Pakistan: Reforming the Education Sector

Asia Report N°84
7 October 2004

Pakistan’s deteriorating education system has radicalised many young people while failing to equip them with the skills necessary for a modern economy. The public, government-run schools, which educate the vast majority of children poorly rather than the madrasas (religious seminaries) or the elite private schools are where significant reforms and an increase in resources are most needed to reverse the influence of jihadi groups, reduce risks of internal conflict and diminish the widening fissures in Pakistani society. Both the government and donors urgently need to need give this greater priority.

Recent attempts at reform have made little headway, and spending as a share of national output has fallen in the past five years. Pakistan is now one of just twelve countries that spend less than 2 per cent of GDP on education. Moreover, an inflexible curriculum and political interference have created schools that have barely lifted very low literacy rates.

In January 2002, President Pervez Musharraf’s government presented its Education Sector Reform (ESR) plan, aimed at modernising the education system. A major objective was to develop a more secular system in order to offset mounting international scrutiny and pressure to curb religious extremism in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks. But Pakistani governments, particularly those controlled by the military, have a long history of failing to follow through on announced reforms.

Executive Summary & Recoomendations:

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