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Pakistan debates how to fill education gaps

Students memorise the Koran at the Al-Nadwa Madrassa in Murree, Pakistan, October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

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.

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