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Education is the least financed sector

TIRANA, Mar. 7- March 7th in Albania is the Teacher’s Day, an event on which students express their gratitude to their teachers about their hard work to educating them. This day corresponds to March 7th 1887 when the first Albanian school was opened in our country. Thus, this day doesn’t only appreciate teachers, but education in general.

132 years later the education system in our country hasn’t gotten any better. The issues have deepened due to lack of finances, bad school infrastructure, a gap level of the educating body, and a drastic decrease in pupils due to birth rate shrinkage. If prior the ‘90s the government would finance the education sector with more than four-to-five percent of its annual GDP, today that financing is less than three percent. This number is 40 percent lower than the investments done in developed countries, and 20 percent less comparing to the other countries of the region.

The financing from the government for the education sector as of years 2017 and 2018 was 3,1 percent of the country’s GDP. Out of this number it was learnt that one percent was paid by the parents through direct tariffs. These low investment was one of the reasons that pushed the students to hold a month-long protest in December 2018 so the government would increase funds to five percent of GDP as promised by the actual government during the 2017 elections campaign.

The percentage of family financing increased significantly after the increase of higher education tariffs in 2015 (the university tariffs). These tariffs are paid by the students or family members on the budget of the Education Ministry, which then disperses it according to its needs.

According to an analysis by UNESCO, comparing to the other countries of the European continent Albania continues a low financing in the education sector in proportion to its GDP. Albania was ranked last in the region with funds towards education in the region, as the other countries were spending 4-4,5 percent of their GDPs in this sector.

During the transition years post-90s Albania has historically invested three percent of its GDP in education. Only in 2007 prior to the global financial crisis and economic recession did the funds barely reach a 3,2 percent. After the crisis the investment have been at a constant of maximum three percent. Also the private and family expenses for the education as a GDP ratio have been increasing since 2011. Following this pattern, the expenses achieved a 0,9 percent at the end of 2015, and slightly higher than one percent in 2017. The lack of financing has negatively in the quality of education, especially in the disadvantaged strata of society.

Even though the protesting students required the promised five percent financing, the budget plan has foreseen a different situation. According to the middle-term plannings of the Ministry of Finance the expenses the government will implement on the education sector will be 3,1-3,3 percent of the GDP for 2018-19, and then will decrease again to three percent for 2020 and 2021.

The latest data from the Albanian Institute of Statistics, INSTAT, the weight of expenses for the education comparing to the standards of living reached a record level of 4,4 percent of the total consumption in 2016. A decade before that number was 1,7 percent. According to surveys on family budgets for the region and EUROSTAT, Albanian families spend the most on education comparing to regional and EU countries. EU countries spend on average 2,1 percent of their total consumption in education. Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina spend about 0.6-0,7 percent, and Croatia reaches 1,1 percent.

A 30 percent reduction in educating body

The the ‘90s the sector of education has decreased with more than 30 percent in its body of teachers, schools, and pupils. According to INSTAT as of 2018 there has been a decrease of 35 percent in pupils attending mid-school (in Albania the first nine grades), comparing to 1991. 43,700 pupils attended middle school in 2018, comparing with 68,600 pupils in 1991. The data shows that there have attended 260 thousand pupils less since 1991, with the largest decrease in the past two years.

This decline of pupil body has been followed by a reduction of the educating body too. In 1991 there were 4370 teachers nationwide. This number has been reduced by 22 percent during the transition years, amounting to 3390 teachers nationwide nowadays in our country.

In 1991 Albanian counted 2200 schools, and today that number is down by 35 percent, to 1134 schools. In 2018 only, 150 schools in regional areas closed their doors because they didn’t have any pupils. According to data from INSTAT this decrease in numbers has brought a lower pupil per teacher ratio, in 17,8 for the academic year of 2017/2018.

Albanian students studying abroad

A significant number of Albanian students are leaving the country to study abroad. A 2016 UNESCO data statistics about the students movements globally, counted 17,397 Albanian students having left the country to study in a foreign university. Considering Albania’s population of three million residents, this number is quite high. Comparing to USA for instance, which holds a population of 325 million people, only 72830 of its students left to study abroad. As that high number of Albanian students left the country, Albania received 2115 incoming students.

According to the data from UNESCO regarding these numbers of outgoing Albanian students, 10,724 left to study in Italy, 1633 students attended Greek schools, 886 left for Turkey, 715 attended a school in USA, 481 in France, as well as other European countries, Canada, and even Saudi Arabian schools, with a very small number of students registered. These data however, do not include Albanian students studying in Germany during 2016, which implies that the EUROSTAT claimed statistics for these students might be even higher.

The foreign students that came to study in Albania were mainly from Italy, with 449 student, 292 Montenegrin students, 287 from Serbia, 188 from Northern Macedonia, 155 Turkish students, and Greece with 49 students. This study from UNESCO serves to analyze the preference changes in higher education abroad among students, especially in developed countries.

A global crisis in education

A research from the World Bank shows that the productive of 56 percent of the world’s children will be less than half of what it could have been, if these pupils would have gotten a good education and enjoyed full health. Hundreds of millions of children globally reach adulthood without any basic abilities, such as simple computation between two numbers, reading medical directions, or the bus schedule. One many ask how would these children provide parenting and education to their own future children.

A good education positively affects human capital, from which both individuals and societies profit. Education for individuals increases self-esteem, and their chances of employment and higher income. A good education could help in the strengthening of a country’s institutions within societies, encourages long-term economic growth, reduces poverty and stimulates innovation.

Owning a good school infrastructure and having the opportunity of expenditure for education doesn’t necessarily urge knowledge in youth. Experience has shown that this can be achieved through a good teacher. The World Bank recently announced in a press release that a new focus in the development of education around the world will be “To help teachers of all levels be more effective to take education forward.”

The World Bank will be launching “Successful teachers, successful students” in supporting countries which are reforming their education systems. This global platform addresses the main challenges to make teaching more effective towards students. One of the main reasons of the education crisis in many education systems of developing countries is due to lack of data of who is learning and who’s not.

This makes the situation difficult to change. The World Bank has suggested to schools and teachers to at least prepare students with the ability to write and read. However, more than that students should be able to interpret information, think critically, be creative, communicate well, cooperate, and be flexible.

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