Education system of Pakistan

The educational system of Pakistan is among the least-developed in the world. The system was based on the British colonial educational system, which lasted until 1947. In that year, Pakistan gained independence as a result of the partition of the Indian subcontinent into the states of India and Pakistan. The colonial system was elitist; it was meant to educate a small portion of the population to run the government. Despite changes since independence, the Pakistani educational system has retained its colonial elitist character, a factor preventing the eradication of illiteracy.


There are 3 main sectors of education system in Pakistan.

Formal Education

Informal Education

Religious Education

Administrative and Supervisory Structure and Operation

According to the Constitution of Pakistan (1973), the Federal Government is entrusted the responsibility for policy, planning, and promotion of educational facilities in the federating units. This responsibility is in addition to the overall policymaking, coordinating and advisory authority; otherwise, education is the provincial subject. The Federal Ministry of Education administers the educational institutions located in the federal capital territory. Universities located in various provinces are administered by the provincial governments, but are exclusively funded by the federal government through the Higher Education Commission.

The Federal Ministry of Education is headed by the Minister of Education. The most senior civil servant in the Ministry is the Education Secretary assisted by Joint Secretary and Joint Educational Advisors of each wing. There are 6 wings in the Federal Ministry of Education and each wing is headed by Joint Educational Advisor

The provincial Education Departments are headed by their respective Provincial Education Ministers. The civil servant in charge of the department is the Provincial Education Secretary. The provinces are further divided into districts for the purpose of administration. The head of the Education Department in a district is Executive District Officer (EDO). Literacy Department functions separately in case of Punjab and Sindh only it is headed by Executive District Officer (EDO) literacy. In the Provinces of NWFP and Balochistan, literacy is the part of Education Department. The hierarchy then runs down to the District Education Officer, Sub-district Education Officer, Supervisors or Assistant Sub-district Education Officers .

At the grass root level (the union council level), Learning Coordinators (LCs) provide academic guidance as well as supervise the schools. The administrative structure has been decentralized under the Devolution Plan. Village Education Committees (VECs)/ School Management Committees (SMCs) have been set up in the provinces at grass root level.


Despite the intentions of the Pakistani government, the educational system has failed to eradicate illiteracy in the post-independence era. It has also failed to train an adequate number of professionals to meet the needs of the country in different fields, which has been a major hindrance to the nation's economic development. The government-implemented reforms of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s did not address these deficiencies. By and large, they focused on replacing English, the colonial language of education, with Urdu, the language of most Pakistanis. The reforms of the 1970s also led to the nationalization of schools.

Facing the continued shortcomings of the educational system, the Pakistani government implemented new reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These took the form of three major initiatives. The government privatized the schools nationalized in the 1970s. It also reversed the process of promoting Urdu as the language of education and encouraged a return to English language in the elite private schools. Finally, the government emphasized Pakistani studies and Islamic studies as two major fields in the curriculum. This was a shift from colonial education's emphasis on British history and English culture and literature.

The reforms of the post-independence era have improved the educational system and have increased the number of literate Pakistanis, but there are still basic shortcomings. Educational funding is low, and there is little political will to make improvements. In the 1999–2000 school year, government spending on education was about $1.8 billion, equal to 2.1 percent of Pakistan's gross national product (GNP). This amount represents a decrease from the period 1995–1997, when government expenditure on education equaled 2.7 percent of GNP, which itself was an insignificant figure for a country of approximately 180 million, whose population is increasing at the annual rate of 2.4 percent.

According to official statistics, the Pakistani literacy rate was 57 percent in 2009.

Present Scenario of Education in Pakistan

The government of Pakistan recognized that education is the basic right of every citizen; therefore, access to education for every citizen is crucial for economic development and for poverty alleviation. The present government has given much importance to education sector it has not only emphasized raising the present literacy rate but also emphasized improving the quality of education. The over all estimated literacy rate was 50.5 percent, for male 63 percent and for female 38 percent during 2001-2002. Urban literacy rate was 70 percent and rural literacy rate is 30 percent during the same period. Pakistan net primary enrolment rate was 66 percent (male 82 percent, female 50 percent) and gross enrolment rate was 78 percent (male 91 percent, female 64 percent) during 2000-01. About 45 percent children who enrolled in grade-1 drop out before completing primary education cycle (male drop out 45 percent, female drop out 54 percent). There are about 4 million children of 5-9 age group who are left out of school. The left out includes those children who never enrolled and those who drop out.

Enrolment at primary level was 16.63 million during 2000-01. The gross enrolment at middle level was 34 percent, male 36 percent and female 33 percent in 2000-01. The gross enrolment at secondary level was 22 percent, 20 percent for female and 24 percent for male. The total number of Arts and Science colleges were 916 (male 536 and female 380) with the enrolment of 763,000 during 2000-01. There are 68 universities in Pakistan with the enrolment of 1.1 million. Out of the total universities, 40 universities are managed by public sector. There are 203,439 educational institutions in Pakistan of which 36,096 institutions are run private sector and the share of the private sector is about 18 percent.

The major issues and challenges of the education system include low literacy rate, high drop out rate, wide spread teacher absenteeism, weak management and supervision structure, shortage of trained and qualified teachers specially female, lack of teachers dedication, motivation and interest in their profession and lack of physical facilities. Moreover the curriculum is mostly outdated, irrelevant and does not fulfill the requirements of present day.

Future Trends

The education system of Pakistan has been unable to meet the educational requirements of the Pakistanis. The system needs massive investment to increase the number of educational institutions and to train and recruit adequate numbers of educators at all levels. The Pakistani government has limited financial resources, which are inadequate to meet all of its needs. Added to large defense expenditures justified by the unstable relations between India and Pakistan, rampant corruption and a huge foreign debt (about $33 billion in 1998) further reduce the available resources for educational purposes. Unless the deteriorating Pakistani economy improves, there is little, if any, hope for a significant qualitative and quantitative change in Pakistan's educational system in the foreseeable future.

Education For All (EFA)

Education For All refers to the global commitment to ensure that by 2015 all children would complete primary education of good quality (Universal Primary Completion), and that gender disparity would be eliminated in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005 and no later than 2015. This commitment was made at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal in April 2000 and reaffirmed in the Millennium declaration in New York in September 2000. The Government of Pakistan is attaching top priority to EFA. The country has ten year Perspective Development Plan (2001-11) to visualize the long term macro-economic and sectoral growth strategies, Poverty Reduction and Human Development is the priority area of the Plan. Sector-wide development approach covering all the sectors of education has been adopted under the Perspective Plan. In order to address the EFA implications linkage plan focusing on development of other sectors of Education has also been prepared.

Nearly 80% of the ESR covers different goals of Education for All by 2015, reducing illiteracy by 50 percent with a focus on reducing the gender gap by 2015, life skills and learning opportunities for youth and adults; and early childhood education. The targeted groups for EFA goals belong to disadvantaged communities with minimal opportunities. These groups are highly vulnerable, without access to learning facilities, or public sector facilities, which are functioning at sub-optimal levels.

Female Education

The Pakistani educational system has demonstrated a discriminatory trend against women. This bias is evident in the pattern of literacy, which shows a strong correlation between gender and literacy rates. The illiteracy rate is very high among Pakistani women of all age groups. In 1998, the adult illiteracy rates were 42 percent for males and 71.1 percent for females. In the same year, the illiteracy rate for male youth and female youth was 25 and 53 percent, respectively. This gender-based discriminatory trend in education has contributed to the persistence of illiteracy and to a chronic shortage of educated people and has had a major impact on the continued underdevelopment of Pakistan.

Teachers’ Training

In Pakistan, there are 90 Colleges of Elementary Education which offer teachers’ training programs for Primary Teaching Certificate (PTC) and Certificate in Teaching (CT) to primary school teachers. For secondary school teachers, there are 16 Colleges of Education, offering graduate degrees in education and there are departments of education in 9 universities which train teachers at the master’s level. There are only 4 institutions which offer in-service teachers’ training. Besides these, the Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad, offers a very comprehensive teachers’ training program based on distance learning; its total enrolment is about 10,000 per annum of which 7,000 complete various courses every year

Private Education Sector

Private sector involvement in education is encouraging. The Federal Bureau of Statistics survey (1999-2000) indicates that there are 36,096 private educational institutions in Pakistan. About 61 percent of the institutions are in urban areas and 39 percent in rural areas. The percentage share of private sector in enrollment is 18 percent at primary school level, 16 percent at middle school level and 14 percent at high school level.

It has been observed that most of the private schools select their own curricula and textbooks, which are not in conformity with public schools. Majority of the schools are “English Medium” which attracts the parents for sending their children to these schools. Most of the schools are overcrowded and do not have adequate physical facilities. These schools are usually charging high fees from the students. Most of the schools are unregistered; therefore, in most cases the certificates issued by these institutions are not recognized by public schools. Majority of these institutions are functioning in the rented buildings.

The National Education Policy 1998-2010 proposed that there shall be regulatory bodies at the national and provincial levels to regulate activities and smooth functioning of privately managed schools and institutions of higher education through proper rules and regulations. A reasonable tax rebate shall be granted on the expenditure incurred on the setting up of educational facilities by the private sector. Grants-in-Aid for specific purposes shall be provided to private institutions. Setting up of private technical institutions shall be encouraged. Matching grants shall be provided for establishing educational institutions by the private sector in the rural areas or poor urban areas through Education Foundation. In rural areas, schools shall be established through public-private partnership schemes. The government shall not only provide free land to build the school but also bear a reasonable proportion of the cost of construction and management. Liberal loan facilities shall be extended to private educational institutions by financial institutions.

Despite all shortcomings of private education mentioned above, PIHS survey indicates that enrolment rates in public schools have declined since 1995-96 particularly a large decline has been observed in rural areas. It is generally perceived by parents that quality of education in private schools are better than the public schools, therefore, those parents who can afford prefer to send their children to private schools. These trends indicate that the public education system is unable to meet public demand for providing quality education in the country.