Education in Pakistan

Quotes | Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. (Nelson Mandela). The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. (Aristotle). Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. (William Butler Yeats)

Oxford Dictionary

The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The knowledge, skill, and understanding that you get from attending a school, college, or university.

Common Usage

The delivery of knowledge, skills and information from teachers to students. It is, however, inadequate to capture what is really important about being and becoming educated.

Proper Definition

The process of becoming an educated person; it means acquiring optimal states of mind regardless of the situation you are in.


Education began in the earliest prehistory, as adults trained the young of their society in the knowledge and skills they would need to master and eventually pass on.
Story-telling was also another major tool to educate.

Plato founded the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in Europe.

University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco, is the oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world.

Education in Pakistan

State’s Responsibility

Article 25-A reads:

“The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”

The education system in Pakistan is generally divided into five levels

1. Primary (grades one through five)

2. Middle (grades six through eight)

3. High (grades nine and ten, leading to the Secondary School Certificate)

4. Intermediate (grades eleven and twelve, leading to a Higher Secondary School Certificate)

5. University programs leading to graduate, post graduate and advanced degrees

Education Policies

All Pakistan Educational Conference 1947

In a message to All-Pakistan Educational Conference at Karachi on November 27, 1947, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah said:

“There is no doubt that the future of our State will and must greatly depend upon the type of education we give to our children and the way in which we bring them up as future citizens of Pakistan.”

Quaid-i-Azam provided the basic guidelines for future education development by stressing:

1. The system of education should suit the genius of our people

2. It should be consonant with our history and culture

3. It should instil the highest sense of honour, integrity, responsibility and selfless service to the nation.

4. It should also provide scientific and technical knowledge for economic uplift of the new state.


(a) Education should be inspired by Islam;

(b) Free and compulsory elementary education; and

(c) Emphasis on technical education.

National Education Conference 1951

It was held in 1951

It led to the formulation of a Six Year National Plan for Educational Development


It failed to evoke political commitment and financial resources for achieving its objectives.

National Commission on Education 1959

The Ayub era saw high-level commissions to examine and guide all walks of life.

The National Commission on Education dealt comprehensively with the system of education and made recommendations to emphasise

(a) character development through compulsory religious instructions,

(b) compulsory schooling for age group 6-11 within 10 years and for 11-14 within 15 years

(c) diversification of curricula to introduce technical/vocational subjects in secondary stages and enhancement of middle level technical (poly-technical) education

(d) extension of degree programmes at the Bachelor’s level from 2 to 3 years.


The Commission’s recommendations were incorporated in the Second Five-Year Plan (1960-65).

Quantitatively, the Plan was an exceptional success, as its implementation was up to 96 percent of planned investments.

Nevertheless, the targets for primary education and technical education were still far from fulfilment.

Education Policy and Nationalisation 1972

The national objectives were identified as:

(a) Equalising the opportunities for education;

(b) Arresting the declining educational standards; and

(c) Correcting the growing imbalance between various types of education.

Statement of Goals

The statement of goals was accompanied by broad-based guidelines which were to provide a framework within which the Provincial Government and non-government agencies were to prepare detailed plans and programmes.

From the goals so designed, the roles assigned to education were:

(i) the role of education in the preservation and inculcation of Islamic values as an instrument of national unity and progress;

(ii) reorientation of educational programmes in the light of economic needs of the society particularly by shifting the emphasis to scientific, technical and vocational education;

(iii) role of education as an instrument of social change and development, and as a factor in the creation of a democratic social order by ensuring an equal access to opportunities of education;

(iv) the paramount importance of quality in education and the crucial role of teachers in the improvement of educational quality; and

(v) decentralisation of educational administration to ensure academic freedom and administration and financial autonomy required for healthier and efficient growth of educational institutions, particularly those of higher education.

All these objectives and lofty goals remained empty rhetoric and the major change made by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government was to nationalise private educational institutions.

National Education Policy 1979

A National Educational Conference was convened by the President of Pakistan, Mr Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry, in October 1977 for evolving a set of fresh recommendations for a new education policy which was later announced in 1979.


The major aims focused on:

Fostering deep and abiding loyalty to Islam,

Creating awareness that a Pakistani is also a part of Universal Muslim Ummah,

Inculcation of character in accordance with Quran and Sunnah,

Providing equal opportunities to all citizens for cultural and religious development,

Development of creative and innovative faculties of people,

Functional literacy to all citizens,

Fostering discipline and promotion of scientific and technological education needed for socio-economic growth.


1. Curricular revisions with a view to reorganising the entire content around Islamic thought.

2. Possibility of merging the traditional Madrassah Education with modern education.

3. Use of National Language as medium of instruction.

4. Training for productive work.

5. Mobilisation of community resource such as mosques, civic buildings factories etc. for education purposes; effective participation of community in literacy/education programme.

6. Linking scientific and technical education with production.

7. More emphasis on quality improvement and consolidation and opening new institutions only where demand is reasonable.

8. Separate educational institutions for female students up to highest level with specially designed curricula.


Integrated curriculum was introduced.

The medium of instruction reverted to English after eighth class.

Secular subjects were introduced in the Deeni Madaris.

Mosques were used as part of formal primary education system. Literacy Ordinances were introduced but not implemented..

The non-formal approach to primary education through Nai Roshni Schools did not achieve its objectives.

The Federal Government took over the financing responsibilities of universities all over Pakistan on the understanding that Provincial Government will reallocate the saved resources for the promotion of primary education.

National Education Policy 1992

The reform proposed in the 1992 policy were aimed at bringing about the following major changes:

(i) Structuring the society as dictated by teaching of Islam.

(ii)    Universalising primary education, eliminating drop-out by the year 2002.

(iii)    Raising the literacy ratio to 70 percent by the year 2002.

(iv)    Improving the quality of education by reassuring the role of teachers in the teaching running process by modernising curriculum by tax book.

(v)    Use of community for the promotion of basic education in the country.

(vi)    Intensifying vocationalisation of general education, and introducing a new stream of technical education in middle and high schools; inviting the private sector for participation in educational programmes, and allowing progressive privatisation of nationalised institutions.

(vii)    Initiating procedures leading to de-politicisation of campuses and enforcement of discipline.

(viii)    Streamlining the examination system and establishing the merit-based valid admission procedures to be devised by the National Testing Services.


This policy could not achieve the desire targets. However the following are the major achievements emanating from the policy:

1. Establishment of School Management Committee at the lowest administrative unit for the promotion of basic education.

2. Establishment of quality Model Primary School at the Union Council Level so as to provide quality education to the rural female children.

3. The concept of mixed Primary School was introduced in provinces.

4. The qualifications of the teachers have been lowered in order to attract the female population towards the teaching profession.

5. Literacy Programme in selected areas of Pakistan was launched in order to enhance the literacy rate the country.

6. Nation-wide teachers competition were held to give awards to the best Primary School Teachers at the national level.

7. The examination method was changed by giving weightage of 25 percent to multiple choice questions at secondary and higher secondary exams.

8. During this period the Supreme Court gave an historic decision by banning the students unions in the university campuses and obliging all parents to give certificate of good behaviour for their children attending colleges and universities.

National Education Policy 1998-2010

To prepare the nation to gracefully enter the 21st Century, a new Education Policy was launched from June, 1998.

Basic Covenants

Jihad against illiteracy to accelerate the literacy rate.

Curriculum revision in accordance with the requirements of 21st Century.

Introduction of computer education in schools and greater emphasis on technical education.

Minimizing disparities in rural and urban schools and between males and females.

Active participation and contribution of local communities in educational management via the District Education Authorities, School Management Committees and Village Education Committees.

Easy access to education at all levels.

Encouraging the private sector to invest in education.

Bring in the element of competition in the preparation and selection of text-books.

Provision of financial support to deserving students.

Promotion of research in higher education.

Professionalization and improvement of the examination system at all levels.

Library services and facilities shall be improved, expanded and strengthened.


The Policy proposed

To construct 190,000 new formal primary schools, 250,000 non-formal basic education centres, and 57,000 mosque schools,

To upgrade 60,000 primary schools,

To begin double shifts in 20,000 existing primary schools, and

To recruit 527,000 additional teachers.

To launch a National Literacy Movement on an emergency basis in every village, tehsil and district,

To increase the existing Non-Formal Basic Education (NFBE) community schools/centres from 7000 to 82,000,

To render it mandatory for all industrial units and federal and provincial agencies, like WAPDA, Pakistan Steel, OPF, PTV, PBC, etc., to make their employees and their dependents literate,

To put Boy Scouts and Girl Guides at the service of literacy programs,

To establish Literacy Corps comprising College/University students/teachers for literacy programs during vacations,

To issue driving and ammunition licenses only to literate persons,

To condone the duration of a prisoner’s term of imprisonment if s/ he becomes literate,

To utilize radio and television for social mobilization and promotion of the cause of basic education, particularly amongst rural females, and for imparting skills to neo-literates,

To ask khanakah s/Mazars to donate a portion of their earning to the literacy fund, and

To link development grants to local governments with literacy programmes.

National Education Policy 2009

The thinking process for the development of this policy was initiated in 2005 and finalised through a series of consultative workshops and deliberations before being presented to the cabinet in May 2008.

Policy’s Vision

“Education is a categorical imperative for individual, social and national development that should enable all individuals to reach their maximum human potential. The system should produce responsible, enlightened citizens to integrate Pakistan in the global framework of human-centred economic development.”

Education to be allocated seven per cent of GDP.

Literacy rate to be increased to 85 per cent by 2015.

Grades 11 and 12 (intermediate education) will no more be part of college education but will be merged into the school system.

All primary schools will be upgraded to the middle level.

Enrolment in higher education to be increased from to 10 per cent by 2015, and to 15 per cent by 2020.

The inter-provincial forum of education ministers was given a supervisory role.

Academic and administrative cadres will be separated

District education boards will be set up to promote education at grassroots level.

Syllabus of public sector schools would be improved in consultation with private sector schools to reduce disparity between the two sectors.

A regime of strict uniform examination system will be introduced across the country.

Teachers with matriculation and intermediate level education would be gradually phased out and replaced with qualified teachers.

Salary structure of teachers will be improved.

There will be special focus on gender equality and bridging urban-rural divide.

A project called ‘Apna Ghar’ residential schools to provide free education to poor students will be started.

A national merit programme would be introduced to reward bright students.

Present Situation

According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2013-14 Social, the literacy rate of the population (10 years and above) is 60 percent

Punjab leads with 62 percent followed by Sindh with 60 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 52 percent and Balochistan with 44 percent.

Vision 2025 on Education

Vision 2025 aims at substantial expansion in levels of education as well as improvements in the quality of education. A larger share of the GDP, at least 4% to education and at least 3% to health, would have to be allotted. Key goals under this pillar are;

Universal primary education with 100% net primary enrolment.

Increase Higher Education coverage from 7% to 12 %

Increase proportion of population with access to improved sanitation from 48% to 90%


Education plays an important part in shaping a society and in determining its development trajectory. Unfortunately, as the numbers show, this is an area of colossal failure for Pakistan. Consider the following facts:

Nearly half of Pakistan’s population cannot read or write. The ratio for females is abysmally lower, especially for certain parts of Pakistan such as in rural Sindh and Balochistan, where the ratio for female literacy is 23pc and 16pc respectively.

There are only 13 countries in the world with a lower adult literacy rate than Pakistan, according to data compiled by the United Nations. These countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Mali — collectively some of the poorest countries in the world.

Depending on source used, the number of children out of school in Pakistan amounts to anywhere from seven million to nearly 25 million. The average number of years of schooling completed is 4.9 years in the case of Pakistan, slightly ahead of Angola and Bangladesh.

In terms of public spending, the combined budget allocation for education by all tiers of government in Pakistan is the equivalent of around 2pc of GDP. It has stagnated around this level for the past several years, and remains so despite the passage of Article 25-A of the Constitution that guarantees the right to free education for every child in Pakistan.

At this level, Pakistan ranks 177th globally in terms of public spending on Education, according to the Human Development Report 2013 issued by UNDP.
Only seven developing countries in the world have lower public spending on education. These include Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Zambia.

However, as experts and commentators have pointed out time and again, the amount allocated for education in public budgets is just one element of the issue.
Reforming Education in Pakistan

Sporadic attempts to deal with the education problem have largely failed in Pakistan. Keeping in view the ground realities following recommendations can be fruitful in this regard.

Formulate a widely accepted common curriculum for schools across the country, both private and public.

Concerned authorities must be directed to mould the system into one that encourages skill development and discourages old, unhealthy habits like rote learning.
As the subjects and syllabi are revised, so too must the examination system into one whose integrity is beyond question.

The proposed modification must make room for children whose work is essential for survival of their families.

Running dual shifts and accommodating distance learning must therefore be an integral part of education reform.

Coordinated teachers’ training programmes should be undertaken to ensure that the quality of education is not compromised.

A credible school evaluation system like the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) in the UK should be set up to provide independent advice on matters of policy to the government.

This evaluation body should carry out regular inspections of each school, public or private.

Recommendations should be given for improvement in teaching, learning and management of schools.

Vocational and technical education should be encouraged so that what the students learn is linked to enhancement of their skills.

One of the most important questions that confront education reform planners is the madrassa system. Their curricula ill should be modernised.

These institutions provide boarding, lodging, education and meals for their students. That’s why marginalised groups prefer enrolling their children in madrassas. So, similar facilities should be provided for in mainstream public schools as well.

On the whole, we should be spending eight per cent of our GDP on education annually.

By investing in the children and youth of today, we make an active investment in the Pakistan of tomorrow.

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