The Education System in Pakistan
At independence, Pakistan had a poorly educated population and few schools or universities. Although the education system has expanded greatly since then, debate continues about the curriculum, and, except in a few elite institutions, quality remained a crucial concern of educators in the early 1990s. Adult literacy is low, but improving. In 1992 more than 36 percent of adults over fifteen were literate, compared with 21 percent in 1970. The rate of improvement is highlighted by the 50 percent literacy achieved among those aged fifteen to nineteen in 1990. School enrollment also increased, from 19 percent of those aged six to twenty-three in 1980 to 24 percent in 1990. However, by 1992 the population over twenty-five had a mean of only 1.9 years of schooling. This fact explains the minimal criteria for being considered literate: having the ability to both read and write (with understanding) a short, simple statement on everyday life. Relatively limited resources have been allocated to education, although there has been improvement in recent decades. In 1960 public expenditure on education was only 1.1 percent of the gross national product (GNP); by 1990 the figure had risen to 3.4 percent. This amount compared poorly with the 33.9 percent being spent on defense in 1993. In 1990 Pakistan was tied for fourth place in the world in its ratio of military expenditures to health and education expenditures. Although the government enlisted the assistance of various international donors in the education efforts outlined in its Seventh Five-Year Plan (1988-93), the results did not measure up to expectations. Structure of the System
Education is organized into five levels: primary (grades one through five); middle (grades six through eight); high (grades nine and ten, culminating in matriculation); intermediate (grades eleven and twelve, leading to an F.A. diploma in arts or F.S. science; and university programs leading to undergraduate and advanced degrees. Preparatory classes (kachi, or nursery) were formally incorporated into the system in 1988 with the Seventh Five-Year Plan. Academic and technical education institutions are the responsibility of the federal Ministry of Education, which coordinates instruction through the intermediate level. Above that level, a designated university in each province is responsible for coordination of instruction and examinations. In certain cases, a different ministry may oversee specialized programs. Universities enjoy limited autonomy; their finances are overseen by a University Grants Commission, as in Britain. 3
Teacher-training workshops are overseen by the respective provincial education ministries in order to improve teaching skills. However, incentives are severely lacking, and, perhaps because of the shortage of financial support to education, few teachers participate. Rates of absenteeism among teachers are high in general, inducing support for community-coordinated efforts promoted in the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1993-98). In 1991 there were 87,545 primary schools, 189,200 primary school teachers, and 7,768,000 students enrolled at the primary level, with a student-to-teacher ratio of forty-one to one. Just over one-third of all children of primary school age were enrolled in a school in 1989. There were 11,978 secondary schools, 154,802 secondary school teachers, and 2,995,000 students enrolled at the secondary level, with a student-to- teacher ratio of nineteen to one. Primary school dropout rates remained fairly consistent in the 1970s and 1980s, at just over 50 percent for boys and 60 percent for girls. The middle school dropout rates for boys and girls rose from 22 percent in 1976 to about 33 percent in 1983. However, a noticeable shift occurred in the beginning of the 1980s regarding the postprimary dropout rate: whereas boys and girls had relatively equal rates (14 percent) in 1975, by 1979-- just as Zia initiated his government's...
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