The historical status of girls’ education in the rural parts of Pakistan such as Balochistan is bleak. Various national and international reports, intrastate discourse and political rhetoric argue that patriarchy, remoteness, poverty, security and rugged topography are mainly responsible for the indicators of girls’ low enrolment and high dropout in the rural schools of Pakistan. I want to emphasize, however, that these factors interact with the discourse of education policy, changing power relations, the role of stakeholders and policy actors, and the emerging mode of governance and the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) policy processes. Keeping this backdrop in mind, in this series of blog posts I outline some key issues to explore a different way of thinking, informed by a postcolonial approach, in relation to the girls’ education in rural areas of Balochistan. In this first post I want to provide some context to understanding Balochistan, and why these challenges persist and in the following one I argue that the education policy developments are problematic in postcolonial Pakistan.
Background on Balochistan and the policy landscape
Balochistan is one of Pakistan’s four provinces that accounts for around 5.5 percent of the country’s 207.77 million people and constitutes 44 percent of the total land. Pakistan is a low-income country with 1186 USD GDP per capita and it ranks 110 out of 141 countries in the global competitive index (GCI). The literacy rate in Pakistan is 60 percent, 49 percent females and 70 percent males. Pakistan ranks 130 out of 137 countries in primary education and performs better than only Afghanistan in South Asia (SA) in girls’ education. The gender parity index (GPI) in primary school participation is 0.85 and girls’ enrolment rate is 68 percent, better than only Afghanistan in SA, and Chad and South Sudan in sub-Saharan countries.
Within Pakistan there is also severe disparity in the schools by province and rural/urban location. For example, in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) less than 10 percent of girls are out of school whereas in rural Balochistan it is over 75 percent. In Pakistan the diversity in geography, religious beliefs, culture, social and economic situations of various population groups and regions pose different challenges and opportunities for girls’ education. Girls from disadvantaged backgrounds in the rural remote areas of Balochistan will most likely not participate in school or they will be at risk of leaving school early.
Image credit: District Education Group
The number of international, national and local policies has risen over the past few decades in response to the increased number of girls not enrolled in school, increased dropout rates and a wide gender disparity in schools in Balochistan. A brief overview of education policy development in Pakistan reveals various initiatives and instruments at the federal and provincial levels, that are enacted in the form of policies, programmes, legislative Acts and strategies, to achieve the targets of Education for All (EFA) and gender equality in schools. The vision of EFA was initiated in Jomtein, Thailand in 1990, reiterated in the Dakar framework of action in the year 2000, and continued as an unfinished agenda beyond 2015 in the Incheon Declaration.
The constitutional and legal measures in Pakistan include the incorporation of Article 25-A into the 1973 Constitution of the country to protect the right of every child from the age of 5 to 16 years, irrespective of gender, to education. The Balochistan province further responded with enactment of the Balochistan Compulsory Education Act (BCEA) 2014 to implement Article 25-A of the Constitution in the province.
The national and provincial education targets, previously aligned with UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), now aligned with the SDGs, as well as framework of action agreed in the Incheon Declaration by all the member countries to achieve SDGs 4 and 5 by 2030. In the year 2000, in order to address the challenges of poverty, health, education and others, the global community had agreed to achieve eight goals through timebound and measurable objectives and targets. Various international aid packages through UN organizations, donor agencies, transnational organizations, non-government organizations (NGO) have been technically and financially supporting the national education system at different locations such as national, provincial and local.
Many other countries with similar socio-economic situations and education indicators to Pakistan have significantly progressed and achieved most of their education related MDG targets such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in South Asia. However, Pakistan missed almost all its education related targets by a huge gap. UNESCO (2015) reported that Pakistan was a long way away from achieving gender parity in primary school level, despite SA as whole already achieving the target.
In this situation, owing to severe disparities in schools on the basis of gender and rural-urban locations, UN organizations, donors and transnational organizations enhanced their support at the national level as well as in all provinces including Balochistan. In the next blog post, I argue that these policy developments are problematic in postcolonial Pakistan and draw on three overlapping forms of globalization: commodification of human efforts; expansion of western culture; and influence of global policies to the state policies to illustrate the divide in policy and practice for achieving gender parity in schools in Balochistan (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Three forms of globalization