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Assignment On Education In Pakistan Dawn

Article 26 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNO, 1948: 5) states that ‘Education shall be free at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. ... Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.’ It is unfortunate that a number of people, mostly women, have been deprived of this fundamental right. According to the most recent UIS data, (http://www.uis.unesco.org/ev_en.php?ID=6401) there are an estimated 781 million illiterate adults in the world, about 64 per cent of whom are women.

According to the World Bank report Gender Equality and Development (2011: 5) ‘... in Pakistan, children whose mothers have even a single year of education spend one extra hour studying at home every day and report higher test scores.’ Almost all the important educational policy documents since 1947 have acknowledged the significance of female education and set targets to enhance it and reduce gender gaps. Education policies in Pakistan have consistently included the objective of increasing female access to education and reducing the gender gap. Article 34 of the Constitution of Pakistan requires that ‘steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all the spheres of national life’.

This chapter offers a critical analysis of the policies pertaining to female education. In the process the chapter will discuss the economic, social, cultural, and religious factors that have made female education more challenging.


Increasing access to education and reducing the gender gap is imperative for human development


The Pakistan Educational Conference, 1947

The Pakistan Educational Conference, 1947 made a special committee on women’s education. The terms of reference for the women’s education committee included:

• suggesting means for surveying the facilities for women’s education in Pakistan;

• chalking out a programme for women’s education at all stages with the syllabus of studies suited to the needs of the country;

• suggesting a programme of adult education with special provision for purdahobserving ladies;

• considering the desirability of having separate women’s educational institutions after the primary stage;

• suggesting ways and means for popularizing vocational education among women;

• considering the arrangements for the training of women teachers for preprimary and nursery schools, and

• considering any other related matter.

Some of the major proposals of the conference dealing with female education included surveys by the education departments of the provinces in Pakistan and collection of all factual statistical information about the present facilities available for various grades of women’s education in their respective provinces. The conference also proposed that:

• primary schools could be coeducational or otherwise according to local needs;

• there should be separate schools for girls at the secondary stage and domestic science and home-nursing should be introduced as compulsory subjects in the curriculum;

• as far as practicable, separate colleges

be established for girls such as two women’s

medical colleges in East Pakistan and West Pakistan respectively;

• more educational facilities in the form of scholarships;

• properly equipped boarding houses and conveyance for female students;

• liberal stipends and scholarships for girls desiring to take up courses in subjects like nursing, commerce, radio engineering, etc. (GoP, 1947: 1516).

The Conference also proposed efforts to enlist the active help and cooperation of the public, especially of industrialists, businessmen, and zamindars, in establishing adult literacy centres for women both in towns as well as in the rural areas; they were to be persuaded to earmark a certain percentage of their profits towards the establishment and maintenance of such centres for their women employees and tenants. Furthermore firstaid, homenursing and hygiene were to be made compulsory in the higher stages of secondary education; 50 per cent spending was allotted for adult literacy centres for women; women would be encouraged to receive vocational training; a sufficient number of firstrate Teachers Training Institutes for Women would be established to impart special training in the teaching of nursery and primary classes; all the nursery and preprimary schools were to be staffed entirely with properly trained female teachers; `Industrial Homes’ were to be established where women could receive training in various types of vocations to enable them to earn their livelihood; appointment of female experts were to be made on the Joint Committee to draw up the syllabi for secondary, high school, and university education; universities were to consider starting a University Nursing Training Corps and a University Officers Corps for Women.

The Commission on National Education, 1959

The Commission on National Education (GoP, 1959: 189) acknowledged the importance of women’s education by suggesting that, ‘Unless a mother is educated, there will never be an educated home or an educated community.’ The commission (GoP, 1959: 189) emphasized the equality of implications of its proposals by suggesting that:

... women need education just as Pakistan needs educated women, and it is the purpose and nature of this education that concerns us here. It should be clearly understood that the reform and expansion of education at all levels dealt with in other chapters of this report have been proposed with the needs of both boys and girls, men and women in mind.

The recommendations of the 1959 commission (GoP, 1959: 195) included the provision of equal facilities in terms of quantity and quality for the education of boys and girls, female teachers for girls and boys for the first three classes and for exclusive subjects at the secondary school level; introduction of subjects of particular interest to girls such as elementary home craft, tailoring, weaving, cookery, and child care; girls should be guided either into secondary schools or into vocational schools after class eight; offering courses suited to their aptitude and interests; special courses for girls dealing with secretarial work, the operation of telecommunication and electronic equipment, and the driving of light and heavy vehicles in the technical and vocational domain, diversion courses in commercial subjects such as typing, stenography and bookkeeping, food technology including dietetics, catering and canteen management; textile design and interior decoration at high school level; introduction of a home economics departments in colleges for girls at the higher education level; special provision for the training of women in secretarial work and office management and in the fields of bookkeeping, accountancy, and commercial banking, along with courses in nursing and fine arts in commercial colleges; clean and comfortable accommodation for girls living in a boarding house with provision of wholesome food; university student participation in an organized national programme which, in the case of girls, would involve nursing or adult education or training in civil or military defence.

The proposal for a new educational policy, 1969

The 1969 policy (GoP, 1969: 42) at the outset acknowledged the significant role of women’s education by stating that, `It is from his mother, more than from anyone else, that a child acquires his values for life. To have a nation of educated mothers could itself be considered a worthwhile aim of an education policy.’ The policy lamented the fact that at the primary level girls’ enrolment was not more than 20 per cent and at a higher level this percentage was even lower. The policy held economic and social factors responsible for the low school enrolment of girls. Most parents consider that a girl’s education is not a good investment and similarly for social reasons would not send their daughters to schools where they are taught by male teachers alongside male students. According to the policy, the aims of the proposed policy would be difficult to achieve unless a breakthrough was made in women’s education. The policy proposed free education of girls up to class eight in order to deal with the economic restraints of the parents. As for the social restraints, the policy proposed that separate school buildings should be made for girls. Also the number of female teachers should be increased by giving them certain incentives like free transportation, housing assistance, and special pay for difficult assignments.

This excerpt is taken from the chapter ‘Female Education’

Excerpted with permission from
Education Policies in Pakistan: Politics Projections and Practices
By Shahid Siddiqui
Oxford University Press, Karachi
ISBN: 978-0-19-940207-6
320pp.

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, September 4th, 2016

THERE are two prevailing mindsets that could account for the staggered growth of female education in Pakistan: that which thinks of education as an asset, and the other which views it as a threat. The crux of the issue of slow-to-improve gender disparity in our education system is that Pakistanis appear to have both mindsets at the same time.

Less than a decade ago, a child’s gender significantly accounted for unequal opportunities in primary education, even more so in the case of secondary education in Pakistan. Today, surveys show more than eight out of 10 Pakistanis say that education is equally important for boys and girls; very few think that it is more important for boys than girls or the other way round.

Still, Pakistan, being a part of the global Education For All (EFA) movement, has not been able to achieve a key measurable education goal: eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education no later than 2015.


Female enrolment is up but there can still be socio-cultural hurdles.


This is so despite efforts made by government institutions to improve inclusivity in education, such as the Female Secondary School Stipend Programme initiated in Punjab in 2004, the Stipend Programme for Secondary School Females in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that was started in 2006, and the 2016 policy to end gender segregation in public schools in Balochistan to allow girls access to higher quality boys’ schools.

These examples were actions relevant to the National Education Policy, and the Education Sector Reforms. They are also aligned with commitments made by the government to EFA goals. A case cannot be made that there is no institutional and reform-based support for facilitating educational access for females.

Though there has been top-down support for equity in education, there is a lack of bottom-up support. This results in a non-holistic approach that has only partially delivered on its promises. This schism is not immediately apparent; one can only start to make sense of it by looking at the following fact: according to a 2015 Asian Development Bank report, female enrolment is up as the net enrolment ratio improved by 16pc in recent years. However, only a quarter of our labour force is female. Compared to the region and the world, Pakistan has a dismal gender gap when it comes to economic participation and opportunity for females.

Even though there may be less resistance to how many girls go to school, there is another kind of resistance related to what girls do after they get educated. This was apparent in the case of focus groups with over 200 parents and teachers of children enrolled in low-cost private schools in rural and urban north Punjab in late 2016. I was directly involved in these discussions as programme manager for the ongoing Learning and Achievement in Pakistan Schools, or LEAPS. The focus groups revealed that many parents viewed girls’ education as a form of protection and expected social and financial clout for their daughters as the natural consequence of educating them.

Surprisingly, most even expected higher returns when it came to investing in a daughter’s education as compared to a son’s education — both in social and financial terms. One got to hear comments such as ‘we should spend more on our daughters as we will get a higher return on our investment. She will go to college and study ... she will pass exams. When we spend more on our son, we will spend more but he will fail’. And ‘an educated girl is better able to handle issues with her in-laws’. This is a new (and encouraging) concept.

Yet, these same determined and financially invested parents also agreed with the participating female teachers on girls discontinuing their work after getting married if they could not obtain permission from their in-laws to carry on. Perhaps, in their minds, socio-cultural norms take precedence over the financial and social freedom afforded by girls’ education.

The two mindsets accounting for the staggered growth of education for females are discernible at this point, with one propelling such education forward and the other being more concerned about all this getting out of hand. Pakistanis, it seems, are grappling with how to fuse the two to progress, and also with how to sidestep whatever is deemed inconvenient in socio-cultural terms.

Pakistan’s educated female labour force is slowly growing across socioeconomic groups, and it would be a missed economic opportunity if it is not accompanied by support in the form of socio-cultural acceptance. One can only hope that as we get more educated, the fear of education also becomes a remnant of the past.

The writer works at the Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan. The views expressed are her own.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2017