Aisha Sarwari |
The most critical transformation underway in the public schools of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seems to be school finance reforms. Following on the footsteps of leading global education institutes, an initiative was launched to test a new approach. It is known by different names such as school based budgeting, weighted school funding and fair student funding among others.
School based budgeting is the latest rising trend that delegates financial decision making from the district office to the principals, teachers and at times community members. The effectiveness of these reforms lies in the idea that financial decisions, which play a key role in the development of the students, are made by people within their circle of influence.
The districts where school based budgeting will be operationalized during 2017-18 are Abbottabad, Bannu, Battagram, Charsadda, Chitral, D I Khan, Nowshehra and Swat.
This does not mean that students are going to direct how education budgets are spent, but with teachers and principals planned to do exactly that, a lot of student needs that were previously overlooked will now be addressed. It facilitates stakeholder participation in public education.
Teachers, support staff and parents all become active stakeholders with a greater sense of ownership of the public education system. Being at the forefront, these newly empowered stakeholders face the reality of fiscal responsibility. They become more sensitive to cost-cutting measures ranging from better use of staff time to turning off lights in vacant classrooms.
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The department of Education in KP will enable middle and primary schools at local level to prepare budgets and track expenditure incurred – both salary and non-salary components. Before the introduction of this initiative, no separate budgets were prepared for these entities, this activity being limited to higher secondary and high schools.
The idea of ghost teachers in public schools is quickly becoming history. Since the launch of the initial phase, many cases of ghost teachers have been identified and appropriate action has been taken.
The benefits of such a delegated financial mechanism are numerous. Effective review of non-salary budgets results into improved financial equity among schools. It enables a streamlined and data driven approach to decision-making and facilitates monitoring and evaluation processes. It allows most accurate estimation of school needs by involving school and community level stakeholders in the budgeting process.
Compared to traditional funding systems, school based budgeting system changes how school leaders control budgeting. It aims to provided need based rather than centrally controlled funding to each school. It allows funds to be spent on staff and other resources based on the school’s instructional model. In school based budgeting system school leaders have a considerable amount of control of their school budgets.
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KP Elementary and Secondary Education Department (ESED) launched a pilot project in the Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during 2016-17. Results from this pilot are heartening for anyone possessing a glimmer of education activism. The project has contributed in successfully reducing embezzlement, misappropriation and irregularities. It has only been possible because such facility-based budgeting creates safeguards such as proactive public disclosure of essential fiscal and personnel data.
The project has contributed in successfully reducing embezzlement, misappropriation and irregularities. It has only been possible because such facility-based budgeting creates safeguards such as proactive public.
Hence, improving monitoring and evaluation of all expenditures. It includes all benefits of a bottom-up budgeting approach including addressing the core-school-level concerns on a priority basis. By introducing, school based budgeting in Karak, ESED has allowed budget preparation at the facility level allowing district Education and Finance officials to track this expenditure and cover all salary and non-salary expenses, as required by schools.
Previously, budget making was never realized at the middle and primary school facility level. Benefits of this method of budgeting vary from increased effectiveness to transformation in behaviors and attitudes of stakeholders. The idea of ghost teachers in public schools is quickly becoming history. Since the launch of the initial phase, many cases of ghost teachers have been identified and appropriate action has been taken.
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This does not mean that students are going to direct how education budgets are spent, but with teachers and principals planned to do exactly that, a lot of student needs that were previously overlooked will now be addressed.
The financial empowerment of principals and head teachers will help create new effective structures of governance at the school level. Their greater role in financial management of schools will help them address core issues and concerns of their respective schools and communities.
The results of schools based budgeting have been very encouraging thus far and has led to the expansion of this initiative to eight more districts in the next financial year. The districts where school based budgeting will be operationalized during 2017-18 are Abbottabad, Bannu, Battagram, Charsadda, Chitral, D I Khan, Nowshehra and Swat. School based budgeting is based on education resource strategies that employ principles for most effective school budgeting.
Provision of resources is student-focused, equitable, transparent, differentiated, predictable and empowering. Above all these school-based budgets align seamlessly with district strategies and support in the development of multiyear strategic plans in educating the nation.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of GVS.