Primary education

Primary education lasts 8 years in Pakistan. Pupils aged 5 to 13 complete the following 2 phases:

  • lower primary education (primary school, grade 1-5);
  • upper primary education (middle school, grade 6-8).

Secondary education

After primary education, students can continue on to secondary education. They must choose 1 of the following 2 types of secondary education:

General secondary education

General secondary education lasts 4 years and consists of 2 phases. Students aged 13 to 18 obtain a diploma after completing each phase:

Secondary School Certificate/Matriculation Certificate

Students complete lower secondary education by taking exams for a Secondary School Certificate. This diploma can also be called Matriculation Certificate. In Pakistan, lower secondary education is also known as plain ‘secondary education’.

We compare the Secondary School Certificate to a VMBO-T diploma.

We compare the Matriculation Certificate to a VMBO-T diploma.

Lower general secondary education curriculum

Students usually take exams in 8 subjects to obtain their Secondary School Certificate or Matriculation Certificate. They often take exams in the following subjects:

  • English;
  • Urdu;
  • Islamic studies (Islamiyat);
  • Pakistan studies (history, geography, politics and culture of Pakistan);
  • 4 electives.

Electives

Students usually choose a subject cluster (group) at the beginning of the 1st year (grade 9), which then includes the electives. Common subject clusters are:

  • science (exact sciences, such as biology and chemistry);
  • humanities (social sciences, such as civics and economics);
  • technical (technical subjects, such as woodworking and electrical engineering).

Higher Secondary School Certificate/Intermediate School Certificate

After obtaining the Secondary School Certificate or Matriculation Certificate, students can continue on to upper general secondary education. Or they choose secondary vocational education instead.

In Pakistan, upper secondary education is also known as higher secondary education or intermediate education. Students complete upper secondary education by taking exams for a Higher Secondary School Certificate. This diploma can also be called Intermediate School Certificate.

  • Duration: 2 years (grade 11 and grade 12).
  • Content: usually 7 exam subjects (see ‘Upper general secondary education curriculum’ below).
  • Function of the diploma: access to higher education.
  • Diploma: Higher Secondary School Certificate or Intermediate School Certificate.

We compare the Higher Secondary School Certificate with grade D or E as final result to at least a VMBO-T diploma.

We compare the Intermediate School Certificate with grade D or E as final result to at least a VMBO-T diploma.

Please note: ‘at least a VMBO-T diploma’ means that the qualification has a higher level than a VMBO-T diploma, but a lower level than a HAVO diploma. The level of the qualification lies between a VMBO-T diploma and a HAVO diploma.

We compare the Higher Secondary School Certificate with grade A1, A, B or C as final result to a HAVO diploma.

We compare the Intermediate School Certificate with grade A1, A, B or C as final result to a HAVO diploma.

Upper general secondary education curriculum

The curriculum usually consists of the following subjects:

  • English;
  • Urdu;
  • Islamic studies or civics (for non-Muslims);
  • Pakistan studies (history, geography, politics and culture of Pakistan);
  • 3 electives.

Electives

Students usually choose a subject cluster (group) at the beginning of the 1st year of upper secondary education (grade 11). The elective subjects (electives) fall under the group the student chooses. Usually, students choose a group that matches the group they chose in lower secondary education. Common groups are:

  • commerce (e.g. accounting, economics, statistics);
  • general (exact sciences, such as mathematics, physics, informatics);
  • home economics (e.g. home nursing, cooking, childcare);
  • humanities (social sciences such as psychology, geography, history);
  • medical technology (microbiology, anatomy, pathology);
  • pre-engineering (mathematics, physics, chemistry);
  • pre-medical (biology, chemistry, physics).

Please note:

  • Some groups have many electives. The electives can be very different in terms of content and aim. Some subjects include mainly theoretical instruction, other subjects include mainly practical training and little or no theoretical instruction.
  • There are no electives for the medical technology, pre-engineering and pre-medical groups. The subjects for these groups are fixed.

Board exams

Students take exams at the end of lower secondary education (grade 10) and at the end of upper secondary education (grade 12). These exams are administered by a board with which their secondary school affiliated. The board issues the official diploma and transcript, not the secondary school.

Vocational secondary education

Instead of general secondary education, students can choose vocational secondary education after primary education. It is offered by Vocational Institutes and Technical Training Colleges. Students complete vocational secondary education by taking exams for a Technical School Certificate.

Technical School Certificate

  • Duration: 2 years.
  • Content: English, a Pakistani language, Islamic studies (Islamiyat), physics, mathematics, technical drawing and theory (trade – theory) and practical training (trade – practical) for a particular profession, such as woodworker or auto mechanic.
  • Function of the diploma: access to secondary vocational education.
  • Diploma: Technical School Certificate.

We compare the Technical School Certificate to a VMBO-T diploma.

Exams administered by a Board of Technical Education

Students take exams administered by a Board of Technical Education with which their school is affiliated. The board issues the official diploma and transcript, not the school.

Admission to higher education

With a Higher Secondary School Certificate/Intermediate School Certificate, students can continue on to higher education in Pakistan. Pakisani higher education institutions may set extra requirements.

Extra requirements

Pakistani higher education institutions sometimes have extra admission requirements. Students may need certain subjects or a certain grade average. For example, students must have taken exam in science subjects, such as mathematics, physics and chemistry, to be admitted to a technical bachelor’s programme.

Students often need to take an entrance exam from the National Testing Service (NTS). Sometimes they also have to explain their motivation in an interview.