State of Education in Pakistan

This Article was published in
The Frontier Post (April 24, 2011) (April 24, 2011)

By Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

Pakistan's education system has failed to equip the youth with the skills necessary for the development of a modern state, society and economy. The government-run schools and colleges educate the vast majority of children. But their performance compared to the private sector educational institutions is rather poor. Since education is a provincial subject after the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, it is yet to be seen whether the provinces have the capacity and necessary resources to manage education in a satisfactory manner. A quick look at the state of education is in order here below:

Pakistan is falling significantly short of its constitutional obligation to provide universal primary education. And while the demand for education remains high, poorer families will only send their children to a school system that is relevant to their everyday lives and economic necessities. The failure of the public school system to deliver such education is contributing to the madaris boom as it is to school dropout rates, child labor, delinquency and crime.

Public school students are restricted to an outdated syllabus and are unable to compete in an increasingly competitive job market against the products of upper class private schools that teach in English, follow a different curriculum and have a fee structure that is unaffordable to most families.

The involvement of politics in the education sector created a lot of problems due to the injection of political appointments. This further damaged public education. Many educators, once ensconced as full time civil servants, rise through the system despite having little if any interest and experience in teaching. The widespread phenomenon of non-functional, even non-existent "ghost" schools and teachers that exist only on paper but eat into a limited budget is an indication of the level of corruption in this sector. Provincial education departments have insufficient resources and personnel to monitor effectively and clamp down on rampant bribery and manipulation at the local level.

The public school system's deteriorating infrastructure, falling educational standards and distorted educational system impact mostly, if not entirely, on Pakistan's poor, thus widening the linguistic, social and economic divisions between the privileged and underprivileged and increasing ethnic and religious alienation that has led to violent protests. Far from curtailing extremism, the public school system risks provoking an upsurge of violence if its problems are not quickly and comprehensively addressed.

Private Education Sector is totally commercial-based and the educationists emphasize on the maximizing of profit instead of educating the nation. That’s why the whole private school system, colleges and universities are far away from the reach of general public. As a result, today nearly 50 million Pakistanis, half the adult population, cannot even read or write. Female literacy rate is approximately 42 percent which is much lower than male literacy; approximately 65 percent. This disparity is more pronounced in rural areas, where only 31 percent of women are claimed to be literate. We may easily find that some of the major factors that keep children uneducated are limited access to education, teacher absenteeism, low quality of education, poverty, corporal punishment and a high student-to-teacher ratio.

Pakistan's literacy rate is substantially lower than that of many developing nations; only about a fourth of all adults are literate. A significant percentage of those who are literate, however, have not had any formal education. Educational levels for women are much lower than those for men. The share of females in educational levels progressively diminishes above the primary school level. Presently, access to school education is inadequate and there are also gender and rural-urban imbalances, both in the availability and quality of education.

Education remains inequitably distributed among the various regions and income groups in the country. Literacy and participation rates are lower than those of other countries with similar levels of economic development. The target of minimum essential requirement for quality education has not yet been achieved. There are shortages of trained and qualified teachers, especially females. Educational Institutions also lack proper physical infrastructure, and on the other hand some are sub-optimally utilized. Teachers lack training, dedication, motivation and interest in their profession. Curricula, too, are mostly non-relevant to the present day requirements.

The low base of higher education is reflected in total student enrolment of 100,000 at the graduate and university levels. The funding for higher education in Pakistan is only 0.39 percent which is very low as compared to other countries. This should be raised to at least 5.0 percent of the GNP. Our neighboring country India is spending 6% of the GNP on Education. The national education budget of France amounts to $65.96 million or 23.31% of the overall national budget and represents 3.91% of the GNP while Malaysia is spending 17.2% of its budget on education.

At present, 2.6 percent of the relevant age group has access to higher education in Pakistan. The total enrollment in public sector universities is around 100,000 students. Given the present rate of population growth, Pakistan would have approximately 25 million population in the age group of 17-23 years. Such a large number of students’ population would require a variety of institutions. In order to develop the country's human resources, what is required is the need to enhance the access to higher education to at least 10 percent of this age group. For this purpose, the nation needs a greater differentiation and proliferation of institutions and a much larger role by the private sector as the state cannot provide sufficient funding. It is, therefore, important that the private sector should be encouraged to set up institutions of higher education.

Rather I would suggest a public-private collaboration to improve the standard of education in the country in addition to making education accessible to people belonging to far flung areas. This collaboration would not only bring in uniformity of structures, curriculum and affordability of fees but also generate enough incomes for both sectors.

At present, the Technical-Vocational Education (TVE) facilities are highly inadequate and there is a dire need to broaden the base of TVE. In order to implement the concept of integration of skill development with the general stream of education, technical stream should be introduced at secondary school level, parallel to science and arts group. To implement this concept, the following steps may be taken:

  • Introduction of Technical stream in existing high schools.
  • Establishment of Model Technical High Schools.
  • Translation of Technical Syllabus in Native (Urdu) Language

In order to improve the education situation in the country a comprehensive educational revolution is required. We have to analyze the current education system in detail and should address the problems in very adequate, progressive and professional manner.

  • Government education budget may be increased to 3 fold immediately. It should be targeted to be 6% of GNP till 2011.
  • New educational institutions should be launched at all of the primary, secondary and higher education levels.
  • Private sector should also be encouraged to Invest in the education field.
  • Education structure needs to be up-graded and redesigned according to the needs, and requirements of the nation and the country.