At independence, Pakistan had a poorly educated population and
few schools or universities. Although the education system has
expanded greatly since then, debate continues about the curriculum,
and, except in a few elite institutions, quality remained a crucial
concern of educators in the early 1990s.
Adult literacy is low, but improving. In 1992 more than 36 percent
of adults over fifteen were literate, compared with 21 percent
in 1970. The rate of improvement is highlighted by the 50 percent
literacy achieved among those aged fifteen to nineteen in 1990.
School enrollment also increased, from 19 percent of those aged
six to twenty-three in 1980 to 24 percent in 1990. However, by
1992 the population over twenty-five had a mean of only 1.9 years
of schooling. This fact explains the minimal criteria for being
considered literate: having the ability to both read and write
(with understanding) a short, simple statement on everyday life.
Relatively limited resources have been allocated to education,
although there has been improvement in recent decades. In 1960
public expenditure on education was only 1.1 percent of the gross
national product (GNP--see Glossary); by 1990 the figure had risen
to 3.4 percent. This amount compared poorly with the 33.9 percent
being spent on defense in 1993. In 1990 Pakistan was tied for
fourth place in the world in its ratio of military expenditures
to health and education expenditures. Although the government
enlisted the assistance of various international donors in the
education efforts outlined in its Seventh Five-Year Plan (1988-93),
the results did not measure up to expectations.
Data as of April 1994