Pakistan - Country Commercial Guide
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Pakistan is the fifth largest population in the world with a total of approximately 229.22 million people in 2022. About 37 percent of the population lives in urban areas and about 55 percent of the population is 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 74 percent literacy rate in urban areas and 54 percent in rural areas. 

The government’s 2021-23 Pakistan Economic Survey estimates that there were 11.35 million students enrolled in pre-primary education, 25 million in primary education (grades 1-5), approximately 8.75 million in middle education (grades 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 455,000 students enrolled in technical and vocational education, approximately 820,000 in degree-awarding colleges, and 1.96 million students in universities in 2021-22.

Pakistan has about 182,600 functional primary schools, 46,800 middle schools, 34,800 secondary schools, 7,648 higher/ secondary/intermediate colleges, and 3,729 technical and 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 of 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.

Degree Colleges

The degree colleges have a similar concept to community colleges, there are about 3000-degree colleges, generally offering fouryear educational programs in several disciplines.

Degree Awarding Institutions/Universities in Pakistan

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan is a constitutionally established institutional regulatory body that functions autonomously, and independently for funding, overseeing, and accrediting the universities.  Pakistan has 202 universities in both the public and private sectors accredited by the HEC.  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 and implementing policies, strategies, and regulations for the country’s Technical and 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 and 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 offers courses covering various subjects and, additionally, several private organizations provide TVET-based programs.

Skill Development

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

Incubation Centers

The 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 BICs to strengthen the link between academia and industry.

There are eight government-initiated national incubation centers: NIC Islamabad, NIC Karachi, NIC Lahore, NIC PeshawarNIC Quetta, NIC Hyderabad, NIC Faisalabad, and NIC Aerospace Technologies.  At the provincial government level, Punjab has Plan 9, and Durshal is an initiative by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. 

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:

  • Increase primary school enrollment and graduation rates to 100 percent, and a 90 percent literacy rate.
  • Increase higher education enrollment from 7 percent to 12 percent and increase the number of Ph.D. scholars from 7,000 to 15,000.

To support these goals, the government allocated approximately two percent of the total National Public Sector Development Program in the federal budget to education-related efforts, in FY 2023-24, which totaled PKR 97 billion (approximately $320 million) of which PKR 76.5 billion (approximately $ 260 million) was allocated for Tertiary Education Affairs and Services.  The Higher Education Commission received PKR 59.7 billion (approximately $ 200 million). 

The government has recently initiated a multi-tiered program that aims to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) education for students across the country. 

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 derived from the “One Nation, One Curriculum” concept.  The SNC also seeks to address the needs of minorities by allowing them to study their religion, i.e., Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Baha’i, and Kalasha faiths for grades 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 standing while enabling the HEIs to offer their education programs to the 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 the 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 pursuing 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 64,604 Pakistani students are currently studying abroad.  There were 8,772 Pakistani students studying in the United States (2021/22) as reported by Open Doors.  This figure reflects a 17.2 percent rise from the previous year.  Pakistan ranks 16th in terms of the number of international students in the United States in 2021/22, 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, medicine, 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, the United Kingdom, Germany, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, Canada, the Central Asian republics, Ukraine, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Italy, and China.


Open Doors Statistics 2021/22

  • 3,635 students are enrolled in Graduate programs, an increase of 27.2 percent from the previous year.
  • 3,241 students are enrolled in Undergraduate programs, an increase of 6.5 percent from the previous year.
  • 293 students are enrolled in non-degree programs, an increase of 190.1 percent from the previous year.
  • 1,603 students are enrolled in Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs, an increase of 8.9 percent from 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 remains largely untapped by 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 450 Fulbright scholarships in 2023.

Pakistan hopes to achieve many of the priority goals laid out in Pakistan’s Vision 2025 via the “U.S.-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor Ph.D. 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 U.S. 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 programs for their career growth, though the tendency is not high.  The trend to distance learning is elevating in Pakistan after the pandemic, and travel restrictions phase.  Current inflation conditions in Pakistan might attract students’ preference for virtual learning for their advanced 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, and 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 among students, and other search engines (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) trailing. is the most famous job search platform followed by Bayt, and, 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