Standard of Education in Pakistan

Updated: Aug 29

According to the dictionary, the meaning of “Education” is, “the process of teaching or learning in a school or college or the knowledge you get from this.”

Education is important for every country and the criterion of being a developed country includes valuing education and having an educated population. An important purpose of education is to make life easier and better by making use of one's abilities, it also helps individuals develop a strong relationships with other members of society. It is globally accepted that education is the basis for a society’s survival and development. No movement in society can take place without education. We know very well that the development of the civilized world to this date has been propelled by education among other things.

If we look at the benefits of education we see that it leads to the advancement of knowledge and learning, for which there exists no finite destination. It is a never-ending endeavor. Education helps to develop the mental and other abilities of the new generation and make them productive members of society.

The importance and usefulness of education are so much that if we continue discussing it our article will probably become a booklet. Moving towards the main theme of the article which reflects the standard of education in Pakistan and discusses the impact of different systems of education which are implemented across the country.

In Pakistan, the amount of money spent on education, keeping in mind the population, is insufficient and unsatisfactory. To understand the education system of Pakistan, we will have to turn some pages of history. The education system of Pakistan has been affected by a number of historical developments, three of which are very important. First is the spread of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula which affected the neighboring countries too. Our own country, Pakistan, is an example of it, whether the population practice the religion as handed down by the Prophet Mohammad (SAW) or not is a different thing. We cannot segregate or separate our education system from the influence of Islam. The second phase starts with the arrival of the British and their occupation of the sub-continent. It started in 1857 and its influence is still ongoing. It changed the lifestyle of the people as it brought with it scientific and industrial development. It brought a change in our culture, traditions, and customs, the way we dress, what we eat, and even introduced changes into our languages.

When we talk about the standard of education in Pakistan what we see is that promises of expanding the education system and increasing its allocated budget have been made without result. This has led to a situation where out of all children who enter the system of education in Pakistan, hardly two percent of them are able to complete higher education. As a result, the need for an educated and trained population is not met. On top of this, high unemployment means that many of those who are skilled and trained are jobless.

Our education system has not been able to keep up with the increasing population growth rate. There are just a few who get a chance to start their schooling from first grade and even among them, a very small percentage are able to go beyond secondary classes. According to the Pakistan Education Statistics 2016- 2017 report, nearly 10.7 million boys and 8.6 million girls are enrolled at the primary level and this drops to 3.6 million boys and 2.8 million girls at the lower secondary level.

Improvement in terms of advancement in the education system in Pakistan at the primary and secondary levels has been unbelievably slow while at the higher level it appears to be at a standstill. Within the constitution of Pakistan, it is stated that all children between the ages of 5-16 years will be provided free compulsory education.

However, the country is still entangled in the following problems:

  1. Absence of proper planning.

  2. The lack of awareness regarding the importance of education among the population.

  3. Disbalance in the education system on the basis of gender, and unavailability of education for female students, at times, can take the form of opposition to female education from the people.

  4. Ever-increasing education expenses and inflation.

  5. Non-availability of funds and lack of commitment by the incumbent government.

  6. Uncontrolled terrorism, an example is the 2014 attack on Army Public School, Peshawar, and disruptions owing to terrorist activities in KPK around the same time.

In short, Pakistan has not fulfilled any of the promises made at the international level. If we compare our literacy rate and percentage of education with neighboring countries, we have reason to feel ashamed. The current literacy rate of Pakistan is 62.3 %. That of Myanmar (Burma) is 89.1%. Bhutan is 66.56% but slowly increasing. The literacy rate of Nepal was 68% in 2018 although many students discontinue education due to poverty to help their parents a situation similar to Pakistan.

The literacy rate of Sri Lanka is the best in the region at 92.38%. It has ten thousand public schools providing education to more than 4 million students. Education is free at every stage and compulsory till the age of 14 years.

In the second part of our article, we will conduct a comparison between various education systems that exist in our country. These systems can be divided into three categories, provincial, federal, and Cambridge systems. Two newly introduced systems are Aga Khan University-Education Board and International Baccalaureate. The education system at the university level is the same throughout the country and attempts to emulate different international systems.

The education system of each province differs, although the subjects taught at both secondary and higher secondary levels are the same except in Sindh. In Sindh, the Sindhi language is compulsory for all students at the primary and secondary levels even though it remains ineffectual for most students in the long run. There are two mediums of instruction, Urdu and English, whereas in Sindh there is a third medium, Sindhi. It is more prevalent in interior Sindh mostly and in some schools in the urban areas. The federal board administers education to certain schools throughout the country where the syllabus, curriculum, and textbooks are the same, whereas in the provinces the curriculum and syllabus might be the same but not the books. All the boards in the different provinces have their own authors and publishers, and as a result of which, the contents of each are different. Another problem that occurs in the country is the differences that exist between private and public or government schools. There is a difference in the standard of both, as in government schools, books used by the students are the ones prescribed by their boards, but in private schools, there are no two schools with the same prescribed books. To impress upon the parents that the education provided by them is better than the government-run schools, these private schools introduce books from foreign publishers such as Oxford or Cambridge Printing Press which can only be understood by parents if they themselves are educated and have a grip on the English language. On top of that, the teachers hired by these private schools themselves do not have a full grasp of the subject which they teach no matter even if they have a teacher's training diploma or degree.

Another factor that has led to the low standard of education at the primary and secondary levels is the mushrooming of schools in small areas as well as large or what can be called as ‘Gali Wallay School (alley schools). Some schools are run like businesses as investors see the private education system as a profitable venture. In a number of cases, the owners of these schools are least bothered about the education of their students as long as their pockets are getting filled. The various school systems across the country are another form of money minting machines, where, in the same city, their various branches offer dissimilar education.

Another system of education existing from pre-partition days and considered very prestigious is the Cambridge System of Education where students instead of 10 and 11 standard international exams appear for O-Level (Ordinary Level) exams and in place of 12 and 13 standards, they sit for A-Levels (Advanced Levels). Because it is an international exam, syllabi and books are adapted to each country’s requirements and countries are divided into zones. Each zone has a different schedule for the exam. One thing which I have personally observed is that in the last thirty or forty years or so, the syllabus has not changed and the questions are repeated at a gap of two or three years.

A recently introduced system is the Aga Khan University Examination Board which was established in 2003. Various schools throughout the country have joined this board. This system attempts to model a standard that combines features of the Cambridge System with that of the Federal Board. According to them, they are imparting conceptual learning. Their success rate is only known to a handful of people since only a limited number of schools follow this system.

Another hotchpotch system is the newly introduced Single National Curriculum (SNC), under which, each province has a say in the selection of books, however, the distribution of marks in the final exams is to be the same.

All these systems have their weaknesses and shortcomings. The major problem, however, is that the Ministry of Education is not playing its role efficiently and is not taking any help from qualified scholars and educationists, who are the ones with adequate knowledge about education planning and how it should be implemented.

Let us put an end to this with the hope that may there be someone who can honestly play his/her role in bringing improvement to our education system.


Faiza Zameer is an in-house writer at Perspective.

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