Pakistan has a decentralized system of education. However, there is a statutory requirement for all educational institutions to follow the same curricula. Pre-school education contributes towards the development of the young child. A child of 3+ years is usually considered ready for pre-school education. There are pre-primary classes in the public sector. A kachi class is included in primary schools as a pre-primary stage of education. However, the pre-primary stage does not enjoy the status of a full-fledged level like primary and secondary education. In the private sector, the pre-primary stage is well organized and operational.
Elementary education is comprised of two distinct stages: primary and middle. The primary stage starts from Grade 1 and continues over five years. The medium of instruction in most of the schools is Urdu, the national language. There are English medium schools as well. In the public sector, the curriculum for primary classes is almost the same throughout the country. The major focus of this stage is on basic mathematical and literacy skills, appreciation of traditions and values, and socialization. Promotion to the next class depends on the results of the school examinations. The middle stage (Grades 6-8) is of three years duration and is offered in schools which have either primary or secondary classes. The curriculum is common for males and females as well as for urban and rural dwellers. The focus of this stage is to strengthen foundations of first and second languages, mathematics and science, and developing an understanding of family, community, environment, health and nutrition. Departments as well as schools conduct terminal examinations at this stage.
The secondary education stage is of two years duration comprising Grades 9 and 10. It covers
he 13-15 years cohort of children. There is a Secondary Schools Certificate (SSC) examination at the end of Grade 10 which is conducted by the Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE) throughout the country. Streaming of children starts at this stage and students opt for a stream of their choice from the science, humanities and technical groups.
Higher secondary education (Grades 11 and 12) is imparted at both Intermediate Colleges and Higher Secondary Schools. It covers the 15-16 years cohort. The students follow a two-year programme of study at higher secondary level, which leads to the Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC), the pre-requisite for entrance to university or an institution of higher education.
The medium of instruction in science subjects is English. The BISE administers the examinations for HSSC.
The division of students takes place at various levels of school education. After the middle stage, students can follow either academic courses in secondary schools or a trade course at a vocational institution. After the secondary school stage, students can enter intermediate colleges or higher secondary schools for pre-university courses, or they can join polytechnic institutions to take up a three-year diploma course in a particular branch of technology or trade. After obtaining the HSSC, students can either join general universities or professional institutions. Pakistan has 120 universities/ degree awarding institutions of which 56 are in the private sector. More than 500,000 students are studying at university level and about 50,000 teachers are teaching in the universities.