940 for Primary and Mass Education Ministry.
In the previous fiscal year, Tk29,624 crore was allocated for the Secondary and Higher Education Division, Tk7,450 crore for the Technical and Madrasa Division, and Tk24,040 crore for the Primary and Mass Education Ministry.
The budgetary allocation for the development of the education sector has increased slightly, but it is not enough to recover the impacts of the pandemic. The Secondary and Higher Education Division has got Tk11,865 crore development budget, which was Tk9,150 crore in the outgoing fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the development allocation for Technical and Madrasa Division is Tk1976 crore, which was Tk1,355 crore in the outgoing fiscal year. The figure is Tk9,404 for the Primary and Mass Education Ministry, which was Tk9,016 crore in the outgoing year.