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The state of education in Pakistan since independence

Published on 25th Mar, Edition 13, 2013


“You know the importance of education and the right type of education cannot be over-emphasized… If we are to make real, speedy and substantial progress, we must earnestly tackle this question…having regard to the modern conditions and vast developments that have taken place all over the world.” Quaid-e-Azam.

It was under the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam that our nation, Pakistan was created. Being the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Holy Quran is taken into consideration regarding several matters. Regarding education, the Holy Quran places great emphasis on its attainment. From the above quote, the Father of the Nation too has stressed the need for education. However, despite the repeated rhetoric, education has remained one of the most neglected aspects in the country. Since the creation of Pakistan, education has not been given its due importance which has led to low levels of literacy in which female illiteracy is the highest in the world. The quality of education provided is relatively low with teachers being under paid for their services and not adequately trained. The students too do not see any positive relationship between attaining education which could lead them to have a high status and higher earnings in society, making them indifferent towards education on the whole.

In the initial years of the development of the country as well as many years after, planners in Pakistan have continued to allocate inadequate amounts of resources towards the education sector, particularly for primary education. Moreover, the money which was allocated has not been spent in the most effective manner. It could be said that the neglect and the state of the education system in Pakistan is partially due to the hostile attitude of the feudal lords as well the apathetic attitude of the elites who would rather send their children to English medium schools in Pakistan and abroad for higher education. With such a response from the citizens of Pakistan themselves, there seems to be no pressure on the government to rectify this problem and allocate the required amount of funds to the sector.

Between the periods of 1947-1997, there have been a number of attempts made by the government to try and analyze the problem of education in Pakistan. There have been various policies which have been devised over the years to structure the education system in the country similar to what the Quaid had in mind. In chronological order, the following conferences have taken place to devise educational policies for the country; The All Pakistan Education Conference (1947), Education Conference (1951), National Commission on Education (1959), Education Policy with Nationalization (1972), National Education Policy (1979) and the Education Policy (1992).

The main areas which the above mentioned policies and conferences focused on consisted of the national unity, development of individuals, social development and the progress of the economy, equal opportunities for the attainment of education with emphasis on vocational education and most importantly, enhancing the quality of education at various levels and ensuring its spread throughout the country and amongst all strata’s of society.

According to a report titled ‘Education in Pakistan: Fifty Years of Neglect’ by Akhtar Hasan Khan, investing in education is not merely a way of increasing one’s income. Instead, for developing countries, this investment is also associated with low infant mortality rates, low fertility rates as well as benefits which are associated with women receiving education. If education had been given importance, the state of Pakistan would be much better in terms of lower crime rates, less or no sectarianism and higher standards of living for families.

The present condition of education is faced with gender disparity as well. In comparison to the major countries of the world, Pakistan has the highest percentage of gender disparity. The enrolment at primary school level is 35 percent for girls and 65 percent for boys. Male and female literacy levels also have wide gaps with male literacy at 52 percent and female literacy at 20 percent. At the initial period of enrolment, the gap between the numbers of boys and girls enrolled is not very high, however, the difference becomes wider due to a large number of females dropping out.


Due to the state of the education system since independence, there is a need to find reasons to explain why Pakistan has not fared well in comparison to other countries in East Asia. The first explanation is the fact that despite being a country which regards its laws and policies to be run in accordance to Islam, it has disregarded verses in the Holy Quran, which emphasize the need to attain education and for man to increase his knowledge. Secondly, policy makers have failed to realize that human capital is the best in its category. The feudal system in society has also caused impediments as the feudal argue that if the children of the poor attain education, it will cause their status in society to be lowered, which will prevent them from asserting their dominance. Hence, the feudal structure is considered to be amongst the major hindrance to the growth of education in Pakistan. It is, however, not only the feudal that is to blame as during the period of martial law under Ayub Khan and General Zia, the feudals were not responsible for framing polices. During the reign of each of these rulers, the country was ruled by military and civil bureaucracy and in neither reigns had there been a desire to make aware the fact that without education, the nation cannot achieve economic growth and sustainable development.

Every child is entitled to the fundamental human right of education. The attainment of education is critical for the development of individuals and societies as it helps in paving the way towards a more productive and bright future. Making sure that children are provided with the quality education they deserve, a ripple effect is being created which is likely to affect coming generations positively. Despite knowing the benefits of education, unfortunately it is a field which has been deprived in Pakistan and has not received due attention from governments who have ruled in the past.

On the Education Development Index (an index which provides an assessment of a country’s education system in relation to the goals of the index) Pakistan ranks at the bottom along with Bangladesh within the region. The Global Competitiveness Index also shows the country’s performance to be weak in terms of education as health related elements in comparison to countries such as India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and China; all within a similar region.

Even though the public sector has a major role to play in providing the citizens with educational services, for the sector to make high quality education available to all requires the need of initiatives and various programs along with resources and the appropriate leadership. The best option would be for the public and private sectors to work together and make use of each other’s strengths in order to provide the best kind of educational services to the people of the country. During 2010-2011, the public sector was educating around 26.63 million students while 13.96 million were part of the private sector of education. There has gradually been immense interest in the private sector from the public and a great deal of trust has been put into it which is why the share of the private sector has gradually begun to increase. Thus, the policies should be structured in a way for both sectors to pool and make use of their resources in order to educate the youth of Pakistan to the best of their capabilities.

By having neglected education in the country, not only has the Holy Quran been ignored, but so has the Quaid. Not only has high levels of illiteracy led to the people of Pakistan facing conditions of poverty but the country is also faced with overpopulation and decaying of various institutions in the country. By ignoring the words of the holy book, we have prevented ourselves from moving forward with the rest of the world. It is time that we begin to give education the importance it deserves, considering the advantages associated with it. The current age of globalization and science and technology is one in which we need the people of our country to be well educated in order for them to be able to represent the country on an international level and be at par with the rest of the world.


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