Pakistan is one of eight countries worldwide that spend less than 2% of GDP on education.
Considerable budgetary support has been available from Western donors as well as the UN agencies. But the administrative infrastructure lacks the capacity to absorb those resources.
Less than half of students ever complete primary school. This has kept the country's literacy rate below 50%.
The quality of education in the state-owned institutions has deteriorated considerably. Standards are only slightly better in the country's mushrooming private sector schools, but these are too expensive for most people.
Poorer parents have tended to send their children to religious seminaries (madrassas) which offer free food and boarding to their students. Some madrassas have been used to promote religious extremism.