Half of Pakistan’s children – 24m of them – are still out of school

Girls' education, Teachers and learning

Pakistani children taught outdoors at a makeshift school in Lahore

The stark reality of Pakistan’s education problems has been laid bare in a government report that reveals huge out-of-school numbers, high dropout rates, inadequate staffing levels and woeful facilities.

A staggering 47% – or 24 million – of the country’s children and youth aged five to 16 are not in school.  

And 78% of those – that’s 18.6 million young people – have NEVER been enrolled in school.

The statistics were contained in the annual Pakistan Education Statistics report for 2014-2015, which showed the out-of-school number had fallen by one million from the 2013 figure.

Mosharraf Zaidi, campaign director for the education non-profit organisation Alif Ailaan, said the findings showed Pakistan’s public education system is a “complete failure”.

But he praised the release of the report and its honesty, saying it was “important for government documents to reflect reality”.

Among the findings were:

  • Gender: of the children not in school, 12.8 million are girls and 11.2 million boys – in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, 52% of girls are out of school compared to 21% of boys
  • Enrolment: 72% at primary level, 47% at middle school level and 31% at high school
  • Dropout rates: of those who start primary school, only 66% complete fifth year and 28% their 10th year of education
  • Resources: 9% of schools have no buildings, 18% of schools have only one classroom and 29% of government schools have just one teacher
  • Facilities: 44% of schools have no electricity, 34% (or 45,000 schools) have no drinkable water, 30% no boundary walls and 28% no bathroom facilities
  • Literacy rates: 60% for children 10 and over and 72% for ages 15 to 24

Balochistan province has the highest number of out-of-school children – 70% or 1.8 million. Next come the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on 60% and Sindh on 56%.

At the report’s launch Muhammad Baligh-Ur-Rehman, State Minister for Education and Professional Training Baligur Rehman, said: “The OSCs (out-of-school children) decreased from 25 million to 24 million and all federal and provincial governments are making their best efforts to decrease this figure.”

He added: “We are not scared of accepting our flaws and as per our duty we will address them. The beauty of this report is that it publishes the good and bad news side by side – this ensures a holistic approach to the question of data and evidence on education.”

He insisted that by 2030 all children will be in school because the government is committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of universal quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Mr Ailaan said: “This is an important moment for the children of Pakistan. Now that the government is focusing on enrolment, more attention is needed on the collection and dissemination of metrics on education quality and learning outcomes in the government schools.”

Read the full report here.

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