Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Universal Primary Education in Pakistan: Constraints and Challenges

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Universal Primary Education in Pakistan: Constraints and Challenges

Article excerpt


This paper addresses the issue of universal primary education (one of the MDGs) in Pakistan. It is unlikely for Pakistan to achieve Universal Primary Education (UPE) by 2015. The main assumption in this study is that existence and proper functioning of a school in a locality need its integration with the community and other local institutions by making them the stakeholders. It also intends to identify the problems in the way of universal primary education in Pakistan. An all-encompassing approach (that addresses all the constraints) to this issue may be useful to achieve the goal of Universal Primary Education in Pakistan. The study draws on secondary data such as review of government reports, scientific published material and other relevant literature. We found that the issue has multiple dimensions, such as insufficient educational services, especially in rural areas, incompetent and untrained teachers (mostly recruited on the basis of political recommendation) and poor quality of education. We also identified other constraints concerned with the UPE, such as poor physical and educational environment, poverty, lack of community participation, illiterate parents and lack of political commitment and good governance. This situation, with regard to primary education, creates doubts about the utility of schooling among the resource constrained parents. Additionally, inadequate and insufficient technical and vocational training institutions for those students who successfully complete the primary education are also an inhibiting factor. It is important that the school is made a part of the larger social structure and ought to be sensitive and responsive to the needs of students, parents and the community at large.

Keywords: Universal Primary Education; Pakistan; National Education Policy; constraints; challenges; community participation


Globally, Universal Primary Education (UPE) as part of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has demonstrated progress. Worldwide integrated efforts have resulted into an improved access and increase in global net enrolment ratio from 82% in 1999 to 90% in 2010. Nevertheless, there were still 29 countries with net primary enrolment ratio below 85%. Most of these countries belong to Sub Saharan Africa, South and West Asia.

Data exhibits that almost one half of the out of school children belonged to only 12 of the countries in which Pakistan stood second in order from top, with 5.1 million out of school children in 2010. The progress of Pakistan towards the achievement of MDG 2 reflects a global trend where the improvement in net primary enrolment ratio has procrastinated since or around 2005-2006. Net primary enrolment ratio in Pakistan was 42% in 2001 which rose consistently to 56% in 2006-2007 only to halt at this point during 2011-2012 (PIHS, 2001-2002; PSLM, 2011-2012). This means that the initiatives undertaken globally and in Pakistan to address UPE gradually lost their momentum, and as a result the most vulnerable segments of population appear to have suffered.

Pakistan committed itself to UPE in the Jomtien Conference (1990) which was reiterated with the stipulation of its achievement by year 2015 in Dakar Framework of Action for Education For All (EFA) (2000). In this context, two major policy prescriptions were made by the National Education Policy (NEP, 2009). While making these policies, an elaborate consultative process was initiated by the Government of Pakistan in the form of NEP (1998-2010) and included broad range of stakeholders, and covered a spectrum of agendas in the light of the global drive for EFA goals. Despite all these policy prescriptions, Pakistan educational landscape has to go a long way to attain the desired goals.

The National Education Policy (1998-2010) focused on community mobilization, quality improvement and higher budgetary allocation to improve the enrolment in public schools. Following the policy, Education Sector Reforms (2001-2005) were developed in rigorous consultation with all the key stakeholders of EFA. …

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