Education System of Pakistan: Issues, Problems and Solutions
It is mandated in the Constitution of Pakistan to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 5-16 years and enhance adult literacy. With the 18th constitutional amendment the concurrent list which comprised of 47 subjects was abolished and these subjects, including education, were transferred to federating units as a move towards provincial autonomy.
The year 2015 is important in the context that it marks the deadline for the participants of Dakar declaration (Education For All [EFA] commitment) including Pakistan. Education related statistics coupled with Pakistan’s progress regarding education targets set in Vision 2030 and Pakistan’s lagging behind in achieving EFA targets and its Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) for education call for an analysis of the education system of Pakistan and to look into the issues and problems it is facing so that workable solutions could be recommended.
What is Education System?
The system of education includes all institutions that are involved in delivering formal education (public and private, for-profit and nonprofit, onsite or virtual instruction) and their faculties, students, physical infrastructure, resources and rules. In a broader definition the system also includes the institutions that are directly involved in financing, managing, operating or regulating such institutions (like government ministries and regulatory bodies, central testing organizations, textbook boards and accreditation boards). The rules and regulations that guide the individual and institutional interactions within the set up are also part of the education system.
Education system of Pakistan:
The education system of Pakistan is comprised of 260,903 institutions and is facilitating 41,018,384 students with the help of 1,535,461 teachers. The system includes 180,846 public institutions and 80,057 private institutions. Hence 31% educational institutes are run by private sector while 69% are public institutes.
Analysis of education system in Pakistan
Pakistan has expressed its commitment to promote education and literacy in the country by education policies at domestic level and getting involved into international commitments on education. In this regard national education policies are the visions which suggest strategies to increase literacy rate, capacity building, and enhance facilities in the schools and educational institutes. MDGs and EFA programmes are global commitments of Pakistan for the promotion of literacy.
A review of the education system of Pakistan suggests that there has been little change in Pakistan’s schools since 2010, when the 18th Amendment enshrined education as a fundamental human right in the constitution. Problems of access, quality, infrastructure and inequality of opportunity, remain endemic.
A) MDGs and Pakistan
Due to the problems in education system of Pakistan, the country is lagging behind in achieving its MDGs of education. The MDGs have laid down two goals for education sector:
Goal 2: The goal 2 of MDGs is to achieve Universal Primary Education (UPE) and by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. By the year 2014 the enrolment statistics show an increase in the enrolment of students of the age of 3-16 year while dropout rate decreased. But the need for increasing enrolment of students remains high to achieve MDGs target. Punjab is leading province wise in net primary enrolment rate with 62% enrolment. The enrolment rate in Sindh province is 52%, in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KPK) 54% and primary enrolment rate in Balochistan is 45%.
Goal 3: The goal 3 of MDGs is Promoting Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. It is aimed at eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005 and in all levels of education not later than 2015. There is a stark disparity between male and female literacy rates. The national literacy rate of male was 71% while that of female was 48% in 2012-13. Provinces reported the same gender disparity. Punjab literacy rate in male was 71% and for females it was 54%. In Sindh literacy rate in male was 72% and female 47%, in KPK male 70% and females 35%, while in Balochistan male 62% and female 23%.
B) Education for All (EFA) Commitment
The EFA goals focus on early childhood care and education including pre-schooling, universal primary education and secondary education to youth, adult literacy with gender parity and quality of education as crosscutting thematic and programme priorities.
EFA Review Report October 2014 outlines that despite repeated policy commitments, primary education in Pakistan is lagging behind in achieving its target of universal primary education. Currently the primary gross enrolment rate stands at 85.9% while Pakistan requires increasing it up to 100% by 2015-16 to fulfil EFA goals. Of the estimated total primary school going 21.4 million children of ages 5-9 years, 68.5% are enrolled in schools, of which 8.2 million or 56% are boys and 6.5 million or 44% are girls. Economic Survey of Pakistan confirms that during the year 2013-14 literacy remained much higher in urban areas than in rural areas and higher among males.
C) Vision 2030
Vision 2030 of Planning Commission of Pakistan looks for an academic environment which promotes the thinking mind. The goal under Vision 2030 is one curriculum and one national examination system under state responsibility. The strategies charted out to achieve the goal included:
(i) Increasing public expenditure on education and skills generation from 2.7% of GDP to 5% by 2010 and 7% by 2015.
(ii) Re-introduce the technical and vocational stream in the last two years of secondary schools.
(iii) Gradually increase vocational and technical education numbers to 25-30% of all secondary enrolment by 2015 and 50 per cent by 2030.
(iv) Enhance the scale and quality of education in general and the scale and quality of scientific/technical education in Pakistan in particular.
Problems: The issues lead to the comprehension of the problems which are faced in the development of education system and promotion of literacy. The study outlines seven major problems such as:
1) Lack of Proper Planning: Pakistan is a signatory to MDGs and EFA goals. However it seems that it will not be able to achieve these international commitments because of financial management issues and constraints to achieve the MDGs and EFA goals.
2) Social constraints: It is important to realize that the problems which hinder the provision of education are not just due to issues of management by government but some of them are deeply rooted in the social and cultural orientation of the people. Overcoming the latter is difficult and would require a change in attitude of the people, until then universal primary education is difficult to achieve.
3) Gender gap: Major factors that hinder enrolment rates of girls include poverty, cultural constraints, illiteracy of parents and parental concerns about safety and mobility of their daughters. Society’s emphasis on girl’s modesty, protection and early marriages may limit family’s willingness to send them to school. Enrolment of rural girls is 45% lower than that of urban girls; while for boys the difference is 10% only, showing that gender gap is an important factor.
4) Cost of education: The economic cost is higher in private schools, but these are located in richer settlements only. The paradox is that private schools are better but not everywhere and government schools ensure equitable access but do not provide quality education.
5) War on Terror: Pakistan’s engagement in war against terrorism also affected the promotion of literacy campaign. The militants targeted schools and students; several educational institutions were blown up, teachers and students were killed in Balochistan, KPK and FATA. This may have to contribute not as much as other factors, but this remains an important factor.
6) Funds for Education: Pakistan spends 2.4% GDP on education. At national level, 89% education expenditure comprises of current expenses such as teachers’ salaries, while only 11% comprises of development expenditure which is not sufficient to raise quality of education.
7) Technical Education: Sufficient attention has not been paid to the technical and vocational education in Pakistan. The number of technical and vocational training institutes is not sufficient and many are deprived of infrastructure, teachers and tools for training. The population of a state is one of the main elements of its national power. It can become an asset once it is skilled. Unskilled population means more jobless people in the country, which affects the national development negatively. Therefore, technical education needs priority handling by the government.
Poverty, law and order situation, natural disasters, budgetary constraints, lack of access, poor quality, equity, and governance have also contributed in less enrolments.
An analysis of the issues and problems suggest that:
The official data shows the allocation of funds for educational projects but there is no mechanism which ensures the proper expenditure of those funds on education.
- The existing infrastructure is not being properly utilized in several parts of the country.
- There are various challenges that include expertise, institutional and capacity issues, forging national cohesion, uniform standards for textbook development, and quality assurance.
- The faculty hiring process is historically known to be politicized. It is because of this that the quality of teaching suffers and even more so when low investments are made in teachers’ training. As a result teachers are not regular and their time at school is not as productive as it would be with a well-trained teacher.
- Inside schools there are challenges which include shortage of teachers, teacher absenteeism, missing basic facilities and lack of friendly environment.
- Out of school challenges include shortage of schools, distance – especially for females, insecurity, poverty, cultural norms, parents are reluctant or parents lack awareness.
There is a need for implementation of national education policy and vision 2030 education goals. An analysis of education policy suggests that at the policy level there are several admirable ideas, but practically there are some shortcomings also.
It may not be possible for the government at the moment to implement uniform education system in the country, but a uniform curriculum can be introduced in educational institutes of the country. This will provide equal opportunity to the students of rural areas to compete with students of urban areas in the job market.
Since majority of Pakistani population resides in rural areas and the access to education is a major problem for them, it seems feasible that a balanced approach for formal and informal education be adopted. Government as well as non-government sector should work together to promote education in rural areas.
The government should take measures to get school buildings vacated which are occupied by feudal lords of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab. Efforts should be made to ensure that proper education is provided in those schools.
The federal government is paying attention to the vocational and technical training, but it is important to make the already existing vocational and technical training centres more efficient so that skilled youth could be produced.
Since education is a provincial subject, the provincial education secretariats need to be strengthened. Special policy planning units should be established in provinces’ education departments for implementation of educational policies and formulation of new policies whenever needed. The provincial education departments need to work out financial resources required for realising the compliance of Article 25-A.
Federal Government should play a supportive role vis-à-vis the provinces for the early compliance of the constitutional obligation laid down in Article 25-A. Special grants can be provided to the provinces where the literacy rate is low.
Pakistan is not the only country which is facing challenges regarding promotion of literacy and meeting EFA and MDGs commitments. Education remains a subject which is paid least attention in the whole South Asian region. UNDP report 2014 suggests that there has been an improvement in other elements of human development such as life expectancy, per capita income and human development index value (in past 3 years); but there has been no progress in the number of schooling years. The expected average for years of schooling in 2010 was 10.6 years but the actual average of schooling remained 4.7 for all South Asian countries. In the year 2013 the expected average of number of years increased to 11.2 but the actual average of years of schooling of South Asian countries remained 4.7. Regional cooperation mechanism can also be developed to promote literacy in South Asian region. Sharing success stories, making country-specific modifications and their implementation can generate positive results.
- Technical education should be made a part of secondary education. Classes for carpentry, electrical, and other technical education must be included in the curriculum.
- Providing economic incentives to the students may encourage the parents to send their children to school and may help in reducing the dropout ratio.
- Local government system is helpful in promoting education and literacy in the country. In local government system the funds for education would be spent on a need basis by the locality.
- Corruption in education departments is one of the factors for the poor literacy in the country. An effective monitoring system is needed in education departments.
- For any system to work it is imperative that relevant structures are developed. Legislation and structure should be framed to plan for the promotion of education in the country. After the 18th amendment the education has become a provincial subject, therefore, the provinces should form legislations and design educational policies which ensure quality education.
- Unemployment of educated men and women is a major concern for Pakistan. There should be career counselling of the pupils in schools so that they have an understanding of job market and they can develop their skills accordingly.
- Counselling of parents is required, so that they can choose a career for their child which is market friendly.
- There are two approaches to acquiring education: First, which is being followed by many in Pakistan is to get education to earn bread and butter. The second approach is to get education for the sake of personal development and learning. This approach is followed by affluent and economically stable people who send their children to private schools and abroad for education. The problem arises when non-affluent families send their children to private schools, and universities. This aspiration for sending children for higher education is wrong, because the country does not need managers and officers only. There are several other jobs where people are needed. Hence the mind-set of sending one’s children to university only for becoming officers and managers needs to be changed.
The reforms required in the education system of Pakistan cannot be done by the government alone, public-private participation and a mix of formal as well as non-formal education can pull out majority of country’s population from illiteracy. Similarly, to make the youth of the country an asset, attention should also be paid to vocational and technical training.
Human Development Report 2014 “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience,” United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (New York: UNDP, 2014).
Mehnaz Aziz et al, “Education System Reform in Pakistan: Why, When, and How?” IZA Policy Paper No. 76, January 2014 (Institute for the Study of Labor, 2014), P 4.
Annual Report: Pakistan Education Statistics 2011-12, National Education Management Information System Academy of Educational Planning and Management, Ministry of Education, Trainings & Standards in Higher Education, Government of Pakistan, (Islamabad, AEPAM, 2013).
Economic Survey of Pakistan 2014, Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan.
Pakistan: Education for All 2015 National Review, Ministry of Education, Trainings and Standards in Higher Education Academy of Educational Planning and Management Islamabad, Pakistan June, 2014 (available at : http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002297/229718E.pdf).
Maliha Naveed, Reasons of Low Levels of Education in Pakistan, Pakistan Herald, January 03, 2013 (available at: http://www.pakistanherald.com/articles/reasons-of-low-levels-of-education-in-pakistan-3065).
“Pakistan may miss EFA goals by 2015-16: Report,” Daily Nation, October, 3, 2014.
Tags: Education • Education System • EFA • Illiteracy • MDGs • Pakistan • Vision 2030
|Ministry of Education|
Ministry of Primary and Mass Education
|Minister for Education|
Minister for Primary and Mass Education
|Nurul Islam Nahid|
|National education budget (2015)|
(172.951 billion Taka)
|Primary languages||Bengali, English|
|4 November 1972|
"Bangladesh Education Stats". NationMaster. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
Education in Bangladesh' is overseen by the Bangladesh's Ministry of Education. Ministry of Primary and Mass Education are responsible for implementing policy for primary education and state-funded schools at a local level. In Bangladesh, all citizens must undertake twelve years of compulsory education which consists of eight years at primary school level and four years at high school level. Primary and secondary education is financed by the state and free of charge in public schools.
Bangladesh conforms fully to the UN's Education For All (EFA) objectives and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as well as other education-related international declarations. Article 17 of the Bangladesh Constitution provides that all children receive free and compulsory education.
The main education system is divided into three levels:
- Primary Level (Class 1–8)
- Secondary Level (Class 9–12)
- Tertiary Level
At all levels of schooling, students can choose to receive their education in English or Bangla. Private schools tend to make use of English-based study media while government-sponsored schools use Bangla.
Cadet Colleges are important in the education system of Bangladesh. A cadet college is a room and board collegiate administered by the Bangladesh. Military discipline is compulsory at all cadet colleges. Faujdarhat Cadet College is the first cadet college in Bangladesh, established in 1958 over an area of 185 acres (0.75 km2) at Faujdarhat in the district of Chittagong. At present there are 12 cadet colleges in Bangladesh, including 3 cadet colleges for girls.
Tertiary education in Bangladesh takes place at 37 government, 80 private and 3 international universities. Students can choose to further their studies in Chartered Accountancy, engineering, technology, agriculture and medicine at a variety of universities and colleges.
The overall responsibility of management of primary education lies with the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MOPME), set up as a Ministry in 1992. While MOPME is involved in formulation of policies, the responsibility of implementation rests with the Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) headed by a Director General. The Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) and its subordinate offices in the district and upazila are solely responsible for management and supervision of primary education. Their responsibilities include recruitment, posting, and transfer of teachers and other staff; arranging in-service training of teachers; distribution of free textbooks; and supervision of schools. The responsibility of school construction, repair and supply of school furniture lies with the DPE executed through the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). The National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) is responsible for the development of curriculum and production of textbooks. While the Ministry of Education (MOE) is responsible for formulation of policies, the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE) under the Ministry of Education is responsible for implementing the same at secondary and higher education levels. The NCTB is responsible for developing curriculum and publishing standard textbooks.
The Directorate of Primary Education (DPE) are responsible for conducting the two public examinations:
Main article: High Schools in Bangladesh
The secondary level of education is controlled by the eight General Education boards:
The boards' headquarters are located in Barishal, ComillaChittagong, Dhaka, DinajpurJessore, Rajshahi and Sylhet.
Eight region-based Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE) are responsible for conducting the two public examinations:
At the school level, in the case of non-government secondary schools, School Management Committees (SMC), and at the intermediate college level, in the case of non-government colleges, Governing Bodies (GB), formed as per government directives, are responsible for mobilising resources, approving budgets, controlling expenditures, and appointing and disciplining staff. While teachers of non-government secondary schools are recruited by concerned SMCs observing relevant government rules, teachers of government secondary schools are recruited centrally by the DSHE through a competitive examination.
In government secondary schools, there is not an SMC. The headmaster is solely responsible for running the school and is supervised by the deputy director of the respective zone. Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs), however, exist to ensure a better teaching and learning environment.
Further information: Universities in Bangladesh and University Grants Commission (Bangladesh)
See also: List of universities in Bangladesh and List of medical colleges in Bangladesh
At the tertiary level, universities are regulated by the University Grants Commission.The colleges providing tertiary education are under the National University. Each of the medical colleges is affiliated with a public university. Universities in Bangladesh are autonomous bodies administered by statutory bodies such as Syndicate, Senate, Academic Council, etc. in accordance with provisions laid down in their respective acts.
Technical and Vocational education
The Technical and Vocational Education System provides courses related to various applied and practical areas of science, technology and engineering, or focuses on a specific specialised area. Course duration ranges from one month to four years. The Technical Education Board controls technical and vocational training in the secondary level.
The Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) is responsible for the planning, development, and implementation of technical and vocational education in the country. Curriculum is implemented by BTEB. There are also a number of private universities in Bangladesh.In the Technical Education System, after obtaining a Diploma-in-Engineering degree (four-year curriculum) from the institutes listed below, students can further pursue their educational career by obtaining a bachelor's degree from Engineering & Technology Universities. It normally it takes an additional two and a half to three years of coursework to obtain a bachelor's degree, although some students take more than three years to do so. They can then enroll in post-graduate studies. Students can also study CA (Chartered Accounting) after passing HSC or bachelor's degree and subject to fulfilling the entry criteria of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB).
Alternative education system
English language schools
A vast number of schools in Bangladesh are English version schools. English Medium schools are mainly private schools where all the courses are taught in English except one Bengali Language subject at ordinary level (O Level). These schools in Bangladesh follow the General Certificate of Education (GCE) syllabus where students are prepared for taking their Ordinary Level (O Level) and Advanced Level (A Level) examinations. The General Certificate of Education system is one of the most internationally recognised qualifications, based in the United Kingdom. The Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations are English equivalent to the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) examinations respectively. Most students sit for these exams from the registered schools in Bangladesh who follow the GCE syllabus. Those who do not attend a school that follows the GCE syllabus may also sit for their Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations from the British Council. These examinations are conducted under the supervision of the British Council in Bangladesh. The GCE examination conducted by the British Council takes place twice a year. Currently there are two boards operating from Bangladesh for Ordinary and Advanced Level Examinations, which are Edexcel and University of Cambridge International Examinations. Bangladesh has recently opened English version schools (Bangladesh) translating board textbooks in English.
The Madrasah Education System focuses on religious education, teaching all the basics of education in a religious environment. Religious studies are taught in Arabic and the students in some areas also serve the local area masjids. Students also have to complete all the courses from the General Education System. Many privately licensed Madrasas take in homeless children and provide them with food, shelter and education, e.g. Jamia Tawakkulia Renga Madrasah in Sylhet. In the Madrasah Education System there are two systems:
One, called the "Quomi" Madrasah system is privately owned and funded and is run according to the Deobandi system of Islamic education, which rejects the rational sciences.
The other, called the "Alia" madrasah system, is privately owned but subsidised by the government (the government spends 11.5% of its education budget on alia madrasahs, paying 80% of teacher and administrator salaries). Quomi madrasahs account for 1.9% of total primary enrollment and 2.2% of secondary enrollment; aliyah madrasahs account for 8.4% of primary and 19% of secondary enrollment. The alia system is like the general education system, except that Arabic is taught in addition to general education. The Madrasah Education Board covers religious education in government-registered Madrasahs in the secondary level. After passing "Alim", a student can enroll for 3 additional years to obtain a "Fazil" level. Students can go for further general education and earn a university degree. After passing successfully, they can further enroll for another 2 years to obtain a "Kamil" level degree.
The following table provides a statistical comparison of the "Quomi" and "Alia" madrasah systems.
|Profile of madrassa education in Bangladesh|
|Number of private (Quomi) madrassas||13,902|
|Number of government-funded (Alia) madrassa||6,906|
|Number of teachers in Quomi madrassas||130,000|
|Number of teachers in Alia madrassas||100,732|
|Number of students in Quomi madrassas||1,462,500|
|Number of students in Alia madrassas||1,878,300|
|Total number of madrassas (Quomi + Alia)||13,406|
|Total number of teachers (Quomi + Alia)||230,732|
|Total number of students (Quomi + Alia)||3,340,800|
There exists a substantial number of NGO-run non-formal schools, catering mainly to the drop-outs of the government and non-government primary schools. Very few NGOs, however, impart education for the full five-year primary education cycle. Because of this, on completion of their two-to three-year non-formal primary education in NGO-run schools, students normally re-enter into government/non-government primary schools at higher classes.
There are Non-Governmental Schools (NGO) and Non-Formal Education Centers (NFE) and many of these are funded by the government. The largest NFE program is the much reputed BRAC program. However, not all NFE graduates continue on to secondary school.
NGO-run schools differ from other non-government private schools. While the private schools operate like private enterprises often guided by commercial interests, NGO schools operate mainly in areas not served either by the government or private schools, essentially to meet the educational needs of vulnerable groups in the society. They usually follow an informal approach to suit the special needs of children from these vulnerable groups. But nowadays, some NGO schools are operating into places where there are both private and government schools.
Similarly, in NGO-run schools there does not exist any SMC. The style of management differs depending upon differences in policies pursued by different NGOs. Some are centrally managed within a highly bureaucratic set-up, while others enjoy considerable autonomy.
Different NGOs pursue different policies regarding recruitment of teachers. Some prepare a panel of prospective teachers on the basis of a rigorous test and recruit teachers from this panel. Other NGOs recruit teachers rather informally from locally available interested persons.
Current government projects to promote the education of children in Bangladesh include compulsory primary education for all, free education for girls up to grade 10, stipends for female students, a nationwide integrated education system and a food-for-education literacy movement. A large section of the country's national budget is set aside to help put these programs into action and to promote education and make it more accessible. Recent years have seen these efforts pay off and the Bangladesh education system is strides ahead of what it was only a few years ago. Now even national curriculum books from class 5 to class 12 are distributed freely among all students and schools. Bangladesh is now trying to establish remote and digital classes through internet conferences.
The educational system of Bangladesh faces several problems. In the past, Bangladesh education was primarily a British modelled upper class affair with all courses given in English and very little being done for the common people. The Bangladesh education board has taken steps to leave such practices in the past and is looking forward to education as a way to provide a poverty-stricken nation with a brighter future. As Bangladesh is an overpopulated country, there is a huge demand to turn its population into labour, which is why proper education is needed and proper help in the educational sectors of Bangladesh from the government are crucial.
Education expenditure as percentage of GDP
Public expenditure on education lies on the fringes of 2 percent of GDP with a minimum of 0.94 percent in 1980 and a maximum of 2.2 percent in 2007.
The Education system lacks a sound Human Resource Development and deployment system and this has demoralised the primary education sector personnel, including teachers, and contributes to poor performance. Poverty is a big threat to primary education. In Bangladesh, the population is very high. The number of seats available in colleges is less than the number of students who want to enroll, and the number of seats available in universities is also less than the number of students who passed higher secondary level and want to join in a university. Besides, the cost of education is increasing day by day, as a result many students are unable to afford it.
One study found a 15.5% primary school teacher absence rate.
In Bangladesh, gender discrimination in education occurs amongst the rural households but is non-existent amongst rich households. There is great difference in the success rates of boys, as compared to girls in Bangladesh. However, in recent years some progress has been made in trying to fix this problem.
The low performance in primary education is also matter of concern. School drop-out rates and grade repetition rates are high. Poor school attendance and low contact time in school are factors contributing to low level of learning achievement.
Religion and education
Madrasah education in Bangladesh is heavily influenced by religion.
Bangladesh has one of the lowest literacy rates in Asia, estimated at 66.5% for males and 63.1% for females in 2014. Recently the literacy rate of Bangladesh has improved as it stands at 71% as of 2015[update] due to the modernization of schools and education funds.
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