Society and Norms: Literacy and Education

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Historically, education in Pakistan has had two primary goals: 1) teach the young how to live according to Islam and; 2) prepare them to support the nation's industrial base. In order to boost literacy rates and prepare the younger generation for employment, Pakistan has initiated secular education reform that has doubled the number of schools and the number of students in school. Since 1998, the overall Pakistani literacy rate has risen from 36% to 50%. Today 63% of males are literate while only 36% of females are literate. Lack of school facilities and poverty has made education difficult in rural areas, where children may be forced to leave school to assist their families in farming or other labor. Working with NGOs, the Pakistani government has made a concentrated effort to bring more schools to rural areas. In both rural and urban areas, school attendance drops off sharply after primary school and only 1 in 10 children make it to high school. At every educational level and in every province, women are under-represented in the educational system.

There were only two universities in Pakistan when it became an independent nation in 1947 and the wealthy would generally travel abroad for their education. Today there are hundreds of private and public universities, though many still travel abroad for higher education.


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