165. Judged against this background, the higher education system in Pakistan does
not perform well. Its relatively tiny size – only 3.7% of the 18 to 23 age cohort
participates in higher education. Even though enrollment in both public and private
institutions is increasing rapidly at approximately 30% per year, the gross enrollment
ratio does not compare well with its competitors such as India (7%) and Malaysia
166. There are deficiencies in the quality of both skills and research output of the
sector. Few of Pakistan’s public sector universities are ranked among the world’s top
500 universities. The number of faculty members having PhD degrees is low at 25%.
The pass rates of undergraduates are also low and international recognition of
qualifications limited for most universities. Although the per capita expenditure per
student is many times higher than in the secondary sector, the sector used to be poorly
funded for appropriate infrastructure including libraries, laboratories, scientific
equipment, teaching aids, and high speed internet connection.
167. Another reason of inadequate quality comes from the lack of specialisation
among universities as public universities compete in offering the widest variety of
disciplines and spread their scarce resources too thinly. They are not selective in
specialising in a few areas to develop the requisite critical mass of resources required
for achieving higher quality. Universities in the private sector, on the other hand, have
tended to specialise in market-oriented disciplines like IT, Management Sciences and
Business, and there are complaints, in this sector as well, about their quality.
168. The scale, quality and institutional arrangements of the sector are insufficient to
support innovation in the economy or attract high flows of foreign capital to its skill
base. The R&D capacity is very limited and there is little culture and few institutional
arrangements to achieve knowledge transmission to the productive sector through
university-industry partnerships. Precisely speaking, the Higher Education Sector in
Pakistan faces numerous challenges in implementing its reform agenda, but the
following have been identified as key issues to be addressed:
1. Poor standard of faculty and lack of training / capacity building
2. Low enrollment in higher education
42 Higher Education Commission’s presentation made to NEP Review Team on August 22, 2006.
3. Minimal relevance of higher education to national needs and lack of
compatibility to International Standards
4. Low quality of research and lack of relevance to national requirements
5. Poor Governance of Universities
On the governance side, the issue of provincial and federal domains again
creates a problem specifically at the under-graduate or the college level. Though
the curricula are determined at the Federal level and the degrees awarded by
universities working under the control of the Higher Education Commission, the
administrative control of colleges themselves lies with the provincial

71. There are two fundamental causes for the weak performance of the education
sector: (i) a lack of commitment to education – a commitment gap - and (ii) an
implementation gap that has thwarted the application of policies. The two gaps are
linked in practice: a lack of commitment leads to poor implementation, but the weak
implementation presents a problem of its own.

3.1.4 The Commitment Gap

72. The low resources stand in sharp contrast to the commitment required by the
policy statements, which set up ambitious goals for the sector. The national emphasis
on education goes back to the enshrining of the right to education in the Constitution.
73. The contrast between the vision and the commitment has been pointed out by the
Planning Commission: “We cannot spend only 2.7 % of our GDP on education and
expect to become a vibrant knowledge economy”33.
30 Human Development Report 2007/2008, UNDP, 2007.
31 ibid.
32 The State of Pakistan’s Competitiveness 2007, Competitive Support Fund, USAID, Ministry of Finance,
Government of Pakistan, 2007.
33 Pakistan in the 21st Century: Vision 2030, Planning Commission, Government of Pakistan, 2007.
74. The commitment gap could come from two reasons: (i) a lack of belief in
education’s true worth for socio-economic and human-centred development; and/or
(ii) a lack of belief in the goals themselves. In regard to the first, the analysis done
during the policy review, including reviewing recent international research and policy
experience, confirms the potent role education can play in achieving economic growth
and social development. On this basis, the commitment gap could not arise for this
75. The second reason, the lack of commitment to the policy goal itself may,
therefore, be the real problem. At the time of its birth as a nation, Pakistan inherited
an approach to education that had two features. First, the education system of the time
was designed to supply the skills needed to run the colonial administration. The
accent was on education for the few, basically to fill public service jobs. The
prevailing objective was service to the administration rather than service to the
students and learners. This assessment is echoed by the Economist Intelligence Unit
assessment in its latest review of education, in which it observes that “Pakistan’s
education system is among the most deficient and backward in Asia, reflecting the
traditional determination of feudal ruling elite to preserve its hegemony”34. Second,
the economic structure of Pakistan at its inception was almost entirely agrarian, with
little manufacturing and a small services sector. The skill needs of the economy did
not influence the structure of educational provision. The tradition of British education,
which Pakistan inherited, emphasized academic skills (to serve the administration)
rather than skills and competence for use in the production sector.


38. Financial resources for education come largely from the public sector, which
spends 2.5% of the GDP (2006-07) on education. A further 0.5% is estimated to be
the contribution of the private sector, putting the combined resources at around 3% of
GDP for 2006-200723. Although both public and private contributions have increased
over the years (as a proportion of the GDP), there has been some increase in this
proportion over the recent years, from the comparable figure of 2.2% in 2000-2001,
revealing a slight upward trend.
39. The data on public expenditure on education reveal the low priority Pakistan
gives to education: it spends relatively less on education (2.3%) than countries like
Iran (4.7%), Malaysia (6.2), Thailand (4.2%), South Korea (4.6%), India (3.8%), and
Bangladesh (2.5%)24.
40. In terms of cost structure by type of provision, the annual expenditure per pupil
in the public sector for 2005-06 amounts to Rs. 6,436 at the primary school level,
17 World Development Indicators 2007, The World Bank, 2007.
18 Reforms: Education Sector 2004-2007, Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan, 2007.
19 National Education Census: Highlights, Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan, 2006.
20 Education for All by 2015: Will we make it? EFA Global Monitoring Report 2008, UNESCO, 2007.
21 National Education Census: Highlights, Ministry of education, Government of Pakistan, 2006.
22 Human Development Report 2007/2008, UNDP.
23 Reforms: Education Sector 2004-2007, Ministry of Education, Government of Pakistan, 2007.
24 World Development Indicators 2007, The World Bank, 2007.
rising to 6,815 for secondary education and 40,332 for the tertiary level25. The data
also show the large rise in tertiary costs over the period 2003 to 2006.
41. In terms of disbursements to various components of the education sector, the
primary sector accounts for some 44%, the secondary sector 24 %, and some 13%
goes to the tertiary sector, the rest being claimed by other sectors26. Expenditures on
the primary and secondary education, therefore, amount to some five times more than
the expenditure on the tertiary sector. These ratios vary a great deal among countries,
since they depend on a large number of country specific factors such as the
demographic profile, cost per student in different sectors, the state of development of
different sectors, and the needs of the economy. In comparison, the share of the
tertiary sector in the developed economies is, on average, 2.7 times larger than for
non-tertiary sectors, though the ratio varies widely among countries27.


80. The Constitution of Pakistan sets out a broad-based egalitarian view of
education, based on values, and responding to the requirements of economic growth.
Its Article 38 (d) speaks of instilling moral values and of providing education to all
citizens irrespective of gender, caste, creed, or race. Article 37(b) explicitly states that
the State of Pakistan shall endeavour “to remove illiteracy and provide free and
compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period”. Article 34
requires that “steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all the
spheres of national life”. It is in this perspective that Pakistan has made a commitment
to achieve the six Education for All (EFA) goals within the specified target dates.
81. In contrast to this vision for education, there has been little de facto commitment
to achieving the ambitions of a national educational policy. Governance and
management of education has fallen short of the commitments. As a consequence,
Pakistan’s education system, far from being a cohesive national system, is afflicted
with fissures that have created parallel systems of education and has performed poorly
on the criteria of access, equity and quality.
82. As the report ‘Vision 2030’ describes it, the reality on the ground is “the divide
between the prevalent school structure and differences in levels of infrastructure and
facilities, media of instruction, emolument of teachers, and even examination systems
between public and private sectors. The rich send their children to private run English
medium schools which offer foreign curricula and examination systems; the public
schools enrol those who are too poor to do so.” This divide can be further categorised
across low cost private schools and the elite schools. There is another divide between
the curriculum that is offered to the children enrolled in Deeni Madaris and the
curriculum in the rest of the public and private establishments. There is also an
unresolved and continuing debate on how and what religious and moral values to be
taught through the educational system and how to accommodate non-Muslim
83. Pakistan’s commitment to universal primary education by 2015 under the EFA
framework appears elusive on current performance, as participation is low and access
drop-out rates continue to be high. There are persistent gender and rural-urban
disparities. Girls continue to remain under-represented in the education system, both
public and private. The rural urban divide is stark on most indicators of school
provision and participation, which becomes particularly attenuated in some Provinces
and Areas. International comparisons of education quality revealed by the NEAS are
not encouraging.
84. An education system cannot remain in isolation of the challenges and
opportunities provided by globalization. These are in the field of business and
commerce, technology, cultural values and identity and many more. Unfortunately a
comprehensive national analysis and debate on the potential impact and possible
benefits of globalization has been a major deficit.

3.1.5 The Implementation Gap

76. The implementation gap, though less well documented, is believed to be more
pervasive in that it affects many aspects of governance and the allocation and use of
resources. One piece of evidence relates to the amount of developmental funds
allocated to the sector that remains unspent. Estimates range from 20% to 30% of
allocated funds remaining unutilised. The underlying causes may lie in the lack of a
planning culture, planning capacity and weaknesses in the accountability mechanisms.
77. Another type of implementation problem surfaces in the corruption that is
believed to pervade the system. Anecdotes abound of education allocations
systematically diverted to personal use at most levels of the allocation chain. Political
influence and favouritism are believed to interfere in the allocation of resources to the
Districts and schools, in recruitment, training and posting of teachers and school
administrators that are not based on merit, in awarding of textbook contracts, and in
the conduct of examinations and assessments. The pervasive nature of corruption
indicates a deeper problem where the service to the students and learners is not at the
forefront of thinking and behaviour on the part of some involved in operating the


198. Development of detailed implementation plans, priorities and strategies is the
key to success of the National Education Policy. This is exclusively the task of the
provincial and district governments. However, to facilitate the process and develop a
clear path and mechanism, an overall framework for implementation is being
recommended here. The final detailed implementation plans will flow from these
conceptual bases.
199. In summary, after the NEP is agreed to by all federating units, it will become a
jointly owned national document. Each province and area will develop
implementation strategies and plans as per its own priorities (including current
ongoing activities). At the Federal level, the Ministry of Education will collate the
plans of the federating units to develop a national picture of educational progress in
Pakistan for reporting to international fora and more importantly, presenting it to the
Inter Provincial Education Ministers’ Conference- the highest body to oversee
development of education in Pakistan.


95. The Policy has identified implementation problems as one of the two main
underlying causes of poor performance of the education sector. Implementation
problems, themselves, can be traced to several types of governance problems, which
need addressing:
1. Absence of a whole-of-sector view
2. Lack of policy coherence
3. Unclear roles in fragmented governance
4. Parallel systems of education (public-private divide)
5. Weak planning and management
6. Lack of stakeholder participation


78. Addressing the two underlying deficiencies requires a fundamental change in the
thinking that informs education policy at all levels. The need for a paradigmatic shift
34 Country Report: Pakistan, Economist Intelligence Unit, The Economist, November 2007.
is echoed in the ‘Vision 2030’ report of the Planning Commission, which calls for
major adaptations and innovation in the education system.
79. The paradigmatic shift requires that the objectives of the education policy would
be to serve the interests of students and learners rather than of those who develop
policy or implement programmes. This is a very fundamental shift as it implies
changes in all the important parameters of education policy: what educational
provision to offer; who benefits from educational provision; what pedagogy and
teaching and learning methods to employ; and how the resource cost should be shared
among the stakeholders. Accordingly, the Policy recognises the need for reforms and
makes recommendations for action in a wide range of areas, which are divided into
the two categories. First, there are system level reforms, which deal with such issues

as the vision of the system, sector priorities and governance, and resources for the
sector. The second set of reforms address problems that are specific to individual subsectors
of education, ranging from early childhood education to adult learning.


69. The foregoing analysis reveals that Pakistan has made progress on a number of
education indicators in recent years. Notwithstanding the progress, education in
Pakistan suffers from two key deficiencies: at all levels of education, access to
educational opportunities remains low and the quality of education is weak, not only
in relation to Pakistan’s goals themselves but also in international comparisons with
the reference countries.
70. On the Education Development Index, which combines all educational access
measures Pakistan lies at the bottom with Bangladesh and is considerably below in
comparison to Sri Lanka30. A similar picture is painted by the gross enrolment ratios
that combine all education sectors, and by the adult literacy rate measures. The overall
Human Development Index (HDI) for Pakistan stands at 0.55, which is marginally
better than for Bangladesh and Nepal but poorer than other countries in the region31.
The report also shows that while Pakistan’s HDI has improved over the years but the
rate of progress in other countries has been higher. Bangladesh, starting at a lower
base has caught up, while other countries have further improved upon their relative
advantage. These developments do not augur well for Pakistan’s competitive position
in the international economy. As the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) shows,
Pakistan’s performance is weak, on the health and education related elements of
competitiveness, when compared with its major competitors like India, China,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia32.