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Pakistan debates how to fill education gaps

From Reuters - November 6, 2017

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Two young boys kneel over small white tables, intently studying the Koran at a madrassa in Pakistan.

The Al-Nadwa Madrassa in the hill station of Murree, 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the capital, Islamabad, is part of an established alternative system of education in the South Asian nation.

Private schools, charitable institutions and religious seminaries are stepping in to supplement government-run schools to help meet the education needs of an estimated 50 million school-age children.

Despite 220,000 schools nationwide, more than 20 million children are not in school, the government said in a 2016 report.

The government has pumped money into schooling, with the education budget swelling by 15 percent every year since 2010, according to education consultancy Alif Ailaan.

The United Nations estimates Pakistans current education budget at 2.65 percent of GDP, roughly $8 billion, or around $150 per student.

Private educators say the countrys education problems are not only due to a lack of funds but also inadequate teaching.

Its not the number of schools, its the quality, the attitude, said Zeba Hussain, founder of the Mashal Schools which teaches children displaced by war in the countrys north.

Hussain started the charitable Mashal Schools after she met a group of refugee children while visiting the hill areas surrounding Islamabad.

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