Pakistan’s education crisis: the real story

Before asking parents to get registered their children in school, we have to reduce the influence of feudal lords

Salman Ali August 06, 2017
The writer is a social and political activist based in Lahore. He has done his Master’s and MPhil in Communication Studies. He can be reached at

The convention on the rights of the child and many of the global education goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, aim at ensuring the right to quality education, which, unfortunately, millions of children and women around the world are deprived of. Globally, some 67 million children remain out of school. According to the EFA Development Index, Pakistan ranks 106 out of 113 countries only above Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. Similarly, despite Pakistan’s annual economic growth being 4.1 per cent, growth in expenditure on education is less than 2.5 per cent.

It is also mandated in the constitution of Pakistan to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of five-16 years and enhance adult literacy. But an eye-opener annual report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) provides a glimpse into the performance of the education sector in the country, during the year 2016. According to the report, the year 2016 witnessed tiny improvements in a few areas of the sector, but continued to see a decline in many. The official figures showed that the number of out-of-school children decreased from 25 million to 24 million, but the adult literacy rate went down from 58% to 56.4%. There was only moderate improvement in the learning outcome score – from 2015’s 52.33% to 54.78% in 2016.

The report said that a large number of schools failed to get basic facilities. The most disturbing news of the educational year was that the federal and two provincial governments – Punjab and Balochistan – cut their budgetary allocations for the sector, despite showy claims of giving education a priority.

On the other side, the United Nations Global Education Monitoring Report 2016, released in September last year, claimed that Pakistan was 50-plus years behind in its primary and 60-plus years behind in its secondary education targets. That means the country is set to miss by more than half-a-century the deadline for ensuring that all children receive primary education. The report said that Pakistan had the most absolute number of children out of school anywhere in the world, including 5.6 million out of primary schools, around 5.5 million out of secondary schools (48% of lower secondary school age children), and a staggering 10.4 million adolescents out of upper secondary schools. According to the HRCP report, in 2016 in Balochistan there was no record of 15,000 teachers, and there were over 900 ghost schools in the province with almost 300,000 fake registrations of students.

A study titled “Pakistan’s Education Crisis: The Real Story” noted that the United States, Britain and the World Bank poured money into Pakistan’s stagnating public education sector, but the number of children out of school is still second only to Nigeria. The data collected by Wilson Centre, however, noted improvement in teacher absenteeism, which dropped from 20% to 6% in Punjab during the past five years.

A detailed and comprehensive report titled “Pakistan District Rankings Report For 2016” published by Alif Ailaan, explained all the aspects of the education sector in Pakistan. The basic nutshell of the report is that where Pakistan is pitching in education.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led provincial government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has always claimed giving top priority to education and health. However, the HRCP report revealed that most of the total 28,000 schools in the province lacked basic facilities. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Independent Monitoring Unit said in its May 2016 report that 26% of the government schools did not have potable water facility, and 10% had no boundary walls, despite the province facing a sensitive law and order situation. Also, 11% schools have no toilets and 34% have no electricity connections.

Different districts’ performance across the country was reported very poor. In Balochistan, according to a report, released by the Academy of Educational Planning and Management (AEPAM), a federal government institution, more than 1.8 million children are out of school. The official data shows that there are 13,279 government schools in Balochistan. Of these, 84% are primary schools with only 16% schools offering middle and higher education to students. Almost 54% of the total primary schools operate with only one teacher. Almost 26% government schools in Balochistan function with only one classroom. And across Balochistan, the condition of 83% of government primary school buildings is “unsatisfactory”. Moreover, the HRCP report notes with concern that the federal as well as provincial governments’ priorities seemed misplaced in the field of education.

I think the state does not seem sincere to this sector. The education at primary level particularity in public schools is somewhat satisfactory in cities but in rural or remote areas of the four provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory expose a dismal picture. The reason for this is that the tribal lords are still powerful and influential in their areas from where they get elected and reach the assemblies where they decide the common people’s fate. They are not in favour that the children of poor people can get quality education in public schools and this is the reason why public schools wear a deserted look.

The other thing is that NGOs are working to get as many students as possible admitted to public or private schools but much of their effort goes in vain. First, we have to convince parents by delivering lectures to them through our motivated and well-groomed teams. Parents may be reprimanded by saying if they do not get registered their children in school strict action would be taken against them, might be this message change their mind but first we have to reduce the influence of feudal lords otherwise we may not be able to get the desired result in this regard and the situation would remain the same.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2017.

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Reginald Perry | 6 years ago | Reply The other HUGE problem that no one talks about is that many children in Pakistan are going to school in languages they don't speak well, so of course it is hard for them to understand the teacher or be successful. Around the world mother tongue based education has had good results, and it should be done more in Pakistan, based on the good models that have been successful elsewhere.
MUHAMMAD KAUKAB | 6 years ago | Reply The simple way to change the mindset of Feudal Lords is to abolish feudalism , Are the TABDILI mantra people are ready to abolish feudalism to bring structural reform. IMRAN KHAN stand up and give the undertaking as in the presence of feudal system all purported changes will be cosmetic. Naya Pakistan can only be built after abolition of feudal system as Democracy is not about voting but equal political opportunities for all citizens and the same can only be achieved when feudalism is legally abolished in Pakistan.
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