Residing in the seventh most populous country, Pakistan’s 150 million people live under some of the most difficult conditions in the world. According to the 2007 UNDP Human Development report, Pakistan ranked 136 out of 177 countries in the world - the bottom 8% globally. 33% of the population lives below the international poverty line, 40% have no access to basic health services, and 45% have no access to safe drinking water.
History of Education in Pakistan
In the early 1970s, all of Pakistan’s educational institutions were nationalized under the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was committed to the idea of Islamic Socialism. For the next decade, Pakistan’s entire system of education was state-run. Growing demand for education fast outpaced the establishment of new public schools, and in 1979 a government commission reviewed the consequences of nationalization and concluded that in view of the poor participation rates at all levels of education, the public sector could no longer be the country’s sole provider of education. By the mid-1980s, private educational institutions were allowed to operate on the condition that they comply with government-recognized standards.
In 2002, the Government decided to introduce ‘English Medium Education’ on a phased basis and to substantially end the right to ’Mother Tongue Education’. This new policy, which is termed Education Sector Reforms, states that “English language has been made compulsory from Class-1 onwards" and the "Introduction of English as medium of instruction for Science, Mathematics, Computer Science and other selected subjects like Economics and Geography in all schools in a graduated manner".
Problems and Challenges
Education is not valued in the same way as it may be valued in other parts of the world, especially for girls. The World Bank estimates only 40% of Pakistanis are literate, and many rural areas lack public schools. Lack of access to government sponsored primary education is a problem. Nationwide, 40% of primary school teachers drawing a salary from the government simply do not report for work. In neighborhoods that struggle to secure basic food and shelter, parents choose to send their children to madrasas that provide boarding facilities.
The overall quality of teaching is poor and current methods for teaching are inadequate across subjects. Teachers are mired in repetition, and there is no emphasis on language or reading in the classroom. Students have no support or access to reading materials at home as their parents are illiterate. Schools conditions, such as facilities, classrooms, equipment, and even hygiene are poor. 50% of the government schools have no electricity, 35% of them have no toilets, and 6% have no buildings at all.
According to a 2006-07 Survey by the Pakistani government and using the definition of literacy as “the ability of a person who can read a newspaper and write a simple letter in any language,” the literacy rate in Pakistan overall was at 55%. However, literacy rates vary widely by province and by sex.
Spend on Education
The Pakistan government has never spent more than 2.5% of its GDP on education, and this number remains below 3.0% even when including the spend by the private sector on education. UNESCO recommends a minimum of 4.0% of GDP to be spent on education; only in 2007-08 did Pakistan surpass Bangladesh slightly to be second-to-last in education spend as percent of GDP in South Asia.