Pakistan Table of Contents
Three initiatives characterized reform efforts in education in the late 1980s and early 1990s: privatization of schools that had been nationalized in the 1970s; a return to English as the medium of instruction in the more elite of these privatized schools, reversing the imposition of Urdu in the 1970s; and continuing emphasis on Pakistan studies and Islamic studies in the curriculum.
Until the late 1970s, a disproportionate amount of educational spending went to the middle and higher levels. Education in the colonial era had been geared to staffing the civil service and producing an educated elite that shared the values of and was loyal to the British. It was unabashedly elitist, and contemporary education--reforms and commissions on reform notwithstanding--has retained the same quality. This fact is evident in the glaring gap in educational attainment between the country's public schools and the private schools, which were nationalized in the late 1970s in a move intended to facilitate equal access. Whereas students from lower-class backgrounds did gain increased access to these private schools in the 1980s and 1990s, teachers and school principals alike bemoaned the decline in the quality of education. Meanwhile, it appears that a greater proportion of children of the elites are traveling abroad not only for university education but also for their high school diplomas.
The extension of literacy to greater numbers of people has spurred the working class to aspire to middle-class goals such as owning an automobile, taking summer vacations, and providing a daughter with a once-inconceivable dowry at the time of marriage. In the past, Pakistan was a country that the landlords owned, the army ruled, and the bureaucrats governed, and it drew most of its elite from these three groups. In the 1990s, however, the army and the civil service were drawing a greater proportion of educated members from poor backgrounds than ever before.
One of the education reforms of the 1980s was an increase in the number of technical schools throughout the country. Those schools that were designated for females included hostels nearby to provide secure housing for female students. Increasing the number of technical schools was a response to the high rate of underemployment that had been evident since the early 1970s. The Seventh Five-Year Plan aimed to increase the share of students going to technical and vocational institutions to over 33 percent by increasing the number of polytechnics, commercial colleges, and vocational training centers. Although the numbers of such institutions did increase, a compelling need to expand vocational training further persisted in early 1994.
Data as of April 1994