Education in Pakistan is overseen by the Federal Ministry of Education and the provincial governments, whereas the federal government mostly assists in curriculum development, accreditation and in the financing of research and development. Article 25-A of Constitution of Pakistan obligates the state to provide free and compulsory quality education to children of the age group 3 to 16 years. “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such a manner as may be determined by law”.
The education system in Pakistan is generally divided into six levels: Preschool (for the age from 3 to 5 years); primary (grades one through five); middle (grades six through eight); high (grades nine and ten, leading to the Secondary School Certificate or SSC);intermediate (grades eleven and twelve, leading to a Higher Secondary (School) Certificate or HSC); and university programs leading to undergraduate and graduate degrees.
The literacy rate ranges from 96% in Islamabad to 28% in the Kohlu District. Between 2000 and 2004, Pakistanis in the age group 55–64 had a literacy rate of almost 38%, those ages 45–54 had a literacy rate of nearly 46%, those 25–34 had a literacy rate of 57%, and those ages 15–24 had a literacy rate of 72%. Literacy rates vary regionally, particularly by sex. In tribal areas female literacy is 9.5%. Moreover, English is fast spreading in Pakistan, with more than 92 million Pakistanis (49% of the population) having a command over the English language, which makes it the third largest English-speaking nation in the world and the second largest in Asia. On top of that, Pakistan produces about 445,000 university graduates and 10,000 computer science graduates per year.Despite these statistics, Pakistan still has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world and the second largest out of school population (5.1 million children) after Nigeria.
Only 87% of Pakistani children finish primary school education. The standard national system of education is mainly inspired from theBritish system. Pre-school education is designed for 3–5 years old and usually consists of three stages: Play Group, Nursery andKindergarten (also called ‘KG’ or ‘Prep’). After pre-school education, students go through junior school from grades 1 to 5. This is followed by middle school from grades 6 to 8. At middle school, single-sex education is usually preferred by the community, but co-education is also common in urban cities. The curriculum is usually subject to the institution. The eight commonly examined disciplines are Urdu,English, mathematics, arts, science, social studies, Islamic studies and sometimes computer studies (subject to availability of a computer laboratory). Provincial and regional languages such as Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto and others may be taught in their respective provinces, particularly in language-medium schools. Some institutes give instruction in foreign languages such as Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Frenchand Chinese. The language of instruction depends on the nature of the institution itself, whether it is an English-medium school or an Urdu-medium school.
As of 2009, Pakistan faces a net primary school attendance rate for both sexes of 66 percent: a figure below estimated world average of 90 percent.
Pakistan’s poor performance in the education sector is mainly caused by the low level of public investment. Public expenditure on education has been 2.2 percent of GNP in recent years, a marginal increase from 2 percent before 1984-85. In addition, the allocation of government funds is skewed towards higher education, allowing the upper income class to reap majority of the benefits of public subsidy on education. Lower education institutes such as primary schools suffer under such conditions as the lower income classes are unable to enjoy subsidies and quality education. As a result, Pakistan has one of the lowest rates of literacy in the world and the lowest among countries of comparative resources and socio-economic situations.
Secondary education in Pakistan begins from grade 9 and lasts for four years. After end of each of the school years, students are required to pass a national examination administered by a regional Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (or BISE).
Upon completion of grade 9, students are expected to take a standardised test in each of the first parts of their academic subjects. They again give these tests of the second parts of the same courses at the end of grade 10. Upon successful completion of these examinations, they are awarded a Secondary School Certificate (or SSC). This is locally termed as ‘matriculation certificate‘ or ‘matric’ for short. The curriculum usually includes a combination of eight courses including electives (such as Biology, Chemistry, Computer and Physics) as well as compulsory subjects (such as Mathematics, English, Urdu, Islamic studies and Pakistan Studies).
Students then enter an intermediate college and complete grades 11 and 12. Upon completion of each of the two grades, they again take standardised tests in their academic subjects. Upon successful completion of these examinations, students are awarded the Higher Secondary (School) Certificate (or HSC). This level of education is also called the FSc/FA/ICS or ‘intermediate’. There are many streams students can choose for their 11 and 12 grades, such as pre-medical, pre-engineering, humanities (or social sciences), computer science and commerce. Each stream consists of three electives and as well as three compulsory subjects of English, Urdu, Islamiat (grade 11 only) and Pakistani Studies (grade 12 only).
Alternative qualifications in Pakistan are available but are maintained by other examination boards instead of BISE. Most common alternative is the General Certificate of Education (or GCE), where SSC and HSC are replaced by Ordinary Level (or O Level) and Advanced Level (or A Level) respectively. Other qualifications include IGCSE which replaces SSC. GCE and GCSE O Level, IGCSE and GCE AS/A Level are managed by British examination boards of CIE of the Cambridge Assessment and/or Edexcel International of the Pearson PLC. Generally, 8-10 courses are selected by students at GCE O Levels and 3-5 at GCE A Levels.
Advanced Placement (or AP) is an alternative option but much less common than GCE or IGCSE. This replaces the secondary school education as ‘High School Education’ instead. AP exams are monitored by a North American examination board, College Board, and can only be given under supervision of centers which are registered with the College Board, unlike GCE O/AS/A Level and IGCSE which can be given privately.
There is another type of education in Pakistan which is called “Technical Education”, gathering technical and vocational Education. The vocational curriculum starts at grade 5 and ends on grade 10. Three boards, Punjab Board of Technical Education, NWFP Board of Technical Education, and Sindh Board of Technical Education, provide facilities of technical education. PBTE (Punjab Board of Technical Education) offering Matric tac. and D.A.E. (Diploma of Associate Engineering) in technologies like Civil, Chemical, Architecture, Mechanical, Electrical, Electronics, Computer Sciences and many more technologies. This is three years program and combines Physics, Chemistry, Islamic study, Pakistan Study and other more than 25 books related to their Technology. After matric and then three years diploma is equal to 12th grade, and diploma holder iscalled Associate Engineer. Either they can join their respective field or can take admission in B.Tech. or BE in their related technology after D.A.E.
According to the UNESCO’s 2009 Global Education Digest, 6% of Pakistanis (9% of men and 3.5% of women) were university graduates as of 2007. Pakistan plans to increase this figure to 10% by 2015 and subsequently to 15% by 2020. There is also a great deal of variety between age cohorts. Less than 6% of those in the age cohort 55-64 have a degree, compared to 8% in the 45-54 age cohort, 11% in the 35-44 age cohort and 16% in the age cohort 25-34.
After earning their HSC, students may study in a professional college for Bachelor’s degree courses such as engineering (B.Engg/BS Engg.), B.Tech Hons/BS Engg.Tech medicine (MBBS), dentistry (BDS), veterinary medicine (DVM), law (LLB), architecture (B.Arch),pharmacy (Pharm-D) and nursing (B.Nurs). These courses require four or five years of study. There are some councils and boards that will handle all the education matters in these cases; they are the PMDC, Pakistan pharmacy council and Pakistan nursing council. Students can also attend a university for Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) or Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree courses. These all are the courses that are done in Pakistan and are really common. These days doctor of pharmacy is also gaining much reputation. The pharmacy council of Pakistan is doing huge struggle to make the pharmacy education better. Polytechnics and colleges of technology offers technical education.
There are two types of Bachelor courses in Pakistan: Pass or Honors. Pass degree requires two years of study and students normally read three optional subjects (such as Chemistry or Economics) in addition to almost equal number of compulsory subjects (such asEnglish and Pakistan Studies). Honours degree requires three or four years of study, and students normally specialize in a chosen field of study, such as Biochemistry (BSc Hons. Biochemistry).
Pass Bachelors is now slowly being phased out for Honours throughout the country.
Most of Master’s degree programs require two years education. Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is available in most of the subjects and can be undertaken after doing Masters. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) education is available in selected areas and is usually pursued after earning a MPhil degree. Students pursuing MPhil or PhD degrees must choose a specific field and a university that is doing research work in that field. MPhil and PhD education in Pakistan requires a minimum of two years of study.
Non formal and informal education
Out of the formal system, the public sectors runs numerous schools and training centres, most being vocational-oriented. Among those institutions can be found vocational schools, technical training centres and agriculture and vocational training centres. An apprenticechip system is also framed by the Pakistanese State. Informal education is also important in Pakistan and regroups mostly school-leavers and low-skilled individuals, who are trained under the supervision of a senior craftsman.
In Pakistan, gender discrimination in education occurs amongst the poorest households but is non-existent amongst rich households.Only 18% of Pakistani women have received 10 years or more of schooling. 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 enrollment was 0.47 for primary level of education. It reached to 0.74 in 1999-2000, showing the F/M ratio has improved by 57.44% 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%. In both cases the gender disparity is decreased but relatively more rapidly at middle level.
The gender disparity in enrollment at secondary level of education was 0.4 in 1990-91 and 0.67 in 1999-2000, showing that the disparity decreased by 67.5% in the decade. At the college level it was 0.50 in 1990-91 and reached 0.81 in 1999-2000, showing that the disparity decreased by 64%. The gender disparity has decreased comparatively rapidly at secondary school.
The gender disparity is affected by the Taliban enforcement of a complete ban on female education in the Swat district, as reported in a January 21, 2009 issue of the Pakistan daily newspaper The News. Some 400 private schools enrolling 40,000 girls have been shut down. At least 10 girls’ schools that tried to open after the January 15, 2009 deadline by the Taliban were blown up by the militants in the town of Mingora, the headquarters of the Swat district. “More than 170 schools have been bombed or torched, along with other government-owned buildings.”
There is great difference in the rates of enrollment of boys, as compared to girls in Pakistan. According to UNESCO figures, primary school enrolment for girls stand at 60 per cent as compared to 84 percent for boys. The secondary school enrolment rate stands at a lower rate of 32 percent for females and 46 per cent males. Regular school attendance for female students is estimated at 41 per cent while that for male students is 50 per cent.
In Pakistan, the quality of education has a declining trend. Shortage of teachers and poorly equipped laboratories have resulted in the out-dated curriculum that has little relevance to present day needs.
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