Women Education in Pakistan

Women education in Pakistan Education plays a pivotal role in developing human capital in any society. Education has become a universal human right all around the globe. Article thirty-seven of the Constitution of Pakistan stipulates that education is a fundamental right of every citizen,[1] but still gender discrepancies exist in educational sector. According to Human Development Report (2011) of United Nations Development Program, ratio of female to male with at least secondary education is 0. 502, and public expenditure on education amounts to only 2. % of the GDP of the country. (2) Patriarchal values heavily govern the social structure in Pakistani society.
Home has been defined as a woman’s legitimate ideological and physical space where she performs her reproductive role as a mother and wife, while a man dominates the world outside the home and performs his productive role as a breadwinner. Men and women are conceptually segregated into two distinct worlds. The household resources are allocated in the favor of sons (male members of the family) due to their productive role.
Education for boys is prioritized vis-a-vis girls, because it is perceived that boys must be equipped with educational skills to compete for resources in public arena, while girls have to specialize in domestic skills to be good mothers and wives, hence, education is not that important for girls. This gender division of labor has been internalized by the society, and girls/women do not have many choices for themselves that could change these patriarchal realities of their lives. Society does not allow girls/women to develop their human capabilities by precluding them from acquiring education.

Lack of emphasis on the importance of women’s education is one of the cardinal features of gender inequality in Pakistan. (3) The Human Development Report (HDR) listed Pakistan in the category of “low human development” countries with a female literacy rate of thirty percent, and Pakistan has ranked 145 in the world in terms of human development.
Importance of women’s education
Education has been of central significance to the development of human society.
It can be the beginning, not only of individual knowledge, information and awareness, but also a holistic strategy for development and change. (4)
Education is very much connected to women’s ability to form social relationships on the basis of equality with others and to achieve the important social good of self-respect. It is important, as well, to mobility (through access to jobs and the political process), to health and life (through the connection to bodily integrity).
Education can allow women to participate in politics so they can ensure that their voices and concerns are heard and addressed in the public policy. It is also crucial for women’s access to the legal system. (5) Education is a critical input in human resource development and is essential for the country’s economic growth. It increases the productivity and efficiency of individuals and it produces skilled labor-force that is capable of leading the economy towards the path of sustainable growth and prosperity.
The progress and wellbeing of a country largely depends on the choices of education made available to its people. It can be one of the most powerful instruments of change. It can help a country to achieve its national goals via producing minds imbue with knowledge, skills and competencies to shape its future destiny.
The widespread recognition of this fact has created awareness on the need to focus upon literacy and elementary education program, not simply as a matter of social justice but more to foster economic growth, social well-being and social stability.
6) Women’s education is so inextricably linked with the other facets of human development that to make it a priority is to also make change on a range of other fronts, from the health and status of women to early childhood care, from nutrition, water and sanitation to community empowerment, from the reduction of child labor and other forms of exploitation to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. [7] Economic benefits of women’s education
Apart from the acquisition of knowledge and values conductive to social evolution, education also enables development of mind, training in logical and analytical thinking. It allows an individual to acquire organizational, managerial, and administrative skills. Moreover, enhanced self-esteem and improved social and financial status within a community is a direct outcome of education. Therefore, by promoting education among women, Pakistan can achieve social and human development, and gender equality.
A large number of empirical studies have revealed that increase in women’s education boosts their wages and that returns to education for women are frequently larger than that of men. Increase in the level of female education improves human development outcomes such as child survival, health and schooling. (8) Lower female education has a negative impact on economic growth as it lowers the average level of human capital.
(9) Developmental Economists argue that in developing countries female education reduces fertility, infant mortality and increases children’s education. 10)  Gender inequality in education directly and significantly affects economic growth. Empirical studies done by using regression analysis reveal the fact that the overall literacy rate, enrollment ratio, ratio of literate female to male have positive and significant impact on economic growth. (11) Chaudhry (2007) investigated the impact of gender inequality in education on economic growth in Pakistan. The secondary source of time series data drawn from various issues has been used. In his regression analysis, he estimated a set of regressions showing a moderate explanatory power.
The variables, overall literacy rate, enrollment ratio, ratio of literate female to male have positive and significant impact on economic growth. It was found that gender inequality in initial education reduces economic growth. (11) In another empirical study, Chaudhry (2009) investigated factors affecting rural poverty in Southern Punjab (Pakistan), and he concluded that alleviation of poverty is possible by lowering the household size and dependency ratio, improving education, increasing female labor participation.
He employed Logit regression models and used primary source of data from the project area of Asian Development Bank for estimation. Results indicate that as dependency level and household size increase the probability of being poor increases too. Education has the significant inverse relationship with poverty because it provides employment opportunities and rejects poverty. (12) The inclusion of trained and education women workforce will not only ensure women’s welfare, it will also increase the overall productivity of the workforce due to more competitiveness.
Hence, the developmental and feminist economists argue that it is desirable for the government to allocate more resources towards women’s education, as it is going to benefit the whole society.
Gender disparity in education in Pakistan
According to UNDP 2010 report, Pakistan ranked 120 in 146 countries in terms of Gender-related Development Index (GDI), and in terms of Gender Empowerment Measurement(GEM) ranking, it ranked 92 in 94 countries. 13) Gender inequality in education can be measured in different ways. Gross and net enrollment rates and completion and drop-out rates are the ways to identify the gender inequality in education.
Pakistan aims to achieve Millennium Development Goals and also aims to eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education by the year 2015. (14) Elimination of gender disparity at all levels of education requires higher allocation of resources on women’s education. Strong gender disparities exist in literacy and educational attainment between rural and urban areas of Pakistan.
Socio-economic hurdles
Patriarchal values are deeply embedded in the society of Pakistan, and its different manifestations are observed in different aspects of the society.
As mentioned above, gender division of labor enforces women to primarily specialize in unpaid care work as mothers and wives at home, whereas men perform paid work, and come out as breadwinners. This has led to a low level of resource investment in girl’s education not only by their families and also by the state.
This low investment in women’s human capital, compounded by negative social biases and cultural practices, restrictions on women’s mobility and the internalization of patriarchy by women themselves, becomes the basis for gender discrimination and disparities in most spheres of life. Some of the ramifications are that women are unable to develop job-market skills; hence, they have limited opportunities available to them in the wage-labor market.
Moreover, social and cultural restrictions limit women’s chances to compete for resources in a world outside the four walls of their omes. It translates in to social and economic dependency of women on men. The nature and degree of women’s oppression and subordination vary across classes, regions and the rural and urban divide in Pakistan. It has been observed that male dominant structures are relatively more marked in the rural and tribal setting where local customs and indigenous laws establish stronger male authority and power over women. (15)
Insurgency hurdles
Destruction of schools and killings has harmed women’s education in Pakistan. 14-year-old education activist and blogger Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck byTaliban insurgents 9 October 2012 after she had blogged about the destruction of schools and closing of all-girls schools in her town of Mingora in the Swat District. Later, the Taliban denied that it opposes education and claimed “Malala was targeted because of her pioneer role in preaching secularism and so-called enlightened moderation. “(16)
In September 2012 the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that 710 schools have been destroyed or damaged by militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 401 schools have been destroyed or damaged in Swat. (17) While the Taliban’s campaign extends beyond girls to secular education in general,(18) at least one source reports the damage was related to Taliban opposition to girls’ education. (16) Another source includes the bombing of girls’ schools as among the Taliban policies. (19)
Rural vs. urban
In year 2006, the literacy rate in urban areas was recorded 58. 3% while in rural areas it was 28. 3%, and only 12% among rural women. (20) An interesting factor in this context is that female enrollment was recorded highest at the primary level, but it progressively decreases at the secondary, college and tertiary levels. It was estimated that less than 3% of the 17–23 age group of girls have access to higher education. (21)
Public Sector
According to the government of Pakistan, total enrollment level of pre-primary in public sector was 4,391,144. Out of 4,391,144 pre-primary students, 2,440,838 are boys, and 1,950,306 are girls. It shows that 56% of enrolled students are boys, and 44% are girls. Further breakdown of these statistics in to urban and rural enrollment levels reveals almost similar percentage of enrollment among boys and girls, i. e. in rural schools 57% are boys and 43% are girls.
 Private Sector
There is a huge sector of private education in Pakistan. A
ccording to the government of Pakistan, 2,744,303 pre-primary students are enrolled in private schools. Among them, 1,508,643 are boys, and 1,235,660 are girls. It shows that 55% of enrolled kids are boys and 45% are girls. Of the total number, 39% students are in rural areas, and the percentage of enrolled boys and girls in rural areas are 58% and 42% respectively.
Primary education
Primary education is compulsory for every child in Pakistan, but due to poverty, and child labor, Pakistan has been unable to achieve 100% enrollment at the primary level.
Public Sector
The total enrollment in primary public sector is 11,840,719, and among them, 57% (6,776,536) are boys, and 43% (5, 0641, 83) are girls. The 79%of all the primary students in Pakistan are enrolled in rural schools, and the gender enrollment ratios are 59% and 41% for boys and girls respectively in rural Pakistan.
Private Sector
The private schools are mostly located in urban centers, and the total enrollment in private primary schools was 4,993,698.
Middle school level
The enrollment level falls dramatically from primary to middle school level in Pakistan. These statistics can be very helpful in comprehending the problems faced by Pakistan in its educational sector.
Public Sector
3,642,693 students are enrolled in public middle schools, and among them, 61% (2,217,851) are boys, and 39% (1,424,842) are girls. Of the total enrollment, 62% students are in rural areas, and the enrollment of girls is much lower in rural middle schools vis-a-vis urban schools. In rural schools, 66% enrolled students are boys and 34% are girls.
Private Sector 
The enrollment in private schools declines sharply after primary level, as the cost of attendance in private schools increases and the majority of the population cannot afford private education in Pakistan. The total number of students enrolled in private schools at middle level is 1,619,630. Of the total level of enrollment in private schools, 66% students are in urban schools. Hence, the ratio of boys and girls is relatively balanced with 54% boys and 46% girls.
High school level
In Pakistan grades 8 to 10 constitute high school education.
Public Sector
The total number of students enrolled in private high schools is 1,500,749. The 61% of students are boys and 39% are girls. Overall enrollment decreases sharply at high school level. A very disproportionate gender ratio is observed in rural high schools, only 28% of the enrolled students are girls, and 72% are boys.
Private Sector
632,259 students are enrolled in private high schools. Most of them are in urban centers.
The ratio of boys and girls enrollment is 53% and 47% respectively.
Higher secondary
He overall ratio seems to equalize among boys and girls in higher secondary education.
Public sector
There are 699,463 students enrolled in higher secondary education in public institutions. There is almost 50% boys and girls enrollment in higher secondary education. But there is a discrepancy between urban and rural enrollments.
Only 16% of the students from the total number are from rural areas, and among them only 28% are female students. While in urban centers, 55% students are female students.
Private Sector
154,072 students are enrolled in private higher secondary institutions, with 51% boys and 49% girls.
Statistics show that education in Pakistan can be characterized by extensive gender inequalities. Girls/women have to face socio-cultural hurdles to acquire education.
International community has developed a consensus through the Millennium Development Goals to eliminate gender inequality from education. (22)  The proponents of gender equality argue that it is not only humane and ethical thing to provide everyone easy access to education without any gender bias, but it is also essential for development and progress of a society that both men and women are educated. They also point towards empirical studies that have confirmed that gender inequality in education has significant impact on rural poverty in Pakistan, and female literacy is important for poverty alleviation.
Feminists like Martha Nussbaum are arguing that there is an immediate need to increase the public expenditures on female education in order to achieve gender equality at all levels. (5)

National Assembly of Pakistan, Gov’t of Pakistan
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Dr. Noureen, G. & Dr. Awan, R. (2011). Women’s Education in Pakistan:Hidden Fences on Open Frontiers”.
Nussbaum, M. (2003). Women’s Education: A Global Challenge. University of Chicago.
Mishra R. C. (2005). Women Education. New Delhi: A. P. H. Publishing Corporation.
Goel, A. (2004). Education and Socio-Economic Perspectives of Women Development and Empowerment.
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Klasen, Stephan (1999). “Does Gender Inequality Reduce Growth and development? Evidence from Cross-Country Regressions”,
Knowles, Stephen, Paula K. Lorgelly, and P. Dorian Owen (2002) “Are Educational Gender Gaps a Brake on Economic Development?
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Why the Taliban Shot the Schoolgirl| Leon Wieseltier| October 19, 2012 | accessed 12. 11. 212
Militancy keeps 600,000 KP children out of school 12 September 2012
Alex Rodriguez (26 October 2012). “Taliban’s attack on Pakistan education goes beyond one girl]”. Los Angeles Times.
Huma Yusuf (25 October 2012). “In the Taliban’s sights”. The New York Times. 20. Federal Bureau of Statistics/Ministry of Education, Pakistan.
Government of Pakistan (2006). http://www. moe. gov. pk/ 22. Millennium Development Goals, UNDP, http://www. un. org/millenniumgoals/education.html.

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