Education in Pakistan— where are we?

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said, and I quote:
“Education is a matter of life and death for Pakistan. The world is progressing so rapidly that without requisite advanced education, we lag behind others and may be wiped out altogether.”
Education is essential in transforming a country’s current situation into a prominent position within the international community. A nation like Pakistan becomes even more dependent on it for socioeconomic development due to the successful transition of a significant segment of its people: the youth. A high-quality, market-driven primary, secondary, and higher education must be established to transform 63 per cent of young people into real wealth.
Where does Pakistan Stand?
According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2022–23’s executive summary, Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for Pakistan to change its education system into one that is high-quality and market-driven globally. These include enhancing access to education by establishing new schools, upgrading existing schools, improving the learning environment, digitizing educational institutions, promoting distance learning, and capacity building of teachers. But in practice, things are very different.
In Pakistan, according to a labour force survey, the literacy rate in 2021 was barely 62.8%. Over the past many years, there have been very few, slowly increasing, marginal literacy rates.
Only 1.77% of GDP was spent on education-related expenses at the federal and provincial levels in FY2022. Most UN organizations advise that 4% of GDP should be allotted for education spending. The highest percentage of GDP we have allocated to education in recent years was 2.12% in 2017–18. The standard justification for underfunding education has always been and continues to be a lack of resources.
The current literacy rate in Pakistan is 62.3%. The region’s lowest GDP allocation to education, at 1.7%, is in the budget. Tertiary Education Affairs & Services received a budgetary allocation of Rs 74,609 billion; Pre-Primary & Primary Education received Rs 3,786 billion; Secondary Education Affairs received Rs 8,863 billion, and Administration received Rs 2 billion. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) allocated Rs 44,174 billion as part of the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for 2022–2023.
As per the UN Annual Report 2021, one in four Pakistanis lives in poverty, with income-based poverty at 24.3% and multidimensional poverty at 38.3%; forty-two per cent (40.2%) of Pakistan’s children are stunted due to malnutrition. The rate of gender parity in schooling and the participation rate of women in the labour force (21.5%) are among the lowest in the area.
Our Education System:
In a world where education up to high school is a ‘right’ for all children and financed by the state, Pakistan is a country where the education system is the most polarized, dispersed, and unequal in the entire world. Education is a privilege in Pakistan; the level of parental or family income determines access to quality education. The more fees parents can pay, the more their child can study in a state-of-the-art and well-facilitated educational institute. For this purpose, both mother and father are working to fulfill the means and provide their children with quality education. The major drawback is that parents depend solely on the educational institutes for their children’s character-building and socioeconomic education, forgetting that their children need them the most to educate and train them. Although some high-priced private institutions offer good education, most private schools and institutions are low-priced, for-profit institutions, where the quality of education is also substandard. While millions have benefited from private education, it has also helped entrench and exacerbate already-existing economic and social inequities. The majority of public schools, except for some model schools, Danish schools, cadet colleges, and a few others, provide a poor quality of education. It is not to say that all state educational institutes are terrible and all private institutes are good. In the private, for-profit sector, tuition costs are correlated with quality, but that quality isn’t transferring practical knowledge and skills that can produce actual knowledgeable and well-disciplined pupils; instead, they are producing crammers and mnemonists racing for grades and medals, not knowledge and personal development.
Why can’t Pakistan’s public education system compete with other countries? Many developing states are also making commendable efforts in this area, so it’s not simply the wealthy nations who have achieved this. Over the past few decades, the latter group has considerably enhanced the public sector’s ability to provide high-quality education to all students. If not with other countries, Pakistan’s public education system should try to at least compete with prestigious private schools and universities in the country. Should we not think about this?
The core of science and education is the pursuit of knowledge. No reform and no national goal can be attained without informed public opinion. Pakistan places a low value on public education. Current social and political systems prohibit it from ever being. It is a human right, and human rights and education are not priorities in Pakistan outside of hyperbolic statements in seminars, manifestos, and policy declarations. Low priority is another term for resource limitations.
We are all taught the hadith that urges us to seek knowledge everywhere, even in China, but we are at our lowest regarding implementation. We have lost the actual essence of education. A student’s intelligence and position are determined by their ability to cram, memorize, write, and achieve high percentages rather than by the moral values, ethics, skills, and knowledge they obtain.
Grades do not define intelligence. The world has moved past impressing with position holders and gold medalists; instead, they are developing the notion of multiple intelligences, which is supported by research that shows that people do not only have one type of mental intelligence, such as that identified by an IQ test or exam. Instead, it advances the notion that there are nine different types of intelligence that each person possesses, and each of these types may be noticed and assessed in various facets of a person’s everyday activities.
It is distressing to witness the rise in bullying, harassment, cybercrimes, and drug abuse among students at prestigious educational institutions. I wonder what kind of education we provide to knowledge seekers in our nation if it cannot eradicate illiteracy, awaken the knowledge of good and bad deeds, make people aware of right and wrong, or discern between halal and haram. Unfortunately, our educational institutions are producing degree holders rather than literates; that’s why Pakistan’s literacy rate lags behind the developed countries that focus on making skillful individuals with socioeconomic well-being, character building, and personality development.

The writer is a student at Bahria University Karachi and can be reached at