The standard of education and schools in Pakistan is not at the level most expats may be used to. Less than 70 percent of primary school children complete their education, while millions more remain out of school entirely. The country suffers from a high illiteracy rate and gender disparity. Another criticism of the Pakistani education system is the focus on rote learning rather than critical thinking. For these reasons, most expats in Pakistan choose to send their children to international schools. 

Public schools in Pakistan

Schoolchildren at desk

Education in Pakistan is compulsory and free for children between the ages of 5 and 16 years old. The education system in Pakistan is usually divided into six levels: 

  • Pre-school (ages 3 to 5)
  • Primary school (ages 6 to 10)
  • Middle school (ages 11 to 13)
  • Secondary school (ages 14 to 18)

Even though there is nothing stopping expat children from attending public schools in Pakistan, most expat parents don't pursue this option for various reasons, but mainly because of the poor quality of education and lack of decent facilities. There are also cultural differences to contend with, as well as the approach to learning and discipline. 

English and Urdu are the languages of instruction at public schools in Pakistan. Many schools follow a curriculum inspired by the British system, with strong religious influences.

Useful links

Private and international schools in Pakistan

There are a few private and international schools in Pakistan that follow various curricula. Most of these schools are located in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

Many of the private schools are prestigious boarding schools. The standard of teaching and the quality of facilities tend to be far superior to those found at Pakistani public schools. These institutions also offer students a range of extracurricular activities such as sports, music and drama.

For expats moving to Pakistan for a short time, it makes sense to have their child attend an international school that follows the curriculum of their home country or the International Baccalaureate (IB). This would allow the student a smoother transition when moving from one school to the next. Another benefit of having one's child go to an international school is that it allows them to mix with other expat children who may be facing similar challenges in adjusting to life in a new country. 

School fees for both private and international schools are expensive. Expats relocating to Pakistan to take up a lucrative job offer should certainly negotiate a sizeable allowance to cover the cost of school fees when discussing their employment package with the hiring company. 

Special-needs education in Pakistan

Student with hearing aid

The education system in Pakistan is not as nuanced and pragmatic as Western expats might be accustomed to. Special-needs education is an area that is grossly neglected in Pakistan, and children with disabilities tend to be stigmatised rather than accommodated within the system. 

The Pakistani government has put plans in place to create a system of inclusive schooling in which children with physical or mental disabilities can receive the support they need while learning alongside their peers in mainstream schools. It may be a while still before these plans are put into action. In the meantime, several special-education schools in the country cater to a range of physical and mental disabilities. 

Those who wish to send their child to a private or international school in Pakistan will discover that these schools are generally more equipped to deal with a broader range of learning needs than their public counterparts. Teachers at these institutions can also give each student more individual attention. It is recommended that expat parents do their research and contact individual schools for more information about the support they can provide. 

Useful links

  • Expats who will be relocating to the province of Punjab can check out the provincial government's Special Education Department to learn more about the support resources available in the province.

Tutors in Pakistan

Expats looking to provide their children with additional academic support may struggle to find suitably qualified tutors in Pakistan. Although they could approach advisors from their child's international school for some direction, often the best bet is to find some support online.

Pakistan Tutors, FAHAD Tutors and AG Tutors are tutoring companies based in Pakistan that offer either online or home tutoring for school-aged children. Those looking for school support, help with language acquisition, or assistance adjusting to a new school and curriculum would do well to start here. 

Useful links

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