As per official statistics released by the Federal Education Ministry of Pakistan the overall literacy rate is 46 per cent, while only 26 per cent of girls are literate. Independent sources and educational experts, however, are sceptical. They place the overall literacy rate at 26 per cent and the rate for girls and women at 12 per cent, contending that the higher figures include people who can handle little more than a signature. There are 163,000 primary schools in Pakistan, of which merely 40,000 cater to girls. Of these, 15,000 are in Punjab Province, 13,000 in Sind, 8,000 in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KPK) and 4,000 in Baluchistan.
The situation is especially alarming in rural areas due to social and cultural obstacles. One of the most deplorable aspects is that in some places, particularly northern tribal areas, the education of girls is strictly prohibited on religious grounds. This is a gross misinterpretation of Islam, the dominant religion in Pakistan (96 per cent of the population), which like all religions urges men and women to acquire education.
NIDA-Pakistan Education for All (EFA) initiative emphasizes to bring the benefits of education to "every citizen in the society." In order to realize this aim, NIDA-Pakistan work in partnership with a broad coalition of national governments, civil society groups, and development agencies such as, UNICEF, UNESCO and the World Bank and committed to achieving six specific education goals:
- Expand and improve comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children
- Ensure that all children, particularly girls, those in difficult circumstances, and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete, free, and compulsory primary education of good quality
- Ensure that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programs
- Achieve a 50 % improvement in adult literacy, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults
- Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education, and achieve gender equality in education, with a focus on ensuring girls' full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality
- Improve all aspects of the quality of education and ensure the excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills