Islamabad - Though the government schools do not charge any fee, there are a range of expenditures that parents have to bear to send their children to government schools. As a result, the average annual cost of primary level student is almost Rs 31,000 while the same for the secondary school students stands at Rs 51,000.

An Alif Ailaan study: “Not ‘free’ at all: Profiling the costs parents incur on education” reveals that the overall annual average cost of educating a child at the primary school level in a private school comes to over Rs 58,000 while in a government school this is roughly Rs 31,000. Whereas the overall annual average cost of educating a child at the secondary school level in a private school is approximately Rs 88,000, while in a government school it is Rs 51,000.

Article 25-A establishes education as a right to which children are entitled under the conditions of it being free and compulsory. Yet Pakistani parents incur substantial costs in the pursuit of an education for their children. Using the results of a bespoke survey conducted by The Researchers, Alif Ailaan attempted to provide a more detailed picture of how much parents are spending on public and private schools, especially in the country’s urban centres.

The report using data from the latest national level PSLM survey 2013-14 shows that per child annual cost of educating in government school is Rs 12,208 while private schooling is more than two-times higher than the government schools i.e. Rs 25,842.

The government data shows that religious seminaries are spending an average of Rs 10,945 to educate a child while various trusts or nongovernmental organisations are spending about Rs 13,163.

The average cost of education in private schools is almost two times higher than the government schools (Rs 58,808 versus Rs 30,994 at primary level), says the study. The average annual expenditure on private tuition is higher among government school students than the private school students (Rs 5,280 versus Rs 3,820 at secondary level).

Among all the children currently enrolled in schools, 60 percent attend government schools and 39 percent attend private schools1. Only 1 percent attends seminaries.

Costs such as getting to school (transportation) and textbooks (which are supposed to be free) constitute important aspects of the expenditure profile for parents.

The private sector is rapidly expanding: enrolments in private schools have increased significantly in past one decade, it says. The share of private school enrolments has increased from 26% in year 2004 to 39% in year 2014.

The study says that a quarter of the total expenditures in government schools are spent on the transport facility needed to go to schools (28% at primary and 26% at secondary school level).

Another significant proportion of total expenditures is spent on the private tuition: 7% at primary and 10% at secondary level. This reflects an additional financial burden on parents due to the poor quality of teaching at both private and government schools. Indeed, the parents of children studying in private schools spend, on average, more on private tuition than parents of children in government schools.

Although the government schools do not charge any school fees, yet parents still have to bear the cost of essential items needed to attend and study, such as school uniforms, shoes, textbooks, notebooks, and school bags. Parents reported that 13% of total expenditures are spent on these essential items.

The leading expenditure item in private schools is school fees, which accounts for a quarter of total expenditures on schooling. The second highest cost is transportation. Parents are spending 16% of the total expenditures on the extracurricular activities, both in-school and after-school. This accounts for almost Rs 10,000 for a primary school level student.

The study shows that parents of children studying in private schools are spending much more on extracurricular activities than those of the government school students (Rs 9,486 versus Rs 6,291 at primary level). The cost of essential school items (school uniform, shoes, textbooks, copies and schoolbags) is almost twice as high in private schools compared to government schools (Rs 6,676 versus Rs 3,998).

Besides fees, private tuition has become a key part of education expenditures. For private school respondents 53% of children had extra tuition. Sixty-five per cent of parents reported that during last academic year their child took private tuition for more than five months.