Girls’ education in Pakistan: victim of conflict and commitment

by Pauline Rose, Director of the Global Monitoring Report

It is reassuring news to hear that Malala is showing signs of recovery after the senseless shooting in Pakistan a couple of weeks ago. I remember reading Malala’s blog on the BBC when we were preparing the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report on Education and Armed Conflict. The blog brought home to me the shocking reality of girls’ education in places where schooling gets caught in the crossfire of conflict.

In Swat District, where Malala lives, only 1 in 3 girls are in school. But Malala’s plight highlights a far wider problem in Pakistan. As the 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report published last week finds, the country has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world– over 5 million – and the second highest number of girls out of school.

The barriers to education faced by Pakistani girls like Malala are stark in comparison with the rest of South Asia. The poorest girls in Pakistan are twice as likely to be out of school as the poorest girls in India, almost three times as likely as the poorest girls in Nepal and at least six times as likely as the poorest girls in Bangladesh. Even in the wealthier province of the Punjab, more than half of poorest girls have never been to school , while the vast majority of the richest have had the opportunity. These comparisons show that inequalities are far wider in Pakistan compared with other countries in South Asia, as revealed by the World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE), a new website from the EFA Global Monitoring Report team that shows how factors such as gender, poverty and location affect a child’s education chances.

Conflict in parts of the country is certainly holding back progress in education. But it is not the only reason. The 2012 GMR identifies that Pakistan is one of just a small number of countries that have reduced spending on education, falling from an already low of 2.6% of GNP in 1999 to only 2.3% in 2010. And yet Pakistan spends around 7 times more on the military than on primary schooling. The wide inequalities in schooling opportunities suggest that not only is it vital that the country shows greater commitment by increasing its spending on education, but also that urgent action needs to be target policies towards ensuring that girls from the poorest households have the chance to go to school.

Percentage of children who have never been in school, aged 7-16

Pakistan 2007

Pakistan 2007, aged 7-16 never been to school by wealth and gender




Bangladesh 2007






Nepal 2011





India 2005





For more information, do download our Pakistan fact sheet filled with information taken from our Global Monitoring Reports




  1. Everyone knows the under-lying issues that Pakistan face. Gender discrimination in Pakistan when it comes to education has extremely critical causes which can not be understood by surface contemplation. The core values that are instilled in Pakistani people living in rural areas prevent the ladies to get education.

    Young girls are engaged in child labor to meet the cost of living. Moreover, if a Pakistani has 2 children, a boy and a girl, and has economic constraints that only allow one of them to get educated, there’s a very high probability that the son gets education.
    In some areas, girls get married in their mid-teens, hence never get to complete their basic 10 year education.

    I’ve discussed some of the major reason’s behind Pakistan’s stagnation in economic development w.r.t to education

  2. I have worked for the UN in Pakistan / Afghanistan and lived in Pk for over a decade. The plight of children and that of the girl child seems to be a creation of the extremists groups for them to be in a position of power and authority enabling ignorance to carry the extremists forward.

  3. Timely and appropriate observations. Pakistan merits special attention. There is a pressing need for a consortium of donors. Further drone attacks, being counter-productive, must stop.
    President of the Pakistan Association for Continuing and Adult Education (PACADE) and ex-chairman of the National Literacy Commission, Pakistan.

  4. We’ve all been gripped and inspired by the story of Malala Yousafzai. True progress in developing countries is based on the education of girls. Thanks for sharing these figures.

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