Out-of-School Children in Pakistan

Pakistan faces one of the world’s most pressing challenges concerning out-of-school children (OOSC). Although there has been recent progress in reducing the percentage of OOSC from 44% in 2016-17 to 39% in 2021-22, the absolute number has surged from 22.02 million, excluding AJK and GB, to 26.21 million, primarily due to population growth. This increase highlights the ongoing and urgent issue of ensuring access to and retention of education across the country.

The proportion of out-of-school children (OOSC) is alarmingly high across various education levels. In primary education, 36% (10.77 million) of children are out of school. This issue persists into middle school, with 30% (4.94 million) of children out of school, and becomes even more pronounced at the high school and higher secondary levels, with 44% (4.55 million) and 60% (5.95 million) respectively. Punjab and Sindh report the highest numbers of OOSC, with 11.73 million and 7.63 million respectively, while Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) faces 3.63 million cases of OOSC and Balochistan reports 3.13 million. The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) has the lowest figure, with 0.08 million OOSC.

A notable gender disparity persists, with a higher percentage of female students being out of school compared to their male counterparts at all education levels. Moreover, economic factors play a significant role in this issue. A staggering 51% of children from the poorest quintile are not attending primary school, and this pattern continues in middle education, with 55% OOSC in the same economic bracket. The disparity becomes even more pronounced at higher education levels, where the poorest quintile accounts for 75% of OOSC. Although there is a decrease in the percentage of OOSC in wealthier quintiles, even among the rich quintile, 14% remain out of school at the upper secondary level.

Source: Pakistan Institute of Education
 

OOSC at Primary Level

The Out of School Children at primary age group highlights disparities at provinces/areas. While Punjab has the highest number of out-of-school children, Sindh also reports a substantial number, particularly among females. Balochistan and KP face challenges in ensuring access to education for both genders. Meanwhile, ICT performs relatively better in terms of primary school enrollment. Punjab has the highest number of out-of-school children among the provinces, with 4.83 million children out of school, evenly distributed between males (2.46 million) and females (2.37 million). In Sindh, there are 3.20 million out-of-school children, with a notable gender gap. While 1.43 million males are out of school, the number rises to 1.77 million for females. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has a total of 1.28 million out-of-school children, with a higher proportion being females (0.88 million) compared to males (0.40 million). Balochistan reports 1.40 million out-of-school children, with a fairly balanced distribution between males (0.65 million) and females (0.75 million). The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) has the lowest number of out-of-school children, with only 0.06 million children out of school, equally split between males and females.

OOSC at Middle Level

Pakistan has a total of 4.94 million out-of-school children for middle education, with 2.11 million being males and 2.83 million being females. Punjab has the highest number of out-of-school children for middle education, with a total of 1.88 million. The gender breakdown shows that 0.93 million are males, and 0.95 million are females. Sindh follows with a total of 1.54 million out-of-school children for middle education. The gender distribution reveals that 0.60 million are males, while 0.94 million are females. KP and Balochistan have relatively lower numbers of out-of-school children for middle education, both totaling 0.74 million. In KP, 0.20 million are males, and 0.54 million are females, whereas in Balochistan, 0.36 million are males, and 0.39 million are females. Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) has the lowest number of out-of-school children for middle education, with only 0.01 million for both males and females.

OOSC at High Level

At secondary education age-group, a total of 4.55 million out-of-school children are there in Pakistan. Among these, 2.31 million are males, and 2.24 million are females. Punjab reports a total of 2.01 million OOSC, with 1.15 million being males and 0.86 million being females. Sindh follows with a total of 1.36 million out-of-school children. This comprises 0.66 million males and 0.70 million females. KP also has a total of 0.69 million OOSC, with 0.26 million males and 0.44 million females. Balochistan reports a total of 0.48 million OOSC, equally distributed between males (0.24 million) and females (0.24 million).

OOSC at Higher Secondary Level

Across Pakistan, there are a combined 5.95 million out-of-school children within the higher secondary age bracket. Among them, 2.99 million are male, and 2.96 million are female. In the province of Punjab, the number of out-of-school children in this age group is 3.01 million, with males accounting for 1.58 million and females for 1.42 million. Sindh closely follows with a total of 1.53 million out-of-school children in the higher secondary age range, evenly divided between males (0.77 million) and females (0.77 million). Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) reports 0.91 million out-of-school children in this age category. Among them, 0.39 million are males, while 0.52 million are females. Balochistan records 0.50 million out-of-school children in the higher secondary age group, comprising 0.26 million males and 0.24 million females

Acknowledgements/ References

Pakistan Institute of Education, Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training Government of Pakistan. (2024). Pakistan Education Statistics 2021-22.

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