The Pakistani government says the country is in the midst of an educational emergency with disastrous human and economic consequences.
A report by a government commission found that half of all Pakistani school children cannot read a sentence.
The commission found funding for schools has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the national airline gets in subsidies.
It describes the education crisis as a self-inflicted disaster.
The report says 25 million children in Pakistan do not get education, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution.
Three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson.
The report says that while rich parents send their children to private schools and later abroad to college or university, a third of all Pakistanis have spent less than two years at school.
"Millions of children are out of school, there is a crumbling infrastructure and education budgets are constantly shrinking but... the situation can be improved in a matter of years if there is a political will for change," the report says.
It says that at the current rate of progress Punjab province will provide all children with their constitutional right to education by 2041 while Balochistan province - the worst affected area - will not reach this goal until 2100.
The report says that only 6% of children in the country get their education in religious schools or madrassas.
The commission found that:
- 30,000 school buildings are so neglected that they are dangerous
- 21,000 schools do not have a school building at all
- Only half of all women in Pakistan can read, in rural areas the figure drops to one third
- There are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan who still manage to send more of their children to school
- Only 65% of schools have drinking water, 62% have latrines, 61% a boundary wall and 39% have electricity
The report said that Pakistan - in contrast to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - has no chance of reaching the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015.
The findings also affect population growth - because educated women have smaller families with children who are healthier and more inclined to use their own education to nurture the next generation.
The report concludes that if the government doubled its present spending on education, significant progress could be made in just two years.