The poor performance of public schools has pushed many parents to send children to low-fee private schools such as the Kasmia Kids Academy, above, in a poor area of Karachi. (Photo: Akhtar Soomro/©UNESCO

Pakistan declares ‘education emergency’

The poor performance of public schools has pushed many parents to send children to low-fee private schools such as the Kasmia Kids Academy, above, in a poor area of Karachi. (Photo: Akhtar Soomro/©UNESCO)

Kicking off a campaign aimed at making March “the month that Pakistan talks about only two things: education and cricket”, a government commission has painted a damning picture of the country’s education system, whose poor progress towards global learning goals has been documented in the Education for All Global Monitoring Report.

As the Pakistani newspaper Dawn and BBC News reported yesterday, the Pakistan Education Task Force says the country “is in the midst of an educational emergency with disastrous human and economic consequences.”

“The failure to provide education is, without doubt, our most urgent self-inflicted disaster,” according to the task force’s report, Education Emergency Pakistan 2011, which says that each year, education failures have an impact as devastating as that of last year’s floods.

The report quotes the 2010 Global Monitoring Report’s finding that “30% of Pakistanis live in extreme educational poverty – having received less than two years of education.”

The Pakistan Education Task Force is co-chaired by Shahnaz Wazir Ali, special assistant to the prime minister, and Sir Michael Barber, head of McKinsey & Company’s Global Education Practice.

In a powerful paper on education reform in Pakistan, Sir Michael quotes Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, who said in 1947, “Education is a matter of life and death for Pakistan. The world is progressing so rapidly that without the requisite advance in education, not only shall we be left behind others but we may be wiped out altogether.”

Pakistan made education a legal right for every child in April 2010, and in November 2010 declared that 2011 would be “Pakistan’s Year of Education.” The task force’s report acknowledges that Pakistan has adopted 10 separate education policies since Jinnah made his statement on education, but says all have failed for lack of political will.

The challenge now is to find that political will – the will to turn more words into concrete changes for the 7.3 million Pakistani children who are out of school – the world’s second-largest population of out-of-school children (after Nigeria).

Part of the challenge is also to find the money needed to expand learning opportunities – but Pakistan doesn’t have to look far. As the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report noted, Pakistan spends seven times more on the military than on primary education. One fifth of Pakistan’s military budget would be enough to pay for every child to complete primary school.



  1. Dear GMR team

    The latest report is absolutely great so rich in data and its representation that is so user friendly! In Pakistan as we face waves of emergencies and conflict challenged on a daily basis in meeting our EFA targets and MDGs we find the report so pertinent both in terms of diagnostics and some solutions. It is a must read for all!
    As part of the ASER Pakistan team we are also very pleased to see our work referred to on pg. 85 and hope that GMR 2012 will use our findings appropriately.
    We welcome your comments and queries at all times.
    Congratulations once again from the ASER Pakistan team for a brilliant report providing great facts and pointers for immediate policy adjustments and action.

    Baela Raza Jamil
    Director Program ITA
    Coordinator SAFED

    1. problems in pakistan are not bcz of this increase in defence budget. these are bcz of improper management of budget that is allocated for education thorugh i know it should be increased.

  2. Many people in Pakistan think that 3% of fiscal budget should be reserved for education. As a matter of fact a distinction should be between 3% of fiscal budget and 3% of GDP. The GDP of Pakistan is around US Dollar 167 billion, while its fiscal budet is around US dollar 38 billion. Accordingly, based on 3% of GDP, atleast Rs 14 trillion should be reserved for education ciompared to 3% of fiscal, which amounts to Rs 98 billion only.

    Asadullah Kazi

  3. Thanks to the GMR team for sharing this invaluable piece of information.Indeed it is important to have such evidence based documents that can provide the material for policy reform in education in Pakistan.Quite an eye opener paticularly for the policy makers and implementors!

  4. This very informative and eye opening report for every Pakistani. Thank you very much for sharing this. But I think now Pakistan is doing better then before in education sector. As free books, danish schools and many educational projects are started. I hope the situation will be better soon.


    M. Umar

  5. I still find it amazing that countries spend more on military than education. Does the educational deficit affect both male and females?

  6. What an eye-opener. I am not at all against defense spending, but the lack of priority on education in Pakistan is repressive. Could that be the reason that spending and political will are lacking?

  7. Less than 2% expenditure on education system in a country where half the population can’t read and write is an absolute joke. If Pakistan wants to re-establish her as a country of pride and one of the leading nations, the budget allocation has to drastically take a shift. Malaysia have been spending 25% upwards on their education for the past quarter of a century or so, and the commitment to education has reflected in their economic progress.
    I’ve discussed major flaws of Pkistan’s education system here:

  8. if pakistan use only the education budget with out corruption and political situation, then pakistan will be count very soon in educated countries.

Leave a Reply