SDGs and Pakistan

Achieving gender parity in rural Pakistan schools: A postcolonial perspective (Part 2)

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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. 

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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? 

Photo credit: District Education Group

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. 

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SDGs and Pakistan

Achieving gender parity in rural Pakistan schools: A postcolonial perspective (Part 1)

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The historical status of girls’ education in the rural parts of Pakistan such as Balochistan is bleak. Various national and international reportsintrastate 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.

Image credit: District Education Group 

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. 

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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 gapUNESCO (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