Following the primary education from ages 5 to 9 is the 3-year Middle School (sixth to eighth grades for children ages 10 to 12), a 2-year secondary school (ninth and tenth grades culminating in "matriculation") and higher secondary or "intermediate"—eleventh and twelfth grades). Some accounts, including official reports, include the post-primary Middle School as part of the "secondary" stage. On the other hand, some include the "Intermediate" or "Junior College" as part of the "secondary" distinguishing it as "higher secondary."
In 1991, there were 11,978 secondary schools with an enrollment of 2.995 million students and 154,802 teachers with a student-teacher ratio of 19:l. Because of the relatively low enrollment at the primary education level and high dropout rates at the Middle School (see the section on Preprimary & Primary Education), the Seventh and Eighth Five Year Plans substantially augmented allocations at the primary and Middle School levels. The government also sought to decentralize and democratize the design and implementation of the education strategy by giving the parents a greater voice in running school. It also took measures to transfer control of primary and secondary schools to nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs).
There is a major qualitative difference between government-run schools and "public" schools (public in the British usage, which means real exclusive, elite schools). These charge very high fees affordable only by the economically topmost level of the society, probably no more than five percent of the families, some of whom prefer to send their children to even more exclusive schools in the Western world, notably, Great Britain. Such "public" schools are mostly located in major cities and in the "hill stations" and attract children from the wealthy and the powerful including the higher levels of bureaucracy and the military. They generally prepare students for the Cambridge Examination, maintain excellent facilities including laboratories and computers and highly-trained teachers. Thanks to economic growth of the country including foreign trade, employment in multinationals and according to some, higher levels of corruption, the number of families which can afford the high fees of the "public" schools has been increasing since the 1960s. It is also considered a mark of high status to have one's children admitted to such schools because of the possibility that it may result in developing contacts which may be useful in their future careers. There are, therefore, tremendous pressures on such schools for admission. There were also "socialistic" pressures. In 1972, following the rise of Zulfikar Bhutto to power, some of these "public" schools were compelled to reserve one-fifth of their places for students on academic merit basis, thus helping the less affluent to get into such schools.
The bulk of the secondary schools come under the aegis of the Ministry of Education. They follow a common curriculum, imparting a general education in languages (English and Urdu ), Pakistan Studies, Islamiyat and one of the following groups: Science, "General" or Vocational. The Science group includes Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology; the "General" group includes Mathematics or Household Accounts or Home Economics, General Science and two general education courses out of some 40 options. The Vocational group provides choices from a list of commercial, agricultural, industrial or home economics courses. There are also "non-examination" courses such as Physical Exercise of 15-20 minutes daily and Training in Civil Defense, First Aid and Nursing for a minimum of 72 hours during grades 9 and 10.
The Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) taken at the end of the tenth grade is administered by the government's Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education. Admission to the "intermediate" colleges and Vocational schools is based on score obtained at the SSCE. The grading system is by "divisions" one to three. In order to be placed in the First Division, a student must score a minimum of 60 percent of the total of 1000 "marks;" those obtaining 45 to 59 percent are placed in the Second Division ; and those getting between 264 and 499 out of 1000 are placed in the Third Division, while below 264 are declared failed. For those accustomed to U.S. grading, these norms would appear low. Those in the First Division would compare favorably with A students in American schools.
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