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Educational Attainment in South Asia

As of 2010, there are 380 out of every 1000 Pakistanis age 15 and above who have never had any formal schooling. Of the remaining 620 who enrolled in school, 22 dropped out before finishing primary school, and the remaining 598 completed it. There are 401 out of every 1000 Pakistanis who made it to secondary school. 290 completed secondary school  while 111 dropped out. Only 55 made it to college out of which 39 graduated with a degree.

The preceding assessment is based on an interpretation offered by Indian blogger Siddarth Vij of Barro-Lee data in response to my earlier blog post titled Pakistan Ahead of India in Graduation at All LevelsRobert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee are Harvard University researchers whose data on educational attainment is used by UNDP and the World Bank.  Here's how Vij read Barro-Lee dataset for India:

"327 out of every 1000 Indians above the age of 15 have never had any formal schooling. Of the remaining 673, only 20 dropped out during primary school. Once we got kids into primary school, we managed to make sure that they completed it. In secondary school, however, the situation is markedly different. 465 out of every 1000 Indians made it to secondary school but 394 dropped out without completing. Only 58 made it to college out of which a little more than half graduated with a degree" 

Putting the two together, here's how the two South Asian neighbors compare:

 As of 2010, there are 380 (vs 327 Indians) out of every 1000 Pakistanis age 15 and above
who have never had any formal schooling. Of the remaining 620 (vs 673 Indians) who
enrolled in school, 22 (vs 20 Indians) dropped out before finishing primary school, and
the remaining 598 (vs 653 Indians) completed it. There are 401 (vs 465 Indians) out of every 1000
Pakistanis who made it to secondary school. 290 (vs 69 Indians) completed secondary school  while 111 (vs. 394 Indians) dropped out.
Only 55 (vs 58 Indians)  made it to college out of which 39 (vs 31 Indians) graduated with a degree.

While Vij's explanation of Barro-Lee data-set sounds quite plausible, I still stand by my conclusion made in the earlier post that the percentage of population that completed secondary and tertiary education in Pakistan is higher than that in India.

Source: OECD Global Education Digest 2009

Another important point to note in Barro-Lee dataset
is that Pakistan has been increasing enrollment of students in schools at a faster
rate since 1990 than India. In 1990, there were 66.2% of Pakistanis vs
51.6% of Indians who had no schooling. In 2000, there were 60.2%
Pakistanis vs 43% Indians with no schooling. In 2010, Pakistan reduced
it to 38% vs India's 32.7%.

Clearly, both India and Pakistan have made significant progress on the education front in the last few decades.
However, the Barro-Lee dataset confirms that the two South Asian
nations still have a long way to go to catch up with the rapidly developing nations of East
Asia as well as the industrialized world.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India & Pakistan Comparison Update 2011

India and Pakistan Contrasted in 2010

Educational Attainment Dataset By Robert Barro and Jong-Wha Lee

Quality of Higher Education in India and Pakistan

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Wealth of Nations

Pakistan's Story After 64 Years of Independence

Pakistan Ahead of India on Key Human Development Indices

Views: 106

Tags: Education, India, Pakistan

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 31, 2012 at 8:06am
Here's an ET piece on Pakistani universities among top 300 in Asia:

Investments in higher education seem to have reaped dividends as six universities of Pakistan, including the University of Karachi (KU), have won a place among the top 300 Asian universities.

The QS Asian University Rankings 2012 list shows National University of Science and Technology (#108), KU (#191-200), Aga Khan University (#201-250), Lahore University of Management Sciences (#251-300) and The University of Lahore (#251-300) in the top 300 universities of the continent.

Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) is the world’s most renowned and prestigious ranking agency.

A statement issued on Wednesday by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) claimed that the rankings speak volumes about the hard work put in by the management and faculty of these universities.

The HEC has consistently supported the varsities in terms of infrastructure, digital libraries, opportunities for innovative research, collaborative research projects with leading international institutions and participating in international exchange programmes, it was said.

Pakistani universities have produced more PhDs in the past nine years (3,280) – since the establishment of the HEC – than in the first 55 years (3,000) of the country’s establishment.

Research output has grown eight-fold since 2002 (from 815 in 2002 to 6,200 in 2011) which is a remarkable achievement by any world standard. Eighty per cent of these research publications are coming from higher education institutes. The output has more than doubled in the last three years and is expected to double again in the next three.

Around 5,000 scholars from Pakistan have presented their research work at leading conferences of the world and have established academic linkages with their counterparts in every leading university of the world in the US, UK, China, Germany, France, Australia, Korea, etc.

According to the HEC, Pakistani scientists, engineers and technologists are the country’s biggest strategic asset. Till five years ago, they were concentrated in a few strategic organisations, but the higher education revolution brought about by the HEC has ensured that every engineering and science and technology university has started to blossom into a centre of research and innovation.

The HEC declared that it has been able to break the elitist myth of availability of talent only in large cities by providing scholarships to talented students belonging to the middle class and poor segments of the society.

Currently, the education commission is focusing on expansion of facilities for biotechnology and genetics, immunology, robotics and automation, nanotechnology, superconductivity, photo-optics and lasers, electromagnetics and nuclear fusion for energy, it was stated.
Comment by Riaz Haq on May 31, 2012 at 10:21am

Here are the names of 6 Pakistani universities among top 300 Asian universities ranked by QS 2012:

#108 NUST Islamabad

#191-200 University of Karachi

#201-250 Agha Khan University Karachi

#201-250 Univ of Engg & Tech (UET) Lahore

#251-300 Lahore University of Management Sciences

#251-300 University of Lahore

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 9, 2012 at 9:36am

Here's a NY Times story of an English educator in Chitral, Pakistan:

CHITRAL, Pakistan — During a grand gathering of tribal elders in this rugged and remote mountain district recently, one guest of honor stood out: an elderly Englishman in a suit and polished shoes, his snowy hair carefully combed, the morning newspaper folded on his lap.

That man, Geoffrey D. Langlands, has had a front-row seat on Pakistan’s many dramas since he arrived, at the country’s chaotic birth, 65 years ago. He has taken tea with princesses, dined with dictators, been kidnapped by tribesmen and scraped through several wars.

Now, at 94, Mr. Langlands, a former British colonial officer who retired with the rank of major, and a lifelong educator, is striking out on a fresh adventure: retirement.

For the past quarter-century, his home and work have been in Chitral, a sweeping district of snow-dusted peaks at the northern tip of Pakistan. The institution he founded and ran here, the Langlands School and College, has become a watchword for excellence; each year, the best of the school’s 1,000-plus students, one-third of them girls, go on to universities in bigger cities, the United States or the United Kingdom.

That success is all the more startling for its setting in a region awash with violence and intrigue: to the east of Chitral is the Swat Valley, where Pakistan’s army fought Taliban insurgents in 2009; to the west lies the Afghan province of Nuristan, where American troops have seen some of their toughest combat. Some years ago mysterious Americans turned up in town asking questions about Osama bin Laden; locals said they worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.
But replace him they must. A minor stroke a few years ago left his hands trembling; doctors worry about the effects of another freezing winter in Chitral. A current of worry courses through local conversations: when the major goes, will his proud school survive him?

The answer, they hope, is another English principal — but this time a female one. From September, the Langlands school will be run by Carey Schofield, a writer who has published books on French gangsters, Mick Jagger and, mostly recently, the Pakistani Army. Ms. Schofield, 58, admits to no teaching experience, but says Chitralis were insistent on another “Britisher.”

“They have so much respect for Major Langlands that I think they wanted to clone him,” she said by phone from London.

Urgent work awaits. As Mr. Langlands has slowed in recent years, problems have piled up: unpaid school fees, lagging teacher wages, a lack of computers, organization and money. Already, Ms. Schofield has raised $55,000 to improve the bumpy track that curls up a steep slope to the senior school: last year a school bus with 14 students on board tumbled over the side; miraculously, no one was badly hurt.

Mr. Langlands, meanwhile, will move to Lahore, where his former students have arranged a small apartment for him on the magnificent grounds of his old school, Aitchison College. He has also, quietly, chosen his spot in one of the city’s Christian cemeteries: near the gate, he says, so friends can visit.

But first, he says, there is more work to be done: a memoir to write, a 95th birthday to share with his brother and more fund-raising. His dream, now, is to build a proper dormitory in Chitral, creating an ever better academy.

“I refuse,” he announces firmly, a gimlet sparkle in his blue-gray eyes, “to sit back and do nothing.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 3, 2012 at 9:28am

Here's a Nature report on financial crunch hurting university research in Pakistan:

Pakistani universities are grappling with yet another financial crisis after parliament’s approval of a 2012–13 higher-education research budget of 15.8 billion rupees (US$166 million), 10 billion rupees less than the Higher Education Commission (HEC) had asked for.
The HEC, which governs and distributes funds to Pakistan’s 74 government-funded universities, was set up in 2002, and it brought about revolutionary changes in the country’s higher-education system. University enrolment tripled between 2003 and 2008 and the number of international research publications from Pakistani institutions rocketed from 600 per year to more than 4,300. The HEC’s research funding rose from 270 million rupees in 2002 to 22.5 billion rupees in 2009, but fell to 14 billion rupees last year.

The financial stress has already led to the closure of many research and higher-education projects, including a programme of ‘Core Groups’ to promote life sciences, chemistry and physics. Most of the 175 new projects funded by HEC last year are going at a slow pace or have been halted for want of funds.
The main reason behind the low funding for the HEC is a constitutional amendment enacted in 2010 that devolved responsibility for several federal ministries, including the education ministry, to the provinces. The government has tried to devolve the HEC as well, even though it was not under the control of the education ministry. This led to mass protests in April 2011, and Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared the plan unlawful.

Academics say that devolving the HEC to the provinces would undo the recent improvements in higher education, and some believe that the federal government considers the HEC a financial liability, as spending money on an institution that will eventually be devolved to the provinces is an unfruitful investment.

Imtiaz Gilani, vice-chancellor of the University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar, says: “Funding cuts and the non-provision of promised money shows that the government wants to get rid of higher-education responsibility, but this would badly affect universities and research in Pakistan.”

The government issued a notification on 11 June bringing the HEC under the control of the Ministry of Professional and Technical Education, paving the way for devolution. This move was widely opposed by academics, who fear that it will damage the commission’s autonomy.

Kaleem Ullah, president of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA), which organised the 25 June protests, says that his group will not be satisfied until all withheld funds are released. FAPUASA has threatened to stage continuous protests until the funding issue is resolved.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 21, 2012 at 9:57am

Here's an ET story on Dr. Ataur Rehman speech on knowledge economy in Pakistan:

“With the initiatives taken by the HEC, Pakistan was poised to make a major breakthrough and evolve into a knowledge economy from an agricultural economy,” he said. He lamented that an official notification was issued on November 30, 2010 to fragment the HEC and break it into pieces.

Rehman, however, being the Pakistan Academy of Science president intervened and approached the apex court to receive an order which declared the fragmentation of the HEC to be unconstitutional. “The government, however, slashed the commission’s budget by 50 per cent and a number of development programmes in universities have come to a halt,” he said.

Making a reference to an article in The Hindustan Times, he said, “The rapid developments posed a threat to India, but we ourselves are our own worst enemy.” He added we had this aim that Pakistan should not equal India but outdo it in terms of research outpost.

He also highlighted the fact that during his term as minister, he successfully convinced the former president, Pervez Musharraf, to increase the education budget by 2,400 per cent and that of science and technology by 1,600 per cent.

According to Dr Rehman, around 11,000 scholarships were awarded to students to study abroad at mostly European universities.

He said that the world’s largest Fulbright scholarship programme was initiated, with a research grant worth $100,000 dollars and a job arranged for the recipient a year prior of returning to Pakistan.

The HEC also developed the Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN) through which 60,000 textbooks and 25,000 research journals were made accessible to students at their educational institutions. The students’ enrolment at the universities climbed up to 850,000 from 270,000 in just nine years while the universities produced 3,685 PhDs in such a short span which earlier were 3,200 in total from 1947 till 2000.

As for technological development, Dr Rehman said that fiber-optics lines which were laid in 40 cities in the year 2000, expanded to 400 cities allowing access to internet in nearly 1,000 cities and villages from just 29 cities previously.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 29, 2012 at 9:36am

Here's a story of WFP program take-home rations for school girls in Bajaur agency in FATA:

Taking turns to lug a heavy can of edible oil, Mushtari and Sheema Gul, twin sisters aged nine, trip home happily from their school in Ghareebabad village in Pakistan’s troubled Bajaur Agency.

“Our kitchen is run on this oil,” explains Sheema. The shiny cans are distributed in her school under World Food Programme (WFP)’s ‘Back to school, stay in school’ project launched as people began streaming back to the Bajaur after the Pakistan army completed flushing out Taliban militants from the agency in April 2011.

“Last year, as people displaced by the fighting began returning, we entered into an agreement with the WFP to launch the project,” Akramullah Shah, an official of Bajaur Agency’s education department, tells IPS.

From 2007 to 2009, when the Taliban held sway over Bajaur Agency, about 100,000 people fled for safety to makeshift camps. “During that period Taliban militants destroyed 107 schools and disrupted education services, affecting about 80,000 students,” Shah said.

With much of Bajaur’s infrastructure reduced to rubble and the mainstay of agriculture ruined, the returning residents had little to look forward to and were reluctant to take on the added burden of sending their children to school.

Ghufran Gul, father of Mushtari and Sheema, said he would not have been able to send his daughters to school but for the WFP programme of distributing edible oil and fortified biscuits. “The oil is tasty and people like to use it for making rotis (unleavened bread),” he said.

“We are happy. We sisters get the biscuits while the oil is used by the entire family,” said the Gul twins who study in grade three of the government girls’ high school in Bajaur.
“As soon as the Pakistan army had defeated the militants, we started reconstruction of damaged schools and launched programmes to encourage the students to return, ” Bajaur Agency lawmaker Akhunzada Muhammad Chittan told IPS.

According to Chittan, enrolment at the government-run primary schools had increased from 102,922 in 2010 to 1,320,876 by the end of June this year and was to improve further.

“Apart from providing free books and food items, relief organisations other than the WFP have been pitching in with purchased uniforms, shoes and teaching kits that are powerful incentives for parents to send their children to schools,” he said.

According to the 2008 census the literacy rate among the FATA’s 3.2 million population is just 22 percent, well below the national average of 56 percent.

A brief setback to the food distribution programme occurred in December 2010 when a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a WFP centre in the Bajaur, killing 45 people and injuring 80 others.

WFP spokesperson Amjad Jamal said the food assistance programme was due to run until the end of this year, but the U.N. agency has proposed that it should be allowed to continue until 2015.

“The main objectives of the programme are to protect children from hunger and motivate the parents to send their children back to schools to resume their education,” he said.

Except for the North Waziristan Agency, the WFP programme now covers the whole of the FATA and parts of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhthunkwa provinces.

Comment by Riaz Haq on November 23, 2012 at 4:08pm

Here's PakObserver on growing number of people with doctorate degrees i Pakistan:

Saturday, November 24, 2012 - Islamabad—The Pakistani universities are now able to produce more PhDs in the next 3 years as compared to last 10 years. The total number of PhDs in Pakistan has reached the figure of 8,142. According to the available statistics, the number of PhDs has increased from 348 (1947 to 2002) to 679 in 2012 in agriculture and veterinary sciences, from 586 to 1,096 in biological sciences, from 14 to 123 in business education, from merely 21 to 262 in engineering and technology and from 709 to 1,071 in physical sciences, Technology Times Reported.

In social sciences, the number increased to 887 from 108 during last ten years. The figures also indicate that during the last decade, special emphasis has been paid to the disciplines of agriculture and veterinary science, biological, physical and social sciences, business education, engineering and technology. “HEC has so far introduced various indigenous scholarship schemes to create a critical mass of highly qualified human resources in all fields of studies who conduct research on issues of importance to Pakistan.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 11, 2012 at 10:35pm

Here's a News Op Ed by Dr. Javaid Laghari of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission:

Universities in Pakistan have rapidly morphed into their new role as producers of knowledge and research that lead to innovation and entrepreneurship, create employment, and be prime builders of a knowledge economy.

As per the Education Policy 2008, the HEC targets to increase accessibility to higher education from the current 8 percent to 15 percent by 2020, which translates into an increase in university enrolment from 1m to 2.3m. This is a major challenge tied to the funding situation. However, to achieve the best results effectively, in addition to establishing new campuses, the HEC is focusing on the use of educational technologies and through the recently established directorates of distance education.


Faculty development programmes are the mainstay of the HEC. With over 7500 scholars currently pursuing their PhD degrees both within and outside the country, and an additional 2,200 having graduated and placed at universities and other organisations, it is estimated that with the projected growth in universities, at least 16,000 ‘additional’ PhD faculty will be required by 2020.

This will raise the percentage of the PhD faculty from the current 22 percent to 40 percent. Simultaneously, the standards for faculty appointment will become stringent. Starting in 2014, all lecturer appointments will require a MPhil/MS degree, and from 2016, all assistant professors and above will require a PhD degree.


There has been a significant growth in the number and quality of the PhDs awarded. The number of PhDs awarded per year has increased to over 850 in 2011, with significantly higher standards. It is estimated that over 2400 PhDs will be awarded in 2020, which will give Pakistan the same competitive advantage in research and innovation as is available to China, India, Turkey and Malaysia.

The number of research publications out of Pakistan has gone up by 50 percent in the last two years alone. Scimago, an independent database, has projected that Pakistan will have the second-highest growth in the Asiatic region, moving up 16 notches from the current worldwide ranking of 43 to 27.

Offices of innovation, research and commercialisation, centres of advanced study and research in energy, food security, and water resource, incubators and technology parks are being established to link research and innovation with industry.


This is already beginning to pay off, as today more than six Pakistani universities are ranked among the top 300 universities of the world, while there were none a few years ago. By 2015, we expect at least 10 universities to be in the top 300, with one in the top 100.

All HEC reforms are becoming the envy of other countries in the region. While Turkey already has a similar commission, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are in the process of replicating the HEC model, and India is going a step further and establishing a supra-HEC with far-reaching consequences to position itself as a regional leader.

The World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report indicators on higher education and training, technology readiness and innovation are showing a consistent improvement over the last three years for Pakistan, much more than many other countries, which is clear proof that higher education reforms are paying off.


Pakistan has achieved critical mass and reached a point of take-off. For this phenomenal growth to continue, it is important for the government and other stakeholders to support and further strengthen the HEC as a national institution and protect its autonomy. If this momentum continues for another 10 years, Pakistan is certain to become a global player through a flourishing knowledge economy and a highly literate population.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 28, 2013 at 11:00pm

It takes at least 500 scientists and 1300 engineers with relevant training and skills to have a nuclear weapons program, according to a 1968 UN study...."a United Nations study conservatively estimates that at least 500 scientists and 1300 engineers are needed to develop and maintain warhead production facilities, and an additional 19,000 personnel (more than 5000 of them scientists and engineers) are required to produce delivery vehicles of the intermediate ballistic missile variety"

There's a recent book titled "Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb" by Feroz Khan to understand the basic fact that Pak nuclear weapons program has been a great catalyst for building national human capital and industrial base in the country.

Since 1990s, Pak has built two indigenous nuclear reactors at Khushab entirely on its own. Two more are under construction now.

As to nuclear power plants, Pakistan will find a way to generate more energy from various sources...the current PAEC plan is to build 8,800 MW nuclear power plants capacity by 2030.

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 4, 2013 at 8:33pm

Indian commentators have pounced upon Feroz Khan's erudite work on "Eating Grass-The Making of the Pakistani Bomb" by citing what they claim is an error regarding Indira Gandhi's triumphant speech to Indian parliament after the fall of Dacca in 1971.

Such self-serving reviews of things Pakistan by Indian commentators are not surprising. They are meant to sustain the Indian narrative of demonization of Pakistan.

Brig Feroz Khan's book is a scholarly work that offers the first authentic account of the making of Pakistani bomb.

It details a story of spectacular scientific and strategic achievement by a nation dismissed as a temporary "tent" and a "nissen hut" by Mountbatten in 1947. That same "nissen hut" is now a nuclear power about which Brookings' Stephen Cohen has said as follows:

“One of the most important puzzles of India-Pakistan relations is not why the smaller Pakistan feels encircled and threatened, but why the larger India does. It would seem that India, seven times more populous than Pakistan and five times its size, and which defeated Pakistan in 1971, would feel more secure. This has not been the case and Pakistan remains deeply embedded in Indian thinking. There are historical, strategic, ideological, and domestic reasons why Pakistan remains the central obsession of much of the Indian strategic community, just as India remains Pakistan’s.”


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