higher education in Pakistan


If there is one person who knows education in Pakistan like the back of one’s hand, it is Baela Raza Jamil. Cutting a towering figure, she has been a leading voice calling for educational reforms and has led the movement from the front with various policy suggestions, frameworks and research. Sehrish Khan talks to Baela about many things education and what Pakistan needs to be doing to get its educational act sorted.

Considering your immense exposure to and experience with the education sector in Pakistan, where do you think the fault lines lie? Are we bidding at teaching, have a sub-par curriculum or do we simply do not regard education the way the world does?

Baela Raza Jamil: We are bad at teaching, by and large, and you can read some excellent reports on the subject. Our curriculum is sub-par too, it’s 13 Years old and badly in need of revision, including textbooks, teacher prep and training, pedagogy and assessment system for sure. The problem is seen as that we simply do not regard education as the world does. Education is not a part of any national/provincial agenda – political or economic. If it was, you would not have such a sub-par budget consistently and even more sub-par spending. Even more troubling is the sub-par state of affairs of post primary opportunities and facilities. Our education system is designed for ‘push outs’ and low learning. It is shocking to think that it is not a national priority, despite being a fundamental constitutional right.

At present, around 23 million children are out of school. How do you think this crippling national disease should be approached by the state and the people?

Baela Raza Jamil: This is indeed shameful and needs to be addressed firmly with results in the shortest period of time, I would say 5-7 years as an all-out effort. At Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi, we have some great solutions for OOSC and second chance learning (Chalo Parho Barho/CPB and Siyani Sahelian) that have been tested. CPB has huge potential but the government is not taking this seriously. Files keep moving from table to table as we cannot sort out ‘procurement and PPRA rules”. After all, the OOSC is the government’s responsibility, not its development partners’. 

The uniform curriculum debate concerns only 3-4% of population – the 2% students in Madrassas and just over 1% that use O/A levels/American and IB curriculum – the remaining 96-97% use the National Curriculum 2006. How much more uniform can we get?

For some time now, there has been talk of a uniform curriculum in the entire country. How do you weigh the idea?

Baela Raza Jamil: I am confused and also appalled. It is essentially an issue of 3-4% population of the country – just 2% of students in Madrassas use the Islamic curriculum and just over 1% use the elitist O/A levels/American and IB curriculum – the remaining 96-97% use the National Curriculum 2006. How much more uniform can we get? Having said that, I think the 

  1. The NC 2006 needs to be revised as it has been 13 years since its revision. Unlike Tertiary Education, the basic /school education curriculum is not revised on a rolling basis every 5 years. No one seems to know why. So there is an urgency to revise it for the right reasons and for the 4th industrial revolution, 21st century reasons, AI/etc. 
  2. The challenge is to ensure that the National Curriculum gets to the teachers, headteachers, schools, citizens, assessors, textbook writers and training institutions so that the right pedagogies are transacted and the right assessments are constructed. Our disconnect is with curriculum and textbooks, training pedagogy and assessment. Who will bridge that disconnect? How will the most vulnerable be ensured quality learning? How will those excluded be included in the learning business? These are the billion-dollar questions that need answering. We are not talking about such real issues, only what is essentially politically attractive. Let us get our metrics and basics right. Faisal Bari also wrote about this in Dawn. I am, mercifully, not the lone voice. 
We have also been hearing about going back to teaching in Urdu? What do think will cut the mustard, Urdu or actually devising curriculum based on myriad regional languages that Pakistan is blessed with? 

Baela Raza Jamil: I think the discussion is underway in Punjab because of what was shared with authorities several years back by many of us. We explained that English medium did not make sense when teachers in both public and private sector did not have the skills, besides children losing out on a language of communication. We need clear policies in this regard. In the NEP 2009, the issue of medium of instruction is seen as ‘equity’, with suggestions that early years or up to primary, the medium of instruction should be in mother tongue /Urdu with English added as a subject at some point, then moving on to a mix of language in Post-Secondary with English being used for Science and Math and of course, English. Sindh has Sindhi medium, KP remains confused on language. Teachers are most comfortable with Pashto as the language in classroom, but Urdu as a medium for examinations. Punjab refuses to embrace Punjabi at any level- making its children most unhappy emotionally. This decision has stuck since colonial times – and a language has been rendered an orphan.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) has brought some key aspects to light over the years. Do you feel the exceptional work done has led to some real-time efforts on the ground? 

Baela Raza Jamil: ASER Pakistan (2010-2019) is the most benchmarked report on learning in Pakistan. It has brought attention to the centrality of ‘learning’ provincially, nationally and globally. Today education is only related to learning and the World Bank has used two of our metrics on citizen-led assessment in their concept of “Learning Poverty” or the number of 10-year-olds out of school and not learning and those in school and learning. The Punjab Government, and now other provincial governments, are using the instruments of ASER for Learning & Numeracy Drives (LND) on tablets etc. TCF and many other organizations nationwide are using ASER Tool. The low primary indicator on learning (ASER) has become a Tier I indicator for SDG 4.1.1 (having earlier been thrown out by many and downgraded) It is now a rigorous indicator of learning acknowledged by the world, (we have 15 countries using this indicator and methodology) www.palnetwork.orgASER has now got disability tools (hearing/visual). It also does disability prevalence surveys of 5-16 years old (CFM Tool). From what we have found, the government must be hurrying to act, for a large number of children are enrolled in govt/private schools but the government does not know how to prepare teachers for children with disabilities! ASER is now also conducting research on early years too (Feb/March 2020) – it is a great methodology for finding out fast about the learning crisis, and an even faster way to go from Assessment to Action! Having said this, Pakistan has a long way for committing and ensuring that ALL CHILDREN LEARN! Backed by imagination and resources and the will of politicians and the people. 

A key malaise of our education system has been the continually falling pride society associated with teaching and the subsequent diminishing quality of teachers. What has led to all of this? And what is the way ahead?

Baela Raza Jamil: The teaching profession over the decades has been relegated to a second class, or a profession of last resort. We have a ‘When all else fails one becomes a teacher’ attitude. However, it is important to have a course correction in our perception. The profession has been overhauled in a big way in terms of ‘conditions and salary/pay scale’ in the public sector, where 50%-60% of the total teaching force serves (Economic Survey of Pakistan 2018-19). The salary packages have improved rapidly over the past decade and a half. Teaching has become a coveted/sought after profession for 2 reasons:

a) Higher pay and 

b) Lifetime service with little possibility of being chucked out due to non-performance.

Biometrics has also improved absenteeism and attendance accountability of teachers across Pakistan, especially in Sindh. However, what still remains a dream distance is the pride taken in teaching, the passion for delivering and the excellence for transforming the lives of students. Some of this has to do with poor support for in-service training and continuous professional development. In the private sector, the salaries are driven by market rates and also the owners/management, but their accountability and hire/fire authority remain intact, pushing the teachers to deliver (not necessarily with passion). This is the case with most of the private school spectrum – from low/no fee schools to ones charging the highest fee. So, all in all, I do not agree with this perception of “continually falling pride society associates with teaching and the subsequent diminishing quality of teachers”. I think that teaching is a preferred profession for a majority now, but we do need a turn around on the cliché and also a communication strategy to upgrade the profession and showcase better results where ever they may be found due to excellence in profession. This is urgently needed in our society. This is a time of co-creating the curriculum and pedagogy in the 21st century. The possibilities for the profession are immense. 

Higher education in Pakistan has become a lucrative business and higher education become just that, a business. What measures must the state take to make private universities worth their salt?

Baela Raza Jamil: What we need is better regulation with quality assurance that can be implemented in letter and spirit by both HEC (federal and provincial). Lack of regulation and/or excessive meaningless regulations do not produce results. We also need to ensure that students are not being fleeced in a one-sided manner and there is accountability of private institutes as well students’ voice on quality of service. 

Everyone seems to agree with the idea of reviving student unions. Do you think there is a need to frame a regulatory perimeter to not make student unions become yet another pressure group that gets away with all?

Baela Raza Jamil: When there is poor governance, every freedom or fundamental freedom becomes a threat to the state. The challenge is improving overall governance where the state performs its responsibilities and society lends a hand. Currently, when you have events like we have had in universities in Mardan, Punjab, Karachi and many more where the management becomes complicit in politics and gain, unions become a threat. Yes, all unions need a regulatory framework, but more than that, they need substance of objectives and methods to achieve them constructively. Unions mean voice for social improvement, not destruction or negativity.

Our education system is designed for ‘push outs’ and low learning. It is shocking to think that it is not a national priority, despite being a fundamental constitutional right

What is the role of community in ensuring quality of education? Any success stories?

Baela Raza Jamil: There is an immense role the community can play if given the space and voice. Since 1971, the state has remained ambivalent about community being brought back. We have been on a push and pull ride over community engagement, such as through SMCs/PTAs/PTCs etc. In government schools, the community is sometimes asked to be active and other times not to be so. If community is made part of the school and its annual improvement programs, delegated as an important part of the eco system for schools, communities can deliver and there are many success stories everywhere in Pakistan at all levels. But it will only happen when the community is included for school support and school quality. People must not be dismissed as illiterate, poor and ignorant.

Until about two to three decades ago, educational units – schools, colleges and universities – working under the public sector played an efficient role in providing quality education with nominal government fees. But over the years, materialism, lack of long-term policies, political interference and sectionalism have become part and parcel of public education departments and literally deteriorated the entire fabric of the Higher Education sector in Pakistan.

Private institutes and evening tuition academies did step in to fill the gap that emerged for providing quality education, but they only ended up further damaging the sector following a decadent indulgence in a mad race of making money. An increasingly expensive private sector has potentially taken control of the educational sector, right from elementary to higher education levels, in Pakistan. As a consequence, a wide majority of people cannot endure educational expenditure incurred at private schools and universities. Education is the basic right of every citizen living in any country and this right is provided amicably by all developed countries on a priority basis. But in Pakistan, consumers of educational services – parents and students – have been left with little choice or idea when it comes to seeking quality education.

Foresight, Or Lack of It

Speaking particularly about Punjab, former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif promoted terrible “sectionalism” in the sector. Instead of ameliorating the efficiency of all schools and colleges, he somehow – apparently for political mileage and self-projection – selectively introduced the culture of “Danish schools”, “model colleges” and even “model police stations”. These special outlets only resulted in further affecting the performance of other schools, colleges and police stations that did not bear the special credentials of being a ‘model’.

Shahbaz Sharif promoted terrible “sectionalism” in the sector. Instead of ameliorating the efficiency of all schools and colleges, he somehow – apparently for political mileage and self-projection – selectively introduced the culture of “Danish schools”, “model colleges” and even “model police stations”.

While ignoring a majority of schools and colleges, these special institutions were given the blue-eyed treatment with additional grants and perks, all for short-term, political objectives. The institutional discrimination not only disappointed staff, but also caused a drop in enrolments of students in institutes that did not bear the title ‘Danish’ or ‘model’. To add fuel to the fire of education woes that are burning bright, formation and execution of educational policies has for long been entrusted to civil servants who have no expertise, training or experience in education and its allied services.

Who’s In Charge?

At the university level, the plight of higher education in Pakistan has been made worse by a shambolic division of power between various quality-controlling bodies at the federal and provincial level. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan has turned into a degree attestation department ever since Dr Atta Ur Rahman resigned as the commission chairman in 2008.

Thereafter, the 18th Amendment in the constitution was promulgated, making federating units responsible for education. However there has never been a clear roadmap of how the jurisdictions would materialize. Now provincial and federal higher education regulatory commissions work in parallel, with no clear demarcation of either’s authoritative boundary.

Funnily enough, only Punjab and Sindh have separate provincial set up of HEC, while KPK and Balochistan are still working under the federal HEC. This polarization has seriously damaged the repute, credibility and efficiency of HEC, something that needs to be addressed urgently.

Regretful Research

If we consider scientific research at many a public and private universities, the endeavor has merely become a source of grabbing funds from related government institutes and sister organizations such as Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF). Ongoing research in many subjects is far from practical utility and implications, and fails to address or attempt to address the real challenges faced by the country. The true spirit of scientific work for real implementation is lost.

Ongoing research in many subjects is far from practical utility and implications, and fails to address or attempt to address the real challenges faced by the country

Instead, research has become a criterion of quick promotion to higher ranks in universities, irrespective of how and where faculty members and their research students publish their work. There are no black and white ethical guidelines and aptitude for publications in journals from institutes. The race for publication has made both students and professors blind to the value and credentials of publishers and journals; and whether they are of an acceptable repute. Such publication houses work on the basis of “open-access” policy for readers, therefore, they ask money from the authors to publish their work. And that is happily paid from the project funds approved by HEC or PSF.

Harassment, often sexual, of female students and staff at the hands of colleagues and research supervisors is now being extensively reported across the Pakistani academia. It has become a major challenge for university administrations to curb social crime. Although, the constitution provides protection against sexual harassment at work place, the implementation of laws remain a challenge.

The practice hiring and firing of faculty members in higher education institutions on Pakistan also raises concerns, as most recruitments are reportedly made out of the way and against so-called criteria of merit. Likewise, deans and vice chancellors at universities are mostly appointed on the basis of recommendation, cosmetic value and political influence. Retired professors continue getting unnecessary extensions, impeding the way of young and energetic faculty members.

Unless administrative officials and faculty at universities in Pakistan is selected purely on the basis of capability of individuals in terms of leadership, management and specialization in respective areas, we cannot compete with the world in science and technology, or any discipline for that matter. Similarly, the HEC is essentially required to enhance its working domain with better planning and executional capacity.

Education is the only way through which the fate of nations can be turned around. And to achieve that turnaround, we must do what is needed. Uphold merit.

Author bio KHOSA MARK

The views and opinions expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views and policy of The Academia Magazine

8 Profitable Side Hustles in Pakistan for Students

If you do what average people do, you’ll get what average people get. Regardless of which field you fall into, having a side hustle is vital for your personal and career development. A ‘side hustle’ refers to any job you’re employed at outside of your full-time job that has an avenue to make some extra money for you. Side hustles help you to build up your skills and diversify your income. So if you are a student looking for extra cash in your pocket, here are the eight fruitful areas you can check out without affecting your studies.

Teaching Online

If you have skills in a certain field and think that you have expertise in teaching those skills, then the easiest way to earning some extra cash is by teaching online. There are multiple websites like Udemy and Teachable where you can teach and earn money by only dedicating a few hours each day.


Students that are good at something or are skilled in performing various tasks must check out Fiverr. It is one of the easiest places to offer small services like graphic designing, writing and translation, video making and coding etc. It is the best place for micro-level freelancers, as it’s one of the largest marketplaces with a vast range of services you can offer. All you have to do is be responsive and satisfy clients with your services.

Affiliate Marketing

The trend of affiliate marketing is fast taking roots in Pakistan and happens to be one of the easiest modes of marketing for both the companies pushing their products and marketers engaged in the promotion. All an affiliate really does is promote a company’s product in his or her circle of influence and earn a commission from increased sales. Simple. So look out for affiliate marketing opportunities and get your commission going.

YouTube Channel Hosting

If you are creative and have a knack of gauging what people like, you can delve into the world of YouTube and begin making interesting vlogs, videos or tutorials. Not only do you stand a chance to earn some extra cash, you could well turn this side hustle into a full time career if you can capture the imagination and interest of viewers like thousands of other YouTube stars and celebrities. YouTube pays out a generous compensation for your work with their revenue sharing programme.

Travelling Club

If you are interested in travel and know how to survive the outdoors, you have another opportunity waiting to be exploited. You can keep yourself updated about the costs, rates of services, discounts and facilities regarding travelling to key tourist destinations across the country and then plan organized tours for others who lack your insights. You may be surprised that despite a lot of existing travel and adventure companies and clubs, the demand for quality services in the field is on the rise. All you have to really do is plan comfortable itineraries and point travelers towards the best facilities to ensure five star reviews and repeat interaction from satisfied customers.

Read more: General knowledge questions for Sociology students


Of course. If you have free time during the morning, evening, night or even on weekends; and a car to spare, you can well become a part time driver. Taxi and bike hailing apps like Uber, Careem and Bikea are doing wonders for commuters as well as the drivers and are getting ever more popular. To be fair, there are examples where people actually quit their full-time jobs to earn through these services. Even if you do not have a car but know how to drive, you can work in shifts for a car owner against a salary. Point of information: the demand for both drivers and cars vehicles for such services is going through the roof by the day.


Websites like JustAnswer pay you to answer professional queries. If you’ve got a high-level skill such as in the law, medicine, or IT, you can get paid to assist others in certain topics or areas of contention they might have faced.

Social Media Manager

There is a large number of small businesses who need a social media manager because they do not have the time or the expertise to be constantly posting on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat or Twitter. Take it upon yourself to contact local businesses and offer up your services for a contracted monthly fee. This is one of the most effective ways of making some extra cash no matter which field of study you are engaged in.

I hope you liked the Profitable Side Hustles in Pakistan for Students posts; It will help you make a better decision.

Hamza Saad

The views and opinions expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views and policy of The Academia Magazine