Economy, Domestic Economy

Education Sector Cries for Bigger Budget

Optimistic assessments put the share of Iran’s education sector in GDP at 1.5%.
Optimistic assessments put the share of Iran’s education sector in GDP at 1.5%.
Expenditure on education helps foster economic growth, enhances productivity and contributes to people’s personal and social development

Iran’s education sector is beset with many problems, shortage of funds being one of them. 

Policymakers always justify their modest expenditure on education on the grounds that the country’s tight budget does not allow for any additional allocation. Or that the proportion of financial resources devoted to education in Iran is as much as in other countries.

Citing statistics by international institutions, the Persian daily Jahan-e Sanat has published a report in which the writer, Mehdi Bohlouli, compares the country’s education budget with that of other countries. 

  Gov’t Expenditure on Education 

The World Bank looks at countries’ expenditures on education in relative terms, as a percentage of their respective gross domestic product. 

Since GDP is the most commonly used indicator of a nation’s total effective economic production, putting certain budgets in terms relative to GDP shows the actual proportion of monies available in a country for educating its citizens. 

One of the main global alliances for education among developing countries is the Global Partnership for Education. It is an international organization that supports 65 developing countries to ensure that every child receives basic education, prioritizing the poorest, most vulnerable and those living in fragile and conflict-affected countries. These countries spend an average of 4.7% of their GDP on education.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is an intergovernmental organization with 35 members from developed countries. The average share of the OECD education budget in GDP stands at 5%. 

There are other countries that spend over 10% of total value of all goods and services produced within their borders on education. These countries include Lesotho, Cuba, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Palau, among others.

Iran is not a member of GPE. Optimistic assessments put the share of Iran’s education sector in GDP at 1.5%—around $8 billion out of $450 billion. This is while the country’s 20-year Vision Plan (2002-25) has envisioned government expenditure on education relative to GDP at 7% by 2025. These figures put Iran on the list of the poorest countries with less than 2% share of education in GDP.   

  Education Ministry’s Budget Share 

The budget allocated to the Education Ministry from the government’s proposed revenues and spending for a financial year is another index that gauges the importance governments place on their citizens’ education. 

On average, members of the GPE allocated 17.3% of their budget to their country’s education sector in 2012; up from 16.7% in 2008.  

There are countries like South Korea that spends 16% of its total public budget on education. Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong allot up to 30% of their government budget to their education departments. 

According to Iranian officials, the highest share ever allocated to the Education Ministry was for the fiscal March 2006-7, which equaled 15.2%. The figure stood at 13% for 2003-4 and 15% for 2005-6. 

After March 2006-7, there was a marked decline in the Education Ministry’s budget year after year. In March 2008-9, the ministry’s budget fell to 12.4%. 

The then government allowed an uptick in March 2009-10 by dedicating 12.9% of the country’s public budget to the Education Ministry. The amount of government money for the education machine hit rock bottom in March 2013-14 to reach 9%.

The new government, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration changed the course that year and has since increased the education budget. Last year (ended March 19, 2016), the share of Education Ministry from the country’s budget increased to 11.5%.

During the opening ceremony of the 33rd meeting of the heads of education departments from across the country in August, First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri announced that the Education Ministry’s budget for the current fiscal year (March 2016-17) was $8.7 billion, up 15% over the previous year.

Of this amount, $1.3 billion are “for unpaid pensions of retired teachers”, he said. 

Also, $1 billion has been earmarked for salary increases based on the evaluation system for teachers.

  Teachers’ Salary & Per Pupil Spending

Most countries compare their teachers’ salaries with the national average wage index. There is no announcement of such an index in Iran. 

In Switzerland, the average annual salary of teachers stands at $68,000 whereas the country’s national average wage is $50,000. A teacher’s average salary in the UK is $40,000 over the country’s average annual salary of $44,000. 

By and large, it seems teachers’ salaries around the world hover around each country’s national average wage. Currently, Iranian teachers’ income averages at around $6,500 a year. 

At present, average per pupil spending by the Iranian government is around $650. 

On average, OECD countries spend $9,487 per student per year from the primary to tertiary levels and the US spends $11,700 on educating its schoolchildren. The figure stands at around $3,000 in Turkey. 

Expenditure on education helps foster economic growth, enhances productivity, contributes to people’s personal and social development and helps reduce social inequalities. 

Therefore, an increase in the education budget of the upcoming fiscal year (March 2017-18), the budget bill for which was submitted to the parliament by the president on Sunday, would be welcome news.

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints