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Globalisation and Education Policy of Pakistan: The Challenges of Access

and Equity in Education

Main author:

Muhammad Ashraf

Co- author: Peter


College of Social Sciences, School of Education, University of Glasgow, UK

Historically, education policies of Pakistan remained under the strong influence of religious ideologies, global
challenges, Socialist agenda and regional trends. After the 9/11 incident and the growing forces of extremism,
the government opted for a New National Education Policy (NEP 2009). The policy was inspired by the idea of
globalisation and declares education as a knowledge economy. Although the government praises the policy, the
opposition, the religious groups, the ethnic sentiments and the general public oppose it in terms of access and
equity. This study aims at exploring the effects of globalisation on access and equity in the education system of
Pakistan. These aspects are selected because of their place and importance in the EFA and MDGs which
Pakistan is a signatory and obligatory to take measure to meet the declared goals. This study may contribute to
find out the gaps and help in alleviating the controversial debate. Education policies of Pakistan (1947 to 2009)
are the source of data for this study. These documents were investigated from the perspective of Critical Policy
Sociology (CPS) to establish what came of access and equity. CPS helped to uncover the tension between the
enterprise and prescribed policies and the results which do not enrich peoples lives, enhance inequality and
barriers to access to education. That is the incapacity for social practice. There is sufficient evidence to show
that due to globalisation and universalisation in the education policies of Pakistan, the enrolment rate and female
literacy at primary level has increased. Similarly, the dropout rate has increased in all other stages. The
privatisation of education promoted education and contributed in GDP of the country but remained a source of
inequality and widened socio-economic divide. English as medium of instruction opened the door of
opportunities for some while remained a disadvantage for majority. In addition to this the missing facilities,
higher student teacher ratio, and poor infrastructure in public schools and in rural areas caused problem for
access and equity.
Key Words: Globalisation, privatisation, access, equity, education policy, education system, Critical Policy

The people and government of Pakistan believe that access and equity in education are
essential factors in the promotion of quality education, literacy rate, contributing to growing
economy, producing job opportunities and alleviating poverty. They also accept that the role
of education as cross-cutting on human life and specifically improvement of human
development (Husain, 2003). Basically one year after independence, Pakistan became part of
the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thus Pakistan obliged to the
Article 26 which states. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least










compulsory.(United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948). Later the

Constitution of Pakistan (1973) declared that the state of Pakistan shall remove illiteracy and
provide free and compulsory secondary education within minimum possible period.
Consequently the state announced free and compulsory education for the primary stage.
After Pakistan got independence (1947), the government established public schools, colleges
and universities all over the country where education was provided free of direct cost. But
due to lack of funding and attention, the standard of such schools could not be maintained
effectively. The medium of instruction in these schools has been changing since the
independence of Pakistan. At many points, it remained Urdu even in the recent times. On
other occasions, it was changed to pupils mother tongues. With some regimes, English was
declared the medium of instruction too, but as a whole, Urdu as medium of instruction has
served the longest.
To fill this gap the government introduced a chain of army administered Cadet Colleges all
over the country and a series of elite English medium, and Christian convent schools to serve
a special class of the population. The government also supported their existence as a source
of promotion of literacy and quality education. In 1970s, Bhutto came in power with his idea
of socialism and nationalised all institutions of the country. The number of the public sector
schools increased to a point which as argued by Bokhari (1998), became unmanageable.
Therefore the nationalisation policy did not achieve the targeted goals and it resulted in
reducing enrolment rate as well as a substantial financial benefits received from this sector.
During General Zia-ul-Haq regime (1977), privatisation was denounced and schools were
denationalised and decentralised. This turn of events, largely reinstated the confidence of
private investors leading to their share in education increasing and equally increasing
enrolment (Andrabi et al, 2002). Decentralisation and privatisation policies also expanded

schools in to the rural areas. The education authorities encouraged and permitted NonGovernmental Organisations (NGOs) to take over those public school structures that were not
in use due to lack of funding from the government. As a result, the private sector schools
became famous and acceptable by the public leading to an increase in number to 36,000
(Andrabi et al, 2003). Its contribution to the promotion of enrolment rate at primary stage
increased to 42%, 37% at the middle, 30% at secondary and 64% at higher secondary levels.
After the establishment of these two sectors, there still remained visible gaps in accessing
education especially in the rural areas; and thus madrassa (religious school) was declared a
promoter of literacy along with the public and private institutions. Hence, madrassa became
an active part of formal education in Pakistan and contributed highly to raising enrollment
figures. Its main focus was Islamic religious education. Blanchard (2008) mentioned in his
report that there are 13,000 registered madaris (plural of madrassa) in Pakistan.
Conclusively the education system of Pakistan is divided into public, private and madrassa.
The public sector is free of cost where Urdu is the MoI of instruction and represents people
from middle class (Rahman, 2002). The private sector is English medium and serves the rich
and elites (Abbas, 2003). The madrassa sector serves the underclass (Haqqani, 2004) and
provides free education, food and lodging. This shows that the education system of Pakistan is
divided on the lines of the socio-economic status of the people. In so doing, it has been the
cause of limiting other recipients to access education while benefitting others.


Globalisation began at the end of the Cold War as a set of economical/political policies based
on a strong faith in the beneficent effects of free market which include open market
approaches, free trade, and decrease in the public sector funding (Harvey, 2005). This thought
is recommended by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other
financial organizations (Harvey, 2005; Lomnitz and Milnick 1991; Torres 2002; Brown,
2003; Hill, 2004) and emphsise is on decrease of state intervention in the economy and
public services (Mises, 1962; Nozick, 1974).
Social analysis of globalisation shows that, it is not an approach which merely deals with the
economic sector policies rather it also involves governmentality of education and other social
policies and practices (Brown, 2003). Globalisation of education brought rapid development
in technology and communication which as a result made the world information-based

society. This changed has introduced a new form of cultural imperialism which is beileueved
as a threat for the promotion of regional cultures. Therefore such a global society aims at
producing global citizens, competition and information based society. The role of the state
is replaced by the individual, making him/ herself responsible for their education, job,
security, health, etc. this means that the destiny of the state lies within their ability to compete
in a global market. In recent, this approach was taken by neo-liberalism, (discussed in detail
in Ashraf and Kopweh, (2012)). Looking into the impact of access and equity in education in
Pakistan several factors of globalisation came into mind. The factors include privatisation,
monopoly, equity and decentralization. The place and impact of these factors in the education
policy and education system will be discussed with a special reference to Pakistan.

Pakistani context:

Pakistan occupies a strategic location geographically and that is of interest to the major
powers. It attracted the colonial interest because of its British colonial experience and
provided the US with manpower against the former Soviet Union. This is probably one of the
reasons why the Pakistani education system has a history of borrowing educational ideas
from these countries. Therefore the introduction of globalistion in the education policy
making emerged with a debate. Some believe globalsiation as an opportunity for raising skills
and standard of education. Others blame it as a contemporary adaptation of cultural
imperialism which escorts to a universal, eventually a Western society. One aspect of the
globalistion of education is the exchange programmes between countries. This helps in
transferring knowledge with an intention of improvement of skills and capabilities of the
people. For example, some Pakistani students have the opportunity to secure scholarship to
these countries, study teams are sent for tours, teachers are sent for training in the teaching of
English as a foreign language, and policy makers are trained to produce better policies.
With globalisation as argued by David Orr (1999), Western education has covered the entire
world which eventually distanced people from their culture and values. In Pakistan however,
the education policies saw an increased influence of privatization, the making of English
as media of instruction, interference of international agencies, anti Islamic economic
growth and the idea of public , private and madrassa education system (Khalique,
2007; Rahman, 1995; Haque, 1991). The ground was already paved to value privatisation

and English as a source of economic prosperity, quality education, access to international job
market and global identity (Abbas, 1993; and Jahani, 2004; Rahman, 2005).
The opposition considered these of education policies as a political decision (Abbas, 1993)
made to limit access to education for few, maintain the British status quo, sustain language

Privatisation of education
Privatization of state enterprises is one among the major programs of globalisation and
considered an effective strategy for the reduction of the public spending which often lead
to higher costs. Also, privatization is thought to be an important instrument for
depoliticizing the regulatory practices (Zadja, 2006; Torres, 2002; Rasool, 2007). Although,
state and market are two social services for globalists, it is seen that the focus is always
given to the market over the state (Hill, 2004; Harvey, 2005; Brown, 2003) because the
market is thought to be more adaptable and flexible. Another possible reason of prioritizing
the market is its quick response to the changes and seemingly its accountability to the
public sector than the bureaucratic policies. One of the main aspects of privatizations is its
autonomous nature of mechanism control and regulations. In terms of educational policies,
the World Bank has promoted polices of democratization of schooling (Torres, 2002,
p 375). In Pakistani context privatisation is a a tool of international organisation
(Haqqani, 2004) to allow the secular politics of competing economic and regional
interests to prevail over religious sentiment (p 86). The major economic powers believe
that militancy and religious extremism is due to the education system of the country and thus
privatization may be the ideal way for the international agencies to use education as a
mean of productivity and individual efficiency for a leading and sustainable economy
(Memon, 2007).
The National Education Policy 2009, has encouraged privatization in the education sector
by announcing that,
The private sectors role has been expanding in recent years. While there
are several causes for this relative growth, it is partly a reflection of the
shortcomings of public sector to provide quality education and that
Provincial Governments shall encourage private education at the school
level as an additional option available to those who can afford such
education (MoE, 2009, p26).

Due to this policy, the private sector schools and universities are up-and-coming as a
major competitor in providing access to education at all levels. According to the Federal
Bureau of Statistic Survey (2001) there are more than 36,096 private schools in the
country catering for 6.3 million children. This shows that education is used as a source
for economic reasons and the educational institutions became the hub of profit and engage a
strategic place in the economy (Stronach, 2010). This approach of marketisation of
education has issued licenses to the elites and the international investors of running and
controlling schools, colleges and universities for the sake of earnings which resulted in
mushrooming of educational institutions across the country.

Currently, the private sector has a 36% contribution in the total enrollment (NEP, 2009)
which is expanding rapidly. Consequently a chain of elite educational institutions
founded all over the country. E x a m p l e s a r e t h e c h a i n o f St . J o s e p h G r a m m a r





C o l l e ge ,

S ys t e m , T h e
La h o r e

City Schools,





S c i e n c e s ( LU M S ) , A gh a K h a n U n i v e r s i t y a n d s o o n . T h e s e i n s t i t u t i o n s
a r e b e l i e v e d t o b e offering high-quality instruction. These have excellent facilities and
well-qualified faculty, however these are very expensive institutions and most Pakistani
families cannot afford to send their children to these institutions but on the other hand there
are several private institutions that offer sub-standard programmes and exploit students
(Memon, 2007). The operators of such schools are just interested in making
profit rather than providing qualit y services. Regrettably, successes in the










dimensions. The qualitative dimension is also very important.

In globalisation, monopoly defines a situation whereby equality of all people is denied. It
focuses on a few and gives ownership to the powerful lobbyists (Baxter, et al, 1977).
There are always found some elites who are made responsible for making important social
decisions. Monopoly is central to the doctrine of globalisation because it appreciates a
dominant monopoly and the control of the state by few (Brown, 2003) because an efficient
response towards any change can be possible by few market actors (Torres, 2002). The

World Bank and IMF are a source of monopoly in Pakistan and other developing countries
in keeping their economic status under their policies and their power (Rasool, 2007).
The establishment of the elite schools, colleges, universities during different political
regimes, was spearheaded by individuals who were also influential in making public
decisions and policies. As noted by Khalique (2007 ), these schools enrolled the children
of the ruling elites with the purpose of studying competitive knowledge to meet
international demands. Thus a minority of top professionals like doctors, chartered
accountants, lawyers, pilots and engineers were produced by these institutions. On the other
hand, the public sector schools which serve the middle and lower income groups were
neglected by the government. They were denied justice to acquire a meaningful education
for social and economic mobility up the ladder of success.
If we see the history in post-partition era the public schools had Urdu as medium of
instruction comparing with the chain of highly paid English medium school where
English was implemented as medium of instruction. Due to their high fee structure,
medium of instruction and foreign examination centre these limited number of elitist
schools managed to sustain a level of quality (Khan, 1997). It was propagated that only the
private sector English medium schools meant a qualitative or better education. To maintain
the monopoly of the elitists schools the standard and quality of education in public schools
was fallen which was once producing successful candidates in all careers (Rasool, 2007)
Government encouraged

new schools to just opt for a selected English-medium and a

high fees requiring education which was out of the reach of the less privileged classes who
now demand this as a right to a successful future (Mujahid, 1999). With the passage of
time this difference in the field of education has divided the masses on the basis of
language and region which experimented several language riots, ethnic controversies
and militancy in the country (Khalique, 2007; Mahboob, 2003; Rahman, 1996; Haqqani,
2004). In todays Pakistan, the divide between the rich and the poor (private and public)
is so great that it negates the concept of the welfare state promised by the first
Governor General of Pakistan for this newly independent country.
The new education policy (NEP 2009) has once again neglected the uniformity of the
education system for a pluralistic country likewise Pakistan. Consequently, it can be
easily observed that this policy will be unable to fill the gaps rather the ideological
difference will widen to an extreme. Pakistan in present is facing serious problems of low
and classified education system, stuttering economic growth, extremism and militancy. In

such a situation a policy is needed which brings with it a high quality education for
many rather than excellence for few (Zajda, 2006).

Private education is beyond the means of the poorest people of Pakistan because the cost is
too high. There is also unequal distribution of wealth in the country which gives less chance
to the people from poor families to get an access to the higher education. In a neo-liberal
economy, the government cannot put the things right and they are only concerned with
staying in the power. Indeed, the state has invested heavily in creating a parallel system of
education for the elite who would presumably run elitist state institutions in future. One can
therefore conclude that the state does not trust its own system of education and spends public
funds to create and maintain the parallel, elitist system of schooling spread all over the

One of the strong effects of Neo-liberalism on education policy making is its
approach of decentralization. Decentralization of education has been promoted by
UNESCO, World Bank and IMF in 1950. This proposal was introduced with the global
development model which was implemented by some countries and many others have
given serious considerations to do so (McGinn, 1999). The purpose of decentralizing is
localization of education. To achieve this goal the localization of the decision making is
essential with a high participation of the workers. It is worth saying here that this
procedure is an invitation to creativity and the usage of new knowledge (Trier, et al, 2008).
It is therefore expected that the decentralization is likely to bring several changes in the
education systems of Pakistan and especially in teaching learning processes as well as
Pakistan in this regard has reviewed the NEP in 2005. The main reason behind this review
according to the NEP document 2009 is,
New international challenges like Millennium Development and
Dakar Education for All (EFA) goals, have gained greater momentum
in the intervening years and demanded fresh consideration. These
challenges are triggered by globalization and nations quest for
becoming a knowledge society (p1).

Thus the policy has taken the above international challenges (globalisation) as a target
which is stated in NEP as,
The foregoing articulations of the economic and social goals are taken
by the Policy as an appropriate basis for defining the priorities for
national education policy. They lead to two over-arching policy
priorities. Given the important role of education as a key driver of
economic growth and social advancement, the first policy priority is to
widen access to education for all. Improving the quality of education,
particularly in its dimension of being relevant to the needs of the
economy, becomes the second strategic priority (p20)
It is clear that the education system of Pakistan is multifaceted, and divided on the lines of
quality and status. In such a system is it possible to attain Education for All? And further
what kind of education is intended for all- the madrassa, public, low cost private or elite
private? And which institutions are going to produce talent oriented generation- the rural or
the urban, the Urdu medium or the English, the Uniform ones or the paint shirt ones? Is it
possible for a country with such a diverse system to implement a policy equally influential
for all?
Reforms in any field needs consultation with the stakeholders for successful implementation.
However in Pakistan reforms in the field of education are directly imported from IMF, World
Bank and other international organizations (Khalique, 2007; Haqani, 2004). These reforms as
mentioned above have least involvement from the stakeholders. Such reforms are mostly in
contrast with the ideology of the state, political will and local cultures which are not likely
leading it for sustainable change. Thus it seems like the elites and the ruling politicians claim
these educational reforms for self projection and status quo.

Methodology and data analysis

Data for this study was availed from 9 education policy documents of Pakistan. This is the
total number of national education policy documents passed by the parliaments under the
various regimes between 1947 -2009. The content of these policies were summarized and
imported into Word Smith (a software used for the analysis of documentary analysis) as word
document. They were interrogated for underpinning assumptions and vocabularies before
being analyzed through thematic coding of recurring themes. Major attributes of Policy

Sociology (the theoretical framework of this study) were used to gauge the recurring themes
regarding their impact on equity and access.
Generally the findings portrayed the use of control and influence in policy making practices
in education in Pakistan. According to the online dictionary access is the ability or right to
approach something while Equity can be defined as the quality of being fair and impartial.
Although it was noted that there has been some positive perspectives in the education
industry specifically increased enrolment at primary level, reduction in the gender gaps
(comparatively more women getting education than before), and an increased contribution of
the private sector to GDP. Furthermore it was revealed that more competition has emerged
with parents investing competitively in securing a better quality education for their children
in private schools. A detailed description of the findings follows hereunder:

Increased literacy in primary
After the Jomtien and Casablanca conferences Pakistan engaged in an attempt to implement
the EFA and MDGs particularly at the primary education stage. With financial support from
international funding organisations a large sum of the educational budget was allocated to
attain these goals. The general public accepted this move in good faith and there was no any
ill sentiments regarding the involvement of the international funding organisations. People
regarded primary education as compulsory for their children in this modern age and thank
God the government has come to its sense. Many more children were sent to schools and
eventually this promoted literacy levels as illustrated in the following illustration

Figure 1: Enrolment (estimated) in Educational Institutions (public and private), (2009-10)

Sources: 1. Pakistan Education Statistic Report (2008-09), 2. Higher Education Commission, 2011, 3. National
Education Census, 2005

Reduction of Gender Gap

Traditionally Pakistan has had a trend of wide gender gap in education which has contributed
to unequal distribution of jobs between men and women. With more schools constructed and
wide awareness to the efforts of government, non government organisations (NGOs) and
community based organisations (CBOs), more girls were enrolled in schools compared with
the previous years. The following illustration elaborates this shortening gap.

Figure 2: Literacy Rate in Pakistan, 2006-2009

Source: Pakistan Social & Living Standard Measurement Survey (PSLSM) 2008-09

Increased competition
With the effects of globalisation education got further importance and central value among
the people and the government. As a result the number of educational institutions i.e. public,
private and madrassa. These institutions are producing a large number of educated and
qualified people who needs jobs. Therefore all the important jobs involve tough competition
due to an increased number of candidates. Secondly the parents are investing a large sum of
their earnings on the education and qualification of their children to secure quality education
and white collar jobs. This can be proved by the Figure given below which shows a rocketed
rise in the private schools. Private schools are believed to be of better quality. Such schools
are set as a role model in NEP 2009 for the promotion of competition in education sector.

Table 1: The number of public and private schools






2000 (%)


































Sources: Adapted from I-SAPS, 2010

High drop out in all other stages

While the education policies shows a large allocation of budget for primary stage on the other
hand the budget for other stages remained low or at some place similar to the previous
policies. The official data shows that due to large number of promoted student from primary
stage the next stages were unable to accommodate them because of lack of facilities.
Therefore a large number of the children drop out and were unable to continue to the next

Widening of the socio-economic divide

Privatisation is and has always been presented positively as a necessary feature of the modern
public sector and as an essential one. For Pakistan however, it can described as a necessary
evil that has contributed to an increased inequality in the education sector. With an increased
number of private schools, a parent can now buy education just as they can buy any
commodity. Parents and students are now called clients (a business terminology). With more
money, a parent can send their child to an elitist academy that conducts studies in English and
perhaps based on Cambridge or Oxford based curriculum. A child from such a school will be
able to get the best job around because he would easily pass the interviews; which are always
conducted in English. A child from a public or madrassa school will never afford such a
chance. The bottom line is that the type of school that a child is enrolled into in Pakistan
these days has nothing to do with his academic excellence; rather it is based on parents
socio-economic status. Furthermore, people both in rural and urban areas seem to have
accepted the notion that English is the language of job market. On the contrary, government
policies have been favouring Urdu as a MOI for public sector schools for various reasons
including religious and nationalistic sentiments. It is just an essential subject. Practice
however has revealed that the essentiality talked about has never been substantiated by
practical tendencies. For instance, it is one of the poorly taught subjects from primary to
higher levels such that possibilities of meeting international job market standard is a dream.
On the other hand the private institutions practice quality English under the supervision of
foreign teachers and textbooks. Thus the quality of English for this sector functions as an
advantage or the students of the private sector.

Figure3: the average per student cost in different type of schools

Source: Rahman (nd)

Serious lack of facilities and poor infrastructure

The study also revealed that equitable access is also hampered by serious lack of resourcesboth physical and human. Due to fewer classrooms, over crowding is a common phenomenon
in Pakistan primary and secondary schools. In such classrooms every facility is not sufficient.
In the souring heat of Pakistan, one may even question if any meaningful learning is taking
place in such an environment. Coupled with this is the serious lack of textbooks which
enforces students to share the few available at times. The physical school environment is not
only unattractive but also insecure. For example many schools are not fenced such that any
uninvited people can get access to the school. As it is well acknowledged that in some
provinces extremists are against the promotion of education especially for girls and there are
cases where they have invaded schools and harmed students (See IPS, 15th September, 2012;
Daily Times Pakistan, 7th September, 2010 and Washington Times, 19th January, 2009.) the
problems discussed above are more pronounced in the rural areas as illustrated in the
following figure

Figure 4: Regional public schools without facilities in Pakistan (2008-09)
Source: Pakistan Education Statistics 2008-09


Overall, we found out that, the educational policies did not take the demands and desires of
the majority of the people. As we pointed out earlier, globalisation can neither be denied nor
resisted in Pakistan as it seems to be the modern and fashionable wind of change. For
example, English as medium of instruction is acknowledged by all the people of Pakistan but
when the quality of teaching is so different between public and private sector schools then
concerns are raised. When the people note that they are the citizens of the same country and
they are suppose to enjoy the same rights and yet their offspring are afforded education in
schools that are quite different in quality then they are liable to ask why. It is acceptable that
the private sector has contributed positively towards the economy of the country; on the
other hand it has tremendously favoured a certain class of people and thus threatening the
social cohesion of the country. This trend contradicts with the ideology of the country which
is Islam and the cultural norms which are based on the equality of all the people. In
disregards of gender, social status, religious background, age etc. thus the policies are there
to represent and perhaps to reproduce the political regimes. It is a l s o important to note
that there are close links between equity in educational opportunities and equitable income
distribution and income growth. If the education system is constructed on a divisive basis,
the divisions it creates can endanger in the long run economic growth because an unjust

society creates an unstable society and an unstable society cannot sustain stable long term
growth. Also it is not important that the successful policy in another country can be similarly
successful in Pakistan because climate of different countries is different for the
achievements of demands in education sector.
Thus perhaps time is now ripe enough for the policy makers of Pakistan to turn around and
revisit their policy making procedures. It is understandably difficult to be autonomous in
policy making if a nation is poor. But we believe that it is possible for a nation to stand firm
and hold against global institutions that impose policies that are inappropriate culturally,
economically expensive and have hidden agendas.


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