Academic journal article The Lahore Journal of Economics

Struggling against the Odds of Poverty, Access, and Gender: Secondary Schooling for Girls in Pakistan

Academic journal article The Lahore Journal of Economics

Struggling against the Odds of Poverty, Access, and Gender: Secondary Schooling for Girls in Pakistan

Article excerpt

Abstract

While schooling outcomes for girls have improved over the period 2001-11, progress has been uneven within Pakistan. Rural girls lag far behind urban girls and progress across the provinces remains unequal. The transition to secondary school-in some ways more critical for improving employability, reproductive health, and other outcomes-shows even more disparate progress by province and income class. Questions about the preference for public versus private schools and the actual choice of schools available to girls in most rural areas need to be answered if we are serious about a rapid escalation of secondary school enrollments for girls.

We use data from the Pakistan Integrated Household Survey for 2001/02 and the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLMS) for 2007/08 and 2010/11 to look at patterns in this transition. Access is likely to be the main driving force behind the transition to secondary-level schooling. Initial findings reflect the almost total reliance on public schools for 10-14-year-old girls. This suggests that private secondary schools are not an option for girls in rural areas. The next major intervening factor is household income level: even rich families appear to favor public schools for girls. The data also suggest that girls from poor and large families compete with their brothers and other siblings for limited resources.

Importantly, secondary school is only an option on completing primary school and the choices are greater at the primary school level. We study the choice of secondary school as conditioned on factors driving primary school completion. Regional patterns reflect the expansion of private schools in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), less so in Sindh and Balochistan.

Keywords: Poverty, girls, education, urban-rural gap, Pakistan.

JEL classification: I21, I24.

1. Introduction

While schooling outcomes for girls have improved over the period 2001-11, progress has been uneven within Pakistan. Rural girls lag far behind urban girls and progress varies across the provinces. The transition to secondary school is in ways far more critical for improving employability, reproductive health, and other outcomes. It is, therefore, important to assess why secondary schooling for girls shows even more disparities by province and income class.

Access is likely to be the main driving force behind the transition to secondary-level schooling. Initial findings reflect the almost total reliance on public schools for 10-14-year-old girls. The preference for public versus private schools and the actual choice of schools available to girls in most rural areas need to be explored to determine the possibilities of rapid escalation of secondary school enrollments for girls. The other major intervening factor is household income level: even rich families appear to favor public schools for girls. The data also suggest that girls in poor and large families compete with their brothers and other siblings for limited resources (this will be explored further). Most important, secondary school is only an option on completing primary school and choices are greater at the primary school level. We study the choice of secondary school as conditional on factors driving primary school completion. Regional patterns reflect the expansion of private schools across the provinces of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Sindh, and Balochistan.

This study utilizes an extensive, rich dataset from a Population Council study on 16 communities in Punjab, KP, and Sindh that provides detailed information on the number and quality of schools within and outside the community and schooling outcomes. We also use the Pakistan Integrated Household Survey (PIHS) for 2001/02 and the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLMS) for 2007/08 and 2010/11 to look at patterns of change in girls' schooling. We then run regressions to observe the weight of choice and distance in assessing the transition from primary to secondary school for girls. …

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