In this second post that explores the challenges of achieving gender parity in rural Balochistan schools, I argue that various policy developments are problematic in postcolonial Pakistan. In this post I 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.
Commodification of human efforts
Balochistan’s rural areas have a low supply of schooling options for girls, yet a high demand for girls’ education among the local communities. In contrast, many urban communities who have multiple options available to girls. This problem is compounded by the transnational flow of global education policy and ideas through the policy networks in Pakistan. These networks are understood and translated by policy actors at the national level which are insufficiently represented from Balochistan.
These policy actors comprise the top-level bureaucrats, politicians, education experts, UN organizations, civil servants, philanthropists, education entrepreneurs and so forth. The network of these policy actors develops and enacts education policy. These policies have little impact on girls’ education in rural areas of Balochistan for two reasons. First, the stereotypical image of Balochistan, as a remote, tribal and society unwilling to educate girls, dominates the policy discourse. This is because most of the policy actors at the national level either have never been to Balochistan province or have limited knowledge of the rural culture and society. Second, in Pakistan the children of upper and upper middle-class policy actors are enrolled in elite private schools. This creates a gap in understanding the challenges and opportunities of rural girls in Balochistan who rely only on public schools because of the shortage of available private school options. The remote villages and isolated populations are neither a good business opportunity for private education entrepreneurs nor administratively viable for philanthropists. Therefore, the children of rural Balochistan, particularly girls have limited options to attend quality schools (with English as a language of instruction).
More importantly, the apparatus of bureaucracy, although powerful, is inherently inefficient and relies on the conventional modes of policy making. After the 18th constitutional amendment in 2010, education, previously in the federal concurrent list, was devolved completely as the provincial government’s responsibility including policy formulation and enactment. However, education policy discourse and education curriculum are still influenced by the federal government as well as multinational and transnational organizations in different ways, including overlapping of national and provincial policy actors. This influence is partly due to the lack of interest and motivation from the provincial government’s political sphere and bureaucracy and partly due to the narratives of uniformity and national integration.
The expansion of Western culture
At the turn of twenty first century national education policy (2009) has emerged out of the global and transnational influences, in the shape of new development goals. Education policy is formed beyond the boundaries of nation state at different locations in the network of various people, sites, places, events and organizational forms. These networks are a form of new imperialism, and a continuation of Western imperialism which threatens local and indigenous cultures, and which, in turn, promote persistent inequalities. The less the country is ‘developed’ the more global influence in the national policy landscape, and the more external penetration there is in the national education terrain. The route of such policy ideas is from the core to the periphery, and ‘elite partnership’ and ‘postcolonial elite’ play a major role in (re) production of imperial and colonial structures. For example, although the private sector is providing enhanced access and better-quality education compared to the public sector, it is, simultaneously, promoting English education as the major instrument for upward mobility in society as well as becoming a source of inequality. The middle and upper middle classes can afford the expenses of private schools, learn English and have more employment opportunities in high paid positions in both the public and private sectors. Those who graduate from public schools do not have the opportunity to learn English, therefore, they end up either unemployed or in low paid employment.
The influence of global policies on state policies
In Balochistan province, the education policy process is significantly influenced by the transnational organizations, UN agencies and donors because they are proactive in bringing the provincial education policy and strategy in line to their annual plans or at least to their project tenure. These policy actors in key management, bureaucratic and political positions at the provincial level exert their influence through policy translation, policy interpretation and policy implementation. These positions are mostly filled by men from urban backgrounds with little knowledge beyond their district or recognition of diverse cultural, social and patriarchal heterogeneity throughout the province. For example, the Balochistan Compulsory Education Act (BCEA) 2014 announced that public education was being provided free of cost. However, the enactment of this policy is difficult in rural areas because schools have hidden costs including school uniforms, shoes, stationery and so on. This means that families are unable to send their daughters to school. Further, there are families who migrate seasonally for work on agricultural farms, and who find enrolling their daughters into school very challenging as they move from one remote location to another.
In addition, the enactment of policy is complicated by a gaping hole in the collection of information on girls’ school participation. Presently, there is no data available for girls not enrolled in school in Balochistan. The formation of institutions is desperately needed to establish mechanism for recording, updating and tracing girls’ participation and achievement in school for the purpose of governance and to inform future policy development. This lack of data leaves many questions we do not have answers to, such as, who is not enrolled in school, where do they live, what are their circumstances, and how can they can be enrolled in school to succeed in education?
Gaps between policy and policy implementation
In conclusion, I reiterate that power relations in the new and changing sites of policy processes play an important role in policy discourse through the new and conventional policy networks in Balochistan. These networks reify globalization through its forms of commodification of human efforts, expansion of western culture and influence of global policies to the state policies. The devolved education in the post-18th constitutional amendment in Pakistan and Incheon Declaration redefine and reallocate the assemblage of sites, people, events, institutions and authorities, and attempt to establish interactive relationships with the provincial and local policy actors.
In 2010 the education sector was decentralised from the federal to the provincial level through the 18th amendment. Many international, national and local actors, presently, in the policy processes in Balochsitan represent the upper class which in turn displaces local knowledge, local concerns and even silences local voices that tend to distort the reality and perpetuate the gender disparity in education in rural Balochistan. The male, urban upper and upper middle-class policy actors who enroll their children in English medium private schools and influence the policy discourse for the rural girls in the province do not necessarily represent the realities of rural communities and girls.