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Government reduces funding to education by $2.5 billion

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 11:08 AMAnastasia Cunningham

Despite the fact that overall funding for the education sector has been reduced, the Government has increased the allocation to early-childhood development. Included in the 2015-2016 Estimates of Expenditure tabled in Parliament on Thursday by Finance and Planning Minister Dr Peter Phillips, $2.9 billion is expected to be spent on early-childhood development, up from $2.7 billion spent in the last fiscal year.

However, overall the Govern-ment is proposing to reduce its spend in the education sector to $81.3 billion, down from $83.8 billion in the last financial year. This represents a $2.5-billion reduction.

Stakeholders in the education sector have long been advocating for more funds to be allocated to early-childhood development.

Under the new Budget, the Government is proposing to increase infant school places through the renovation of infant schools and the creation of infant departments in primary schools. $68.7 million is budgeted to be spent on construction of early-childhood institutions.

Meanwhile, under the $26.6-million Early Childhood Development Project, the Government is proposing to improve the monitoring of children's development, and the screening of household-level risks affecting development and early intervention systems in order to promote development. The project will also aim to enhance the quality of early-childhood development schools and care facilities, as well as strengthen early-childhood organisations and institutions.

In-service training has also gotten a big boost, moving from $2.4 million to $70.6 million. Under the programme, training and development will be provided for ancillary, clerical, administrative, and professional staff. The training is to achieve improved performance, career advancement and the acquisition of specialised skills. Training of non-teaching staff in school will also be carried out under this programme.

Among the areas that will be affected by expenditure cuts are all six education regional offices. Overall, they were allotted $653.7 million, down from the $711 million they received in the last fiscal year. Last year, Parliament had originally approved $625.5 million, which was later increased in the Supplementary Budget in order to allow for additional compensation to employees.