Sunday, May 19, 2024

IMF explains why students fail exams

Part of the answer that President Ian Khama so desperately needed about the poor performance of last year’s Junior Certificate candidates that he had to send ministers around the country in search of, is contained in a 69-page report from the International Monetary Fund. From what the report says, it would appear that when the government added teaching to the amended list of essential services in 2011 in order “to promote the rights of children to uninterrupted education,” it neglected to promote schools’ access to uninterrupted funding.

Officials from the Fund who visited Botswana last September at the invitation of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning found that there was “inadequate costing for expenditure proposals producing appropriations that do not represent an optimum allocation of resources.”

The five-member team held a meeting with senior officials from the Ministry of Education and Skills Development among them then permanent secretary, Grace Muzila. The report that came out of this meeting says that funds to meet recurrent costs of improved implications of better academic facilities and recruitment of teaching staff were insufficient. Muzila and her team attributed the poor costing to lack of comprehensive information on budget parameters/drivers as well as inadequate capacity to undertake rigorous costing of on-going and new policies.

One of the observations the IMF mission made was that on the whole, line ministries’ submissions lack detailed explanation regarding the expenditure prioritisation and allocation of resources. About the budget speech itself, the Fund would prefer a bit more detail than the minister of finance routinely provides. “The content and analysis in the budget speech, as is expected, is limited to a very general statement of economic, social, and fiscal conditions under which the annual budget has been formulated. The Budget Strategy Paper (BSP) is published between September and November each year and outlines macro-economic developments, economic outlook, and risks, as well as the fiscal strategy and budget priorities for the upcoming budget.

However, it lacks substantive analysis of macroeconomic development and future strategy and overall budget strategy and spending policy options,” it says. Forward estimates are not currently prepared for the recurrent budget. Budget ceilings are determined without specific knowledge of the cost of existing programs and projects.

The Development Fund adopts a multi-year approach to estimates as a result of multi-year costings being included in the NDP (Volume 2). However, these estimates are often not credible as they are not based on fully specified designs. Despite this, projects are taken into the budget without more rigorous costing. The budget documents currently present only the single year estimates for both the recurrent and development budgets.

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