By Qurat Mudasar
Tue, 05, 24

Our education system still echoes Macaulay’s words, focusing on educating the elite class, points out Qurat Mudasar. Read on…



The Government of Pakistan is working on various initiatives to provide quality education to all its citizens. Despite the government’s efforts, the literacy rate in Pakistan has remained steady at approximately 60 per cent since 2014-15, with a literacy rate of 74 per cent in urban areas and 54 per cent in rural areas.

To understand the termite infestation within the Pakistani education system, we must look back to the British era where Lord Macaulay presented his Minute on Indian education in 1835, which was later approved by the British Government. In his minute, he proposed the ‘Downward Filtration theory’. According to the theory, the British thought to educate a few upper-class Indians. These Indians would then disseminate education to the general populace. It was thought that education would trickle down through this system. Macaulay shared this viewpoint and promoted the creation of an exclusive class. According to him, rather than educating the entire society simultaneously, focusing on educating the elite class in English would lead to the successful preparation of a compliant and harmonious populace. He further sweetened the deal for the British government by suggesting that with the availability of cheap labour, they could minimise their burden by preparing workers for low-paying jobs. This point served as a trigger, and the British government approved this minute in March 1835. (Later, this approach came under heavy fire for failing to prioritise mass education).

1835 means 189 years have passed, and British Rule has vanished. However, our education system still echoes Macaulay’s words, focusing on educating the elite class. We have gained independence but still we follow British policies consciously or unconsciously.

Our education system is divided into public and private sectors. The quality of education in public schools is a question mark for the people of Pakistan. The lack of quality education and basic facilities in public schools is alarming. Meanwhile, the private school system offers better educational opportunities but with high fees.

The younger generation is often forced to abandon their education due to the high fees of educational institutions. As a result, many innocent young children are left with no choice but to seek diplomas in computers or other skills from small street institutions. While these diplomas may help them support their families, they do not provide the same opportunities for success as a traditional education. Some cannot even afford these small diploma packages. Their thirst for education, feelings of deprivation and helplessness in not being able to utilise their inner abilities push them towards crime, laying the foundation of a psychologically weak society.


Pakistan has 26.2 million children between the ages of 5 and 16, the second-highest number of out-of-school children in the world. This means that 44 per cent of young children are forced to leave their education.

The government should take responsibility for this situation. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, politicians have their own priorities and agenda and they have little consideration for providing quality education to masses. They are more interested in seeking opportunities for their own children and grandchildren in bureaucracy, politics, and other influential positions in Pakistan. The government school system only caters to lower-working-class individuals, branding them as clerks, technicians, and others. Major institutes like the DMG group, bureaucrats, barristers, and others are intentionally reserved only for the class that aspires to rule Pakistan.

It seems that Lord Macaulay’s minute has entrenched itself like an ‘amarbel’ within our education system, draining its vitality and slowly sucking the life out of it.

To address this issue, national institutions, tasked with implementing Article 25(A) which provides free and compulsory secondary education as a fundamental right for Pakistanis, should take serious initiatives instead of merely expressing concern every year. It is crucial to ensure that education is accessible to all individuals, regardless of their socio-economic status, to build a stronger, more equitable society. According to a report, Pakistan faces extreme constraints in financing education, with only 1.77 per cent of GDP allocated to education.

Last month, I experienced a sense of dismay upon learning that the Punjab government, through the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook Board (PCTB), has decided to reduce the printing capacity of free textbooks by 50 per cent, leaving thousands of public school students without access to government-provided textbooks. This decision reflects a callous attitude of government towards children’s education.

Given the staggering statistics of out-of-school children in Pakistan, it is imperative that the concerned authorities should take concrete steps in order to bridge the education gap. Let us think outside the box and devise innovative solutions to make education accessible to all. The cost of education should not be a barrier. From implementing mobile classrooms in rural areas to providing online education resources, there are multiple ways in which we can educate children who belong to lower strata of society. Let us not allow financial constraints to determine a child’s future.

It is high time that the government declared an education emergency in Pakistan. The time is NOW to invest in the education of our young generation and build a brighter future for Pakistan.

The writer is a development professional. She can be reached at