Education in Pakistan

Education in Pakistan
Federal Ministry of Education
Literacy (2016)
Total 60%[1]
Total 37,462,900[2]
Primary 22,650,000[2]
Secondary 2,884,400[2]
Post secondary 1,349,000[2]
Post-secondary diploma Parents

Education in Pakistan is overseen by the Federal Ministry of Education and the provincial governments, whereas the federal government mostly assists in curriculum development, accreditation and in the financing of research and development. Article 25-A of Constitution of Pakistan obligates the state to provide free and compulsory quality education to children of the age group 3 to 16 years. "The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such a manner as may be determined by law".[3]

The education system in Pakistan is generally divided into six levels: Preschool (for the age from 3 to 5 years); primary (grades one through five); middle (grades six through eight); high (grades nine and ten, leading to the Secondary School Certificate or SSC); intermediate (grades eleven and twelve, leading to a Higher Secondary (School) Certificate or HSC); and university programs leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees.[4]

The literacy rate ranges from 96% in Islamabad to 28% in the Kohlu District.[5] Between 2000 and 2004, Pakistanis in the age group 55–64 had a literacy rate of almost 38%, those ages 45–54 had a literacy rate of nearly 46%, those 25–34 had a literacy rate of 57%, and those ages 15–24 had a literacy rate of 72%.[6] Literacy rates vary regionally, particularly by sex. In tribal areas female literacy is 9.5%.[7] Moreover, English is fast spreading in Pakistan, with more than 92 million Pakistanis (49% of the population) having a command over the English language,[8] which makes it one of the top English-speaking nations in the world. On top of that, Pakistan produces about 445,000 university graduates and 10,000 computer science graduates per year.[9] Despite these statistics, Pakistan still has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world[10] and the second largest out of school population (5.1 million children) after Nigeria.[11]

Stages of formal education

Primary education

Children sitting and standing in a room
A primary school in a village in the Sindh region

Only 87% of Pakistani children finish primary school education.[12] The standard national system of education is mainly inspired from the British system. Pre-school education is designed for 3–5 years old and usually consists of three stages: Play Group, Nursery and Kindergarten (also called 'KG' or 'Prep'). After pre-school education, students go through junior school from grades 1 to 5. This is followed by middle school from grades 6 to 8. At middle school, single-sex education is usually preferred by the community, but co-education is also common in urban cities. The curriculum is usually subject to the institution. The eight commonly examined disciplines are Urdu, English, mathematics, arts, science, social studies, Islamic studies and sometimes computer studies (subject to availability of a computer laboratory). Provincial and regional languages such as Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto and others may be taught in their respective provinces, particularly in language-medium schools. Some institutes give instruction in foreign languages such as Turkish, Arabic, Persian, French and Chinese. The language of instruction depends on the nature of the institution itself, whether it is an English-medium school or an Urdu-medium school.

As of 2009, Pakistan faces a net primary school attendance rate for both sexes of 66 percent: a figure below estimated world average of 90 percent.[13]

Pakistan's poor performance in the education sector is mainly caused by the low level of public investment. Public expenditure on education has been 2.2 percent of GNP in recent years, a marginal increase from 2 percent before 1984-85. In addition, the allocation of government funds is skewed towards higher education, allowing the upper income class to reap majority of the benefits of public subsidy on education. Lower education institutes such as primary schools suffer under such conditions as the lower income classes are unable to enjoy subsidies and quality education. As a result, Pakistan has one of the lowest rates of literacy in the world and the lowest among countries of comparative resources and socio-economic situations.[14]

Secondary education

Secondary education in Pakistan begins from grade 9 and lasts for four years. After end of each of the school years, students are required to pass a national examination administered by a regional Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (or BISE).

Upon completion of grade 9, students are expected to take a standardised test in each of the first parts of their academic subjects. They again give these tests of the second parts of the same courses at the end of grade 10. Upon successful completion of these examinations, they are awarded a Secondary School Certificate (or SSC). This is locally termed as 'matriculation certificate' or 'matric' for short. The curriculum usually includes a combination of eight courses including electives (such as Biology, Chemistry, Computer and Physics) as well as compulsory subjects (such as Mathematics, English, Urdu, Islamic studies and Pakistan Studies).

Students then enter an intermediate college and complete grades 11 and 12. Upon completion of each of the two grades, they again take standardised tests in their academic subjects. Upon successful completion of these examinations, students are awarded the Higher Secondary (School) Certificate (or HSC). This level of education is also called the FSc/FA/ICS or 'intermediate'. There are many streams students can choose for their 11 and 12 grades, such as pre-medical, pre-engineering, humanities (or social sciences), computer science and commerce. Each stream consists of three electives and as well as three compulsory subjects of English, Urdu, Islamiat (grade 11 only) and Pakistani Studies (grade 12 only).

Alternative qualifications in Pakistan are available but are maintained by other examination boards instead of BISE. Most common alternative is the General Certificate of Education (or GCE), where SSC and HSC are replaced by Ordinary Level (or O Level) and Advanced Level (or A Level) respectively. Other qualifications include IGCSE which replaces SSC. GCE and GCSE O Level, IGCSE and GCE AS/A Level are managed by British examination boards of CIE of the Cambridge Assessment and/or Edexcel International of the Pearson PLC. Generally, 8-10 courses are selected by students at GCE O Levels and 3-5 at GCE A Levels.

Advanced Placement (or AP) is an alternative option but much less common than GCE or IGCSE. This replaces the secondary school education as 'High School Education' instead. AP exams are monitored by a North American examination board, College Board, and can only be given under supervision of centers which are registered with the College Board, unlike GCE O/AS/A Level and IGCSE which can be given privately.

There is another type of education in Pakistan which is called "Technical Education", gathering technical and vocational Education. The vocational curriculum starts at grade 5 and ends on grade 10.[15] Three boards, Punjab Board of Technical Education, NWFP Board of Technical Education, and Sindh Board of Technical Education, provide facilities of technical education. PBTE (Punjab Board of Technical Education) offering Matric tac. and D.A.E. (Diploma of Associate Engineering) in technologies like Civil, Chemical, Architecture, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics, Computer Sciences and many more technologies. This is three years program and combines Physics, Chemistry, Islamic study, Pakistan Study and other more than 25 books related to their Technology. After matric and then three years diploma is equal to 12th grade, and diploma holder iscalled Associate Engineer. Either they can join their respective field or can take admission in B.Tech. or BE in their related technology after D.A.E.

Tertiary education

The University of the Punjab, established 1882 in Lahore, is the oldest university of Pakistan.

According to the UNESCO's 2009 Global Education Digest, 6% of Pakistanis (9% of men and 3.5% of women) were university graduates as of 2007.[16] Pakistan plans to increase this figure to 10% by 2015 and subsequently to 15% by 2020.[17] There is also a great deal of variety between age cohorts. Less than 6% of those in the age cohort 55-64 have a degree, compared to 8% in the 45-54 age cohort, 11% in the 35-44 age cohort and 16% in the age cohort 25-34.[16]

GIK Institute from the Clock Tower
Quaid-i-Azam University entrance

After earning their HSC, students may study in a professional college for Bachelor's degree courses such as engineering (B.Engg/BS Engg.), B.Tech Hons/BS Engg.Tech medicine (MBBS), dentistry (BDS), veterinary medicine (DVM), law (LLB), architecture (B.Arch), pharmacy (Pharm-D) and nursing (B.Nurs). These courses require four or five years of study. There are some councils and boards that will handle all the education matters in these cases; they are the PMDC, Pakistan pharmacy council and Pakistan nursing council. Students can also attend a university for Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) or Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree courses. These all are the courses that are done in Pakistan and are really common. These days doctor of pharmacy is also gaining much reputation. The pharmacy council of Pakistan is doing huge struggle to make the pharmacy education better. Polytechnics and colleges of technology offers technical education.[15]

There are two types of Bachelor courses in Pakistan: Pass or Honors. Pass degree requires two years of study and students normally read three optional subjects (such as Chemistry or Economics) in addition to almost equal number of compulsory subjects (such as English and Pakistan Studies). Honours degree requires three or four years of study, and students normally specialize in a chosen field of study, such as Biochemistry (BSc Hons. Biochemistry).

Pass Bachelors is now slowly being phased out for Honours throughout the country.

COMSATS Institute of Information Technology is the Pakistan's #1 ranked university in COMPUTERS & IT Sector by HEC2012 & HEC2013

Quaternary education

Most of Master's degree programs require two years education. Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is available in most of the subjects and can be undertaken after doing Masters. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) education is available in selected areas and is usually pursued after earning a MPhil degree. Students pursuing MPhil or PhD degrees must choose a specific field and a university that is doing research work in that field. MPhil and PhD education in Pakistan requires a minimum of two years of study.

Non formal and informal education

Out of the formal system, the public sectors runs numerous schools and training centres, most being vocational-oriented. Among those institutions can be found vocational schools, technical training centres and agriculture and vocational training centres. An apprenticechip system is also framed by the Pakistanese State.[15] Informal education is also important in Pakistan and regroups mostly school-leavers and low-skilled individuals, who are trained under the supervision of a senior craftsman.[15]

Gender disparity

In Pakistan, gender discrimination in education occurs amongst the poorest households but is non-existent amongst rich households.[11] Only 18% of Pakistani women have received 10 years or more of schooling.[11] Among other criticisms the Pakistani education system faces is the gender disparity in enrollment levels. However, in recent years some progress has been made in trying to fix this problem. In 1990-91, the female to male ratio (F/M ratio) of enrollment was 0.47 for primary level of education. It reached to 0.74 in 1999-2000, showing the F/M ratio has improved by 57.44% within the decade. For the middle level of education it was 0.42 in the start of decade and increased to 0.68 by the end of decade, so it has improved almost 62%. In both cases the gender disparity is decreased but relatively more rapidly at middle level.[18]

The gender disparity in enrollment at secondary level of education was 0.4 in 1990-91 and 0.67 in 1999-2000, showing that the disparity decreased by 67.5% in the decade. At the college level it was 0.50 in 1990-91 and reached 0.81 in 1999-2000, showing that the disparity decreased by 64%. The gender disparity has decreased comparatively rapidly at secondary school.[18]

The gender disparity is affected by the Taliban enforcement of a complete ban on female education in the Swat district, as reported in a January 21, 2009 issue of the Pakistan daily newspaper The News. Some 400 private schools enrolling 40,000 girls have been shut down. At least 10 girls' schools that tried to open after the January 15, 2009 deadline by the Taliban were blown up by the militants in the town of Mingora, the headquarters of the Swat district.[19] "More than 170 schools have been bombed or torched, along with other government-owned buildings."[19]

There is great difference in the rates of enrollment of boys, as compared to girls in Pakistan. According to UNESCO figures, primary school enrolment for girls stand at 60 per cent as compared to 84 percent for boys. The secondary school enrolment rate stands at a lower rate of 32 percent for females and 46 per cent males. Regular school attendance for female students is estimated at 41 per cent while that for male students is 50 per cent.[13]

Qualitative dimension

In Pakistan, the quality of education has a declining trend. Shortage of teachers and poorly equipped laboratories have resulted in the out-dated curriculum that has little relevance to present day needs.[14]


Abdus Salam

University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore
Main article: Abdus Salam

Abdus Salam was a Pakistani theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in physics for his work on the electroweak unification of the electromagnetic and weak forces. Salam, Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg shared the 1979 Nobel prize for this work. Salam holds the distinction of being the first Pakistani to receive the Nobel Prize in any field. Salam heavily contributed to the rise of Pakistani physics to the Physics community in the world.[20][21]

Ayub Ommaya

Ayub Ommaya was a Pakistani neurosurgeon who heavily contributed to his field. Over 150 research papers have been attributed to him. He also invented the Ommaya Reservoir medical procedure. It is a system of delivery of medical drugs for treatment of patients with brain tumours.


Mahbub-ul-Haq was a Pakistani economist who along with Indian economist Amartya Sen developed the Human Development Index (HDI), the modern international standard for measuring and rating human development.


Atta-ur-Rehman is a Pakistani scientist known for his work in the field of natural product chemistry. He has over 935 research papers attributed to him.

Education expenditure as percentage of GDP

Public expenditure on education lies on the fringes of 2 percent of GDP of this nation.[22] However, in 2009 the government approved the new national education policy, which stipulates that education expenditure will be increased to 7% of GDP,[23] an idea that was first suggested by the Punjab government.[24]

The author of an article, which reviews the history of education spending in Pakistan since 1972, argues that this policy target raises a fundamental question: What extraordinary things are going to happen that would enable Pakistan to achieve within six years what it has been unable to lay a hand on in the past six decades? The policy document is blank on this question and does not discuss the assumptions that form the basis of this target. Calculations of the author show that during the past 37 years, the highest public expenditure on education was 2.80 percent of GDP in 1987-88. Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP was actually reduced in 16 years and maintained in 5 years between 1972–73 and 2008-09. Thus, out of total 37 years since 1972, public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP either decreased or remained stagnant for 21 years. The author argues if linear trend were maintained since 1972, Pakistan could have touched 4 percent of GDP well before 2015. However, it is unlikely to happen because the levels of spending have had remained significantly unpredictable and unsteady in the past. Given this disappointing trajectory, increasing public expenditure on education to 7 percent of GDP would be nothing less than a miracle but it is not going to be of godly nature. Instead, it is going to be the one of political nature because it has to be "invented" by those who are at the helm of affairs. The author suggests that little success can be made unless Pakistan adopts an "unconventional" approach to education. That is to say, education sector should be treated as a special sector by immunizing budgetary allocations for it from fiscal stresses and political and economic instabilities. Allocations for education should not be affected by squeezed fiscal space or surge in military expenditure or debts. At the same time, there is a need to debate others options about how Pakistan can "invent" the miracle of raising education expenditure to 7 percent of GDP by 2015.[25]

Universities Rankings

According to the Quality Standard World University Ranking for 2014, QAU, PIEAS, AKU, NUST, LUMS, CIIT, KU, Punjab University, UAF and UET Lahore are ranked among top 300 universities in Asia.[26]

Religion and education

Education in Pakistan is heavily influenced by religion. For instance, one study of Pakistani science teachers showed that many rejected evolution based on religious grounds.[27] However, most of the Pakistani teachers who responded to the study (14 out of 18) either accepted or considered the possibility of the evolution of living organisms, although nearly all Pakistani science teachers rejected human evolution because they believed that ‘human beings did not evolve from monkeys.’ This is a major misconception and incorrect interpretation of the science of evolution, but according to the study it is a common one among many Pakistani teachers. Although many of the teachers rejected the evolution of humans, " all agreed that there is ‘no contradiction between science and Islam’ in general".[27]

Literacy rate

Literacy Rate - Pakistan
Literacy Map Pakistan
Literacy by Province
Literacy by Federal Area
Literacy over time in selected districts

From census to census the definition of literacy has been undergoing changes, with the result that the literacy figure has vacillated irregularly during the last 10 censuses. A summary of the censuses is as follows:[28]

Year of
Male[28] Female[28] Total[28] Urban[29] Rural[29] Definition of
being "literate"[28]
1951 19.2%[30] 12.2%[30] 16.4% -- -- One who can read a clear
print in any language
All Ages
1961 26.9%[30] 8.2%[30] 16.3% 34.8% 10.6% One who is able to read with
understanding a simple letter in any language
Age 5 and above
1972 30.2% 11.6% 21.7% 41.5% 14.3% One who is able to read and
write in some language with understanding
Age 10 and Above
1981 35.1% 16.0% 26.2% 47.1% 17.3% One who can read newspaper
and write a simple letter
Age 10 and Above
1998 54.8% 32.0% 43.9% 63.08% 33.64% One who can read a newspaper
and write a simple letter, in any language
Age 10 and Above
2004 66.25% 41.75% 54% 71%[31] 44%[31]
2009[32] 69% 45% 57% 74% 48%

Table below shows the literacy rate of Pakistan by province.

Province Literacy Rate[28]
1972 1981 1998 2012[32] 2015[33]
Punjab 20.7% 27.4% 46.6% 71% 63%
Sindh 30.2% 31.5% 45.3% 69% 60%
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 15.5% 16.7% 35.4% 60% 53%
Balochistan 10.1% 10.3% 26.6% 50% 44%

Table below shows the literacy rate of Federally Administered Areas.

Region Literacy Rate
1981 1998 2007
Islamabad 57.8%[34][35] 72.88%[34] 96%[5]
Azad Kashmir 35.7%[36] 65%[37] 68%(2012)[38]
Gilgit-Baltistan 21% (female)[39] 57.85%[39] 62%(2012)[39]
Tribal Areas 6.38%[34] 17.42%[40][41] 22%[7]
Literacy rate of Pakistani districts (2007)[42]
Rank District Province Literacy rate Rank District Province Literacy rate
2 Abbottabad Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 96% 12 Faisalabad Punjab 62%
1 Islamabad Capital Territory 96% 11 Quetta Balochistan 62%
3 Jhelum Punjab 97% 13 Mandi Bahauddin Punjab 62%
4 Karachi Sindh 77% 14 Toba Tek Singh Punjab 62%
5 Lahore Punjab 88% 15 Attock Punjab 61%
6 Chakwal Punjab 85% 16 Ziarat Balochistan 61%
7 Rahim Yar Khan Punjab 71% 17 Mianwali Punjab 60%
8 Gujranwala Punjab 69% 18 Sialkot Punjab 59%
2 Rawalpindi Punjab 91% 19 Sheikhupura Punjab 59%
10 Haripur Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 63% 20 Dera Ghazi Khan Punjab 59%
21 Layyah Punjab 59% 22 Bhakkar Punjab 56%

School attendance

Population age 10 and over that has ever attended school, highest and lowest figures by region. Islamabad has the highest rate in the country at 85%, whilst Jhal Magsi has the lowest rate at 20%.[43]

Province Highest Lowest
Punjab Rawalpindi (86%) Muzaffargarh and Rajanpur (48%)
Sindh Karachi (78%) Jacobabad (44%)
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Abbottabad (88%) Upper Dir (42%)
Balochistan Quetta (99%) Jhal Magsi (28%) [ Hunza District|Hunza] (97.9%) Diamir 45%

Comparison with other countries

Source: UNESCO[11]

Adult Literacy Rate

Country Adult Literacy Rate Male Female
Pakistan 55% 69% 40%
India 78% 75%51[44]%
Bangladesh 57% 61% 52%
Nepal 49% 73% 48%
Bhutan 53% 65% 79%


Youth Literacy Rate

Country Youth Literacy Rate Male Female
Pakistan 71% 79% 61%
India 90.2% 92.9% 87.2%[45]
Bangladesh 68% 75% 78%
Nepal 61% 89% 78%
Bhutan 74% 80% 68%

International education

As of January 2015, the International Schools Consultancy (ISC)[46] listed Pakistan as having 439 international schools.[47] ISC defines an 'international school' in the following terms "ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country's national curriculum and is international in its orientation."[47] This definition is used by publications including The Economist.[48]

See also


  1. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Ministry of Education, Pakistan" (PDF).
  3. "VU Solution". VU Solution.
  4. Peter Blood, ed. (1994). "Pakistan - EDUCATION". Pakistan: A Country Study. GPO for the Library of Congress. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  5. 1 2 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 13, 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
  6. "Figure 7.7" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-03.
  7. 1 2
  8. List of countries by English-speaking population
  9. InpaperMagazine. "Towards e-learning".
  10. "Literacy Rate in Pakistan Province Wise | Pakistan Literacy Rate". 2010-09-28. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  11. 1 2 3 4 "Youth and skills: putting education to work, EFA global monitoring report, 2012; 2013" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-03.
  12. Stuteville, Sarah (August 16, 2009). "". The Seattle Times.
  13. 1 2 UNESCO Institute for Statistics. "Adjusted net enrolment ratio in primary education". UNESCO. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  14. 1 2 Rasool Memon, Ghulam (2007). "Education in Pakistan: The Key Issues, Problems and The New Challenges" (PDF). Journal of Management and Social Sciences. 3 (1): 47–55. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  15. 1 2 3 4 "Vocational education in Pakistan". UNESCO-UNEVOC. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  16. 1 2 Global Education Digest 2009 (PDF). UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 2009.
  17. Archived September 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. 1 2 Khan, Tasnim; Khan, Rana Ejaz Ali (2004). "Gender Disparity in Education - Extents, Trends and Factors" (PDF). Journal of Research (Faculty of Languages & Islamic Studies). Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  19. 1 2 The News, Pakistan, January 21, 2009.
  20. Ishfaq Ahmad (1998-11-21). "CERN and Pakistan: a personal perspective". CERN Courier. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
  21. Riazuddin (1998-11-21). "Pakistan Physics Centre". ICTP. Retrieved 2011. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  22. "No improvement witnessed in utilisation of education budgets". The News. 28 April 2016.
  23. Khawar Ghumman. "Education to be allocated seven pc of GDP". Archived from the original on September 12, 2009.
  24. Archived September 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  25. Mazhar Siraj (4 July 2010). "Increasing Education Expenditure to 7 percent of GDP in Pakistan: Eyes on the Miracle". Business Recorder. Islamabad
  26. "QS University Rankings: Asia 2014". Retrieved 2015-05-28.
  27. 1 2 Asghar, A. (2013) Canadian and Pakistani Muslim teachers’ perceptions of evolutionary science and evolution education.Evolution: Education and Outreach 2013, 6:10
  28. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Pakistan: where and who are the world's illiterates?; Background paper for the Education for all global monitoring report 2006: literacy for life; 2005" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-03.
  29. 1 2 3 "Literacy trends in Pakistan; 2004" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-03.
  30. 1 2 3 4 "Copy of Statistical Profile2.cdr" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-03.
  31. 1 2 Archived July 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  32. 1 2
  33. "Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16 (Education)" (PDF). Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  34. 1 2 3 "Pakistan". CENSUS. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  36. "AJK literacy rate 1981 census - Google Search". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  37. Human Rights Watch: "With Friends Like These..." - Human Rights Watch - Google Books. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  38. Archived February 27, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  39. 1 2 3
  40. "Government Steps Up Efforts To Improve Literacy Status In Fata". 2010-06-17. Retrieved 2013-12-10.
  44. India Year Book 2015
  45. 1 2
  46. "International School Consultancy Group > Home".
  47. 1 2 "International School Consultancy Group > Information > ISC News".
  48. "The new local". The Economist. 17 December 2014.

Further reading

External links

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