Education in Pakistan is compulsory and free for children between the ages of five and 16 years old. The education system in Pakistan is usually divided into six levels: preschool, primary, middle, high, intermediate and university
The country suffers from a high illiteracy rate and gender disparity, and expats moving to Pakistan are likely to find that public education is not really an option for expat kids.
Public schools in Pakistan
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.
Private and international schools in Pakistan
There are a number of private and international schools in Pakistan following 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 sport, 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), as 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 very 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
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 for 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 being taught alongside their peers in mainstream schools. It may be a while still before these plans are put into action. In the meantime, there are a number of special-education schools in the country that 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 are also able to 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 are able to provide.
Tutors in Pakistan
Expats looking to provide their children with additional academic support may struggle to find suitably qualified tutors in Pakistan. Although they may be able to 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.
►For an overview of monthly expenses, see Cost of Living in Pakistan
Are you an expat living in Pakistan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Pakistan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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