Education in Pakistan

Education in Pakistan

Education in Pakistan is divided into five levels: primary (grades one through five); middle (grades six through eight); high (grades nine and ten, leading to the Secondary School Certificate); intermediate (grades eleven and twelve, leading to a Higher Secondary School Certificate); and university programs leading to graduate (undergraduate) and advanced (post-graduate) degrees.

All academic education institutions are the responsibility of the provincial governments. The federal government mostly assists in curriculum development, accreditation and some financing of research.


A child may begin his/her schooling at a pre-school at the age of 3. Over the last few years, many new kindergarten (sometimes called montessori) schools have sprung up in Pakistan.

Primary Education

Formal education in Pakistan starts from around age 5. The first 5 years of school are referred to as Primary. Thereafter, the next 3 are referred to as Middle and the 2 after as Highschool.

Secondary Education

At the completion of Highschool or 10 years of schooling, students are required to sit for board examinations referred to as Secondary School Certificate examinations or more commonly as ‘Matric’. These are administered by area boards. Those that receive passing marks (normally 33{3646df83047b2fb247e6be389bdf79064977365019c9f2147e7000ad4acd48eb}) on this examination are awarded a Secondary School Certificate or SSC. Students may then choose to undergo 2 years of additional schooling (offered both a school and some colleges) after which they sit for the Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC), more commonly referred to as ‘Intermediate’ exams. There is a wide choice of subjects that students can choose from during their ‘intermediate’ years many of which are technical subjects. Students normally read about 5 subjects in a chosen stream such as pre-medical, science, humanities, pre-engineering etc. and then sit for the Higher Secondary School Certificate exam in those subjects which are also administered by area boards. Those that receive passing marks (normally 33{3646df83047b2fb247e6be389bdf79064977365019c9f2147e7000ad4acd48eb} of all subjects cummulative) are awarded a Higher Secondary School Certificate or HSSC.

Technical Education

Students can enter a plethora of technical institutes for technical certificates and degrees. The entrance requirements for these courses vary greatly with some such as carpentry requiring the applicant to be literate whereas others such as B.Tech in automation require HSSC.


Pakistani education system

Students can then precede to a College or University for Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Science (BSc) or Commerce/Business Administration (BCom/BBA) degree courses. There are two types of Bachelor courses in Pakistan namely Pass or Honours. Pass constitutes two years of study and students normally read three optional subjects (such as Chemistry, Mathematics, Economics, Statistics) in addition to almost equal number of compulsory subjects (such as English, Pakistan Studies and Islamic Studies) whereas Honours are three or four years and students normally specialize in a chosen field of study such as Biochemistry (BSc Hons. Biochemistry). It is important to note that Pass Bachelors is now slowly being phased out for Honours throughout the country. Students may also after earning their HSSC may study for professional Bachelor degree courses such as engineering (B Engg), medicine (MBBS), vetrinary medicine(DVM) law (LLB), agriculture (B Agri), architecture (B Arch), nursing (B Nurs) etc. which are of four or five years duration depending on the degree

Some Masters Degrees also consist of 1.5 years. Then there are PHD Education as well in selected areas. One has to choose specific field and the suitable university doing research work in that field. PhD in Pakistan consists of minimum 3-5 years.

Pakistani universities churn out almost 1.2 million skilled graduates annually. The government has announced a $1 billion spending plan over the next decade to build 6 state-of-the-art science and engineering universities. The scheme would be overseen by the Higher Education Commission.

Owing to the failure of public schools to provide quality education to the children of Pakistan, many parents have enrolled their children in private schools. Although traditionally, private schools have been a luxury only the rich can afford, this is not necessarily the case in the current reemergence of the private sector in Pakistan’s education system.

Nationally, overall private school primary enrolment (as a percentage of total primary enrolment) is 13 percent in Pakistan.

A recent survey in urban Pakistan found that 59 percent of households earning less than Rs 3,500 had children who were enrolled in private schools in the city of Lahore. Similarly, in the low-income and economically-deprived Orangi district of Karachi, a surprising 60 percent of all enrolled children went to private primary schools.

The findings of this study are given added support by a 1996 study conducted in the urban areas of five districts in the province of Punjab. This study found that even among low-income households, there was a private school enrolment rate of 50 percent.

More than 36,000 private institutions attend to the educational needs of 6.3 million children.

There is a parallel education system in place in some private schools, i.e. the ‘O’ level and ‘A’ level system. These curriculums are set by the University of Cambridge of the UK. Students studying in this system do not follow the syllabi set by the Pakistan government, but subjects such as Islamiyat and Pakistan studies are still compulsory for most high school students. The ministry of education also keeps an eye on what is being taught in these private schools. Generally, these schools are accessible to the elite few due to the high fees charged by O/A levels schools. However, during recent years, the phenomenon of appearing for the Cambridge exams “privately” has been rising. Students attend private tutoring sessions, register for the British exams via the British Council, and do no attend any school to prepare for their exams.


An issue of National Geographic conveys the adversity poor families must face. Some schools are run so badly that few kids attend.

It’s not unusual in Pakistan to hear of public schools that receive no books, no supplies, and no subsidies from the government. Thousands more are ‘ghost schools’ that exist only on paper, to line the pockets of phantom teachers and administrators.Ever since the start of the War on Terror, the attention of the world’s media has been focused on the madrassa’s operating in Pakistan which are mainly attended by children living in rural areas. Popular worldwide beliefs are that a significant number of students in Pakistan are a part of these religious schools. This myth was debunked by professor Khwaja of Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose research examined statistical data to determine more precisely the enrollment in madrassas in Pakistan. The findings were that enrollment in Pakistani madrassas is relatively low, with less than 1 percent of all students enrolled in a school attending madrassas. There are as much as 100 times as many children in public schools as there are in madrassas and almost 40 times as many children in private schools as there are in madrassas. For the average Pakistani household, the choice of going to a madrassa is simply not a statistically significant option. Even in areas which surround Afghanistan, which are considered to be hotbeds of madrassa activity, madrassa enrollment is actually less than 7.5 percent.

Outside this region madrassa enrollment is thinly, but evenly, spread across the rest of the country. There was no evidence of a dramatic increase in madrassa enrollment in recent years. Examining time trends it was found that madrassa enrollment actually declined in Pakistan from its creation until the 1980s.It increased somewhat during the religion-based resistance to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979 and the subsequent rise of the Taliban. However, in the last few years, the data does not suggest that there is any dramatic increase in madrassa enrollment.

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 enrolment was 0.47 for primary level of education. It reached to 0.74 in 1999-2000, so the F/M ratio has improved by 57.44 percent 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 percent. In both cases the gender disparity is decreased but relatively more rapidly at middle level. But for whole of the decade the gender disparity remained relatively high at middle level, despite the fact that for the duration the F/M ratio for teachers and F/M ratio of educational institutions at the middle level remained better than at the primary level.

The gender disparity in enrolment at secondary level of education was 0.4 in 1990-91 was 0.67 percent in 1999-2000, so the disparity has decreased by 67.5 percent in the decade or at the average rate of 6.75 percent annually. At the college level it was 0.50 in 1990-91 and it reached 0.81 in 1999-2000, so gender disparity decreased by 64 percent with an annual rate of 6.4 percent. The gender disparity has decreased comparatively rapidly at secondary school. The gender disparity in educational institutions at the secondary level of education was changed from 0.36 in 1990-91 to 0.52 in 1999-2000 with a 44 percent change. The same type of disparity at the college level was 0.56 in 1990-91 and reached at 0.64 in 1999-2000 with 14 percent change in the decade. The disparity at the college level has improved much less than that at the secondary level.

Cheating in exams is a big problem plaguing the Pakistani education system. Every year there are accounts of large scale cheating at various exam venues? Invigilators have been known to encourage cheating not only in public schools, but in foreign exams such as the SAT as well.