In the last article we had argued for the position that all children in Pakistan should be educated. Even if parents cannot pay for their children's education, it is in the interest of the nation to get every child educated, and we can use other people's money to do that. Getting all children educated is important because an uneducated child imposes a negative externality on others, while an educated one produces a positive outcome for him/herself and others (functional argument). And it is important to get all children educated as a matter of right as well: our Constitution also acknowledges the right, though so far the state has not acknowledged it as such and the courts have not declared it and had it implemented. Whether one agrees with the above exact positions or not, the need for educating children is generally sufficiently acknowledged. For the remaining part of the article we will assume that there is agreement that all children in Pakistan need to be educated and then see how we can move towards achieving the objective. The question is not a trivial one. For the last two decades the debate has been raging in Pakistan. For the first 30 years of Pakistan's existence it was believed that the state was responsible for funding education. In fact, the belief was reinforced by the Bhutto regime when it decided to nationalize education in the country. But though the actions of the state did reveal that the thinking was certainly such that it acknowledged the role that the state had to play in funding as well as providing for education in the country, the allocation of funds for education, the lack of importance that education was accorded in different plans also revealed that though the belief about the role of the state might have been there, the belief was not strong enough to outweigh other priorities. A lot of things changed post 1977. The nature of the state underwent a significant change that has not been reversed over the last 30 years. From a developmental state of the first 30 years Pakistani state moved towards being a 'security' (the tags development and security state come from Dr. Kaiser Bengali, though he might not agree with me on how I am using them) state under General Zia , and the trend has not been altered at all. Under the security state, the priorities of the state changed even further. Though the belief that education should be provided to all lingers on, the belief that the government should provide funding for the education of all children has weakened. Starting with allowing the private sector to enter the field of educational provision in a much larger way in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the privatization of some schools that had been nationalized in the 1970s, and the weakening of educational provision in the public sector, there has been a secular trend over the last three decades. Slowly most people have come to believe that the state cannot provide education to all the children in Pakistan, and it cannot provide quality education at all, and it is only through the private sector that we can hope to achieve provision of acceptable quality and, at best, the state should provide funding for education but actual provision should be left to the private for-profit or not-for-profit players. In fact, some people have a more extreme position: they argue that government involvement in the education sector is a guarantee of failure and they argue for complete privatization of provision, though accepting the need for a role of the state in providing funding for those children whose parents cannot afford to pay for private education. The changing argument on educational provision has fit in well with the changing nature of the state in Pakistan as well. As we have become much more of a security state, the priority for sectors like education has become even lower and this has fit in well with the expanding role of the private sector and the deepening perception that the state is simple incapable of providing such services like education. When those on the right have argued for a more limited role of the state in provision, the state, with its security based priorities, has tried its best to live up to the position that has been argued for. A recent survey has shown that almost 35-40 percent of school-going children in Pakistan go to private schools. The percentage is higher in urban areas than in rural, but it is not insignificant in rural areas as well. And many private schools are providing educational services for a fairly low fee (Rs. 50-200 per month). At the same time it has also often been argued and even shown, through data, that public sector provision, across the country, is in very poor shape. Public schools provide poor quality education and the cost of this provision, in terms of expenditure per child, is higher than that of comparable (low fee) private sector schools. These facts have been cited often enough to argue that state provision cannot work and should not be focused on, and the private sector should be the one providing education while the state should, if there is a need, focus on children who cannot afford to pay for education. But the debate is too simple at this point and the 'facts' too un-contextualised to allow for the above conclusion to be rigourously established however convenient it might be to take this position. A lot of children in Pakistan never go to school. If we accept that most of these are from poorer households, will the private sector be able to cater to these as well. A lot of children in Pakistan drop out of schools very early, and there is come relation between poverty and dropouts as well, can private sector cater to all of these. We know that private sector works better in richer areas than in poorer ones, and it works better in areas where there is an existent pool of educated women (potential teachers) than where there are few educated women. Can private education go to the less developed areas of the country at a significant scale: we do see that private provision is a lot thinner in rural Sindh and rural Balochistan? But there are bigger issues at stake as well. By allowing the richer and economically better off class to pull out of the public education system we have set up the public education system for failure. By accepting the above argument we also assume that there is some inherent problem with the public provision of education that cannot be fixed even if the state and society wanted to do it: though, of course, most of the world, developing and developed, provides good quality school education through the public sector. If the state is to be responsible for providing funding for the children who cannot afford to be in schools, as the argument for funding but no provision suggests, we assume that the state would be capable of designing and implementing a nation wide system for identifying such children, and providing them with scholarships or vouchers. And since the state is responsible for monitoring the education sector, we assume that the state is capable of designing and implementing reasonable regulatory mechanisms as well. But if we are assuming that the state can do all that, why assume that it cannot provide education and state educational system cannot be reformed in Pakistan? We need to research and think a lot in this area before coming to simplistic conclusions. And we should make this effort as the area is too important to neglect: the future of the country might rest on how well we do in the education sector. Giving up on what is acknowledged to the responsibility of the state and the society might be convenient but it can lead to disasters as well. Though it is popular to take the position that though the state might be responsible for funding education, the relative success of the private sector shows the state should get out of direct provision, the evidence for the conclusion is weak, and is not supported by evidence from other countries. This should be an important area for research for all concerned with education. E-mail: faisal@nation.com.pk