Pakistan - Country Commercial Guide
Last published date: 2022-11-10

Capital:  Islamabad

Population:  238.2 million (July 2021 est.)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):  $ 1.021 trillion (2020 est.)

Currency:  Pakistani Rupee (PKR)

Language:  Urdu (official), Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Saraiki 10%, Pashto 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English, Burushaski, other 8%

UNESCO Student Mobility Number

Pakistan has 59,784 students studying abroad, according to UNESCO.

CIA World Factbook

55.31% of the population in Pakistan is under 25 years of age. 


Pakistan is the fifth largest population in the world with a total of approximately 221 million people, whereas 37 percent of population lives in urban areas, and about 55 percent of the population are under 24 years of age. 

The Government of Pakistan is working across various initiatives to provide quality education to all its citizens.  English has traditionally been the primary language of instruction in private schools.  Despite the government’s attempts to raise it, the literacy rate in Pakistan has remained steady at approximately 60 percent since 2014-15, with a 78 percent literacy rate in urban areas and 59 percent in rural areas. 

The government’s 2021-22 Pakistan Economic Survey estimates that from 2020-21 there were 14.4 million students enrolled in pre-primary education, 25.7 million in primary education (grades 1-5), approximately 8.3 million in middle education (grade 6-8), 4.5 million in secondary education (grade 9-10), and 2.5 million in higher-secondary education (grade 11-12).  The survey further indicates there were approximately 500,000 students enrolled in technical & vocational education, approximately 760,000 in degree-awarding colleges, and 1.96 million students in universities in 2020-21.

Pakistan has about 183,900 functional primary schools, 48,300 middle schools, 32,000 secondary schools, 6,000 higher/ secondary/intermediate colleges, and 3,800 technical & Vocational institutes in the country.  Pakistan has over 200 universities and 3,000-degree colleges across the country.

Secondary/Higher Secondary Education System

Pakistan’s national education system comprises twelve years education spread across four levels: primary (grades 1-5), middle school (grades 6-8), matriculation (grades 9 and 10) and intermediate (grades 11 and 12).  Many of the private schools offer the Cambridge education system in conjunction with the nationally mandated curriculum.

Community Colleges

The concept of community colleges in Pakistan was initiated by IBA University Sukkur, with political support from the provincial Government of Sindh to establish the country’s first community college, in 2010.  IBA Community College has since grown to comprise a network of five separate community colleges spread across the Sindh province.  IBA Community College also operates and oversees four public schools, three education management organization (EMO) schools, and one vocational training centers in the province.

The Punjab Higher Education Commission launched a similar concept of community colleges and, in collaboration with the federal Higher Education Department, introduced an associate degree program which, essentially, consisted of the provincial government converting about 800 existing colleges into Associate Degree schools.  However, only five of these recently converted institutes offer its students associate degrees.  The Punjab government indicates it expects the remaining colleges will be prepared and able to offer associate degrees within the year and so.

Degree Awarding Institutions/Universities in Pakistan

Pakistan has 218 universities in both public and private sector accredited by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan.  Almost all major disciplines are taught in these institutions/universities.

Technical & Vocational Education and Training (TVET)

Pakistan’s National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) is responsible for developing related policies, strategies, and regulations for the country’s Technical & Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system.  Entities similar to the NAVTTC operate at the provincial level: Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC), Punjab Technical Education & Vocational Training Authority (PTEVTA); Sindh Technical Education & Vocational Training Authority (STEVTA); Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (KPTEVTA) and; Baluchistan Technical and Vocational Training Authority (BTEVTA).  Each of these bodies offer courses covering various subjects and, additionally, several private organizations provide TVET-based programs.

Skill Development

The Government of Pakistan established the Skill Development Council Islamabad, Skill Development Council Lahore, Skill Development Council Karachi, and Skill Development Council Peshawar.  These councils’ function under National Training Board on public private partnership.  Their partnered training institutes offer regular training programs as well corporate training program in different domains.

Incubation Centers

The concept of incubation centers is relatively new in Pakistan, with the first National Incubation Center (NIC) launched in 2016.  There are now five government-initiated national incubation centers: NICNIC Karachi, NIC Lahore, NIC PeshawarNIC Quetta.   At the provincial government level, the Punjab has Plan 9, and Durshal is an initiative by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. 

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) mandated all Higher Education Institutes (HEI) establish Offices of Research, Innovation and Commercialization (ORICs), which led to the establishment of the Business Incubation Centers (BICs).  Pakistan’s HEC supports and encourages HEIs to establish Business Incubation Centers (BICs) to strengthen the link between academia and industry.  

Government Initiatives and Policies

Education has been one of the government’s top priorities in Pakistan.  In 2014, the government launched the Pakistan 2025 Vision, a national strategic plan.  The top two of its 25 goals center on the education sector and, by 2025, seek to:

  1. increase primary school enrollment and graduation rates to 100 percent, and a 90 percent literacy rate.
  2. increase higher education enrollment from 7 percent to 12 percent and increase the number of PhD scholars from 7,000 to 15,000.

To support these goals, the government allocated approximately one percent of the total federal budget to education-related efforts which, in FY 2022-23 totaled PKR 90.5 billion (approx. $427 million) of which PKR 74.6 billion (approx. $ 351 million) was allocated for Tertiary Education Affairs and Services.  The Higher Education Commission received PKR 44.174 billion (approx. $ 208 million). 

Over the last year Pakistan introduced the Single National Curriculum (SNC) for grades 1-5, which has yet to be implemented.  Under the SNC, all students, both public and private, would receive equal educational opportunities. The SNC is derives from the “One Nation, One Curriculum” concept.  The SNC also seeks to address the needs of minorities by allowing them to study their own religion, i.e., Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Baha’i, and Kalasha faiths for grade 1-5.  However, its implementation requires a broad-based integrated consultation exercise among different education sectors.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan introduced a policy in 2020 based on initiatives from the Pakistani Higher Education Institutes (HEIs), for Pakistani schools to establish international campuses to improve their own standing while enabling the HEIs to offer their education programs to an international market.

The HEC’s Travel Grant Program offers funding opportunities for Pakistani researchers and scholars.  Under this program the HEC will directly reimburse schools that accept participants that are accepted in their study or research programs, both within Pakistan and internationally. 

To remedy the traditional lack of attention given to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector, the Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training introduced a national “Skills for All” strategy in 2021, designed to address the needs of unskilled and economically challenged segments of the population and enable them to participate in the economy.

There has been a marked increase in the number of Pakistani students pursing education abroad.  Pakistan introduced a policy “Pakistani HEIs Offering Degree Programs in Collaboration with Foreign Universities”, in January 2020.  The policy is designed to promote cross-border education opportunities and to increase collaboration between Pakistani and international schools.  The program comprises various elements and opportunities for participants and partner institutions, including the award of a singular degree by a foreign partner university to participants completing studies in their home country.

The HEC introduced a Faculty Exchange Program in 2019, to enhance teaching and research collaboration between Pakistani institutions and faculty members with international partner institutions.

Market Insights

Per UNESCO statistics, nearly 60,000 Pakistani students are currently studying abroad.  There are 7,475 Pakistani students studying in the United States (2020/21) as reported by Open Doors.  While this figure reflects a 5.8 percent decline from the previous year, several other countries saw double-digit declines.  Pakistan ranks 18th in terms of the number international student in the United States in 2020/21, with the United States ranking as the second most preferred destination for Pakistani students.

A significant percentage of Pakistani students in the United States opt for public universities, with most pursuing business studies, accounting, engineering & technology, medical, general studies, and arts. 

Those U.S. states with the highest number of Pakistani students are: Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, and California.

Other Attractive Destinations for Pakistani Students

Generally, Urdu and English are the languages of instruction in Pakistan.  English-speaking countries have an edge over non-English speaking countries vis-à-vis Pakistani students.  Other top-ranking destinations include Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, Canada, Central Asian Republics, Ukraine, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and China.


Open Doors Statistics 2020/21

  • 2,858 students are enrolled in Graduate programs, a decline of 2.5 percent from the previous year.
  • 3,044 students are enrolled in Undergraduate programs, a decline of 7.6 percent from the previous year.
  • 101 students are enrolled in non-degree programs, a decline of 62.9 percent from the previous year.
  • 1,441 students are enrolled in Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs, a 2.2 percent increase over the previous year.


There is a strong and growing demand for private education in Pakistan with an increase in enrollments from urban areas.  The leading, private schools in Pakistan often operate multiple campuses across the country, mostly in urban areas.  There are only a handful of American schools operating in Pakistan catering to the higher end of the economic demographic. Despite high tuition fees charged by private schools, the Pakistani market remain largely untapped by for U.S. institutions and represents an opportunity to compete against those schools offering the Cambridge system. 

International schools rely heavily on student recruitment firms to attract Pakistani students. A significant number of Pakistani students turn to their student counselors and recruiting agencies when deciding on where to pursue their education abroad and, as such, U.S.  institutions can strengthen their presence by establishing a strong network of representation across the country.

Pakistani students, especially those in master’s and PhD programs have a strong preference to pursue their studies abroad, opening the way for U.S. schools to attract this segment of the market through partnership programs with reputable local universities, especially in business education, engineering & technology, etc. 

Collaboration programs include curriculum development, faculty development, research & development, and exchange programs.  Since 2005 the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan has funded the largest Fulbright Program in the world and, per the U.S. Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP), plans to award approximately 150 Fulbright scholarships in 2022.  Additionally, the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, in partnership with the USG, plans to fund 25 PhDs annually.

Pakistan hopes to achieve many of the priority goals laid out in its Pakistan’s Vision 2025 via the “US-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor PhD Scholarship Program”, established in June 2015 by the U.S. and Pakistani governments.   The ten-year plan includes awarding scholarships to 1,000 exceptional Pakistani students to attend US universities.

Virtual Learning is an emerging concept in the academia and professional world.  Students and professionals in Pakistan also choose distance learning for international certification, diploma, and degree program for their career growth, though the tendency is not high.  Trend to distance learning is elevating in Pakistan after pandemic, and travel restrictions phase.  Current inflation conditions in Pakistan might attract student’s preferences for virtual learning for their advance education and professional skills.

Digital Marketing Strategies

Pakistani students rely heavily on social media as part of the decision-making process to explore international studies options, i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube.  Facebook and Instagram rank as the top social media sites in Pakistan with YouTube proving to be an effective and widely used platform.  Google is the top search engine amongst students, other search engines (Bing, Yahoo etc.) trailing. is the most famous job search platform following by Bayt,, Mustakbil, and Indeed.  Schools in Pakistan use Google Classroom for online teaching and coordinating student assignments.  Zoom is also popular for holding online classes.


World Bank


CIA – The World Fact Book

Pakistan - Budget

Pakistan – Vision 2025

Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training

Higher Education Commission of Pakistan

Open Doors