Study on Gender and Education in Pakistan

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Dr Rashida Qureshi is a well known figure in the realm of research and community development. Currently she is serving as an Assistant Professor at the Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development. Before joining the Aga Khan University in 2003, Dr Rashida Qureshi worked with World Food Programme, Asian Development Bank, SUNGI Development Foundation, Pakistan Academy for Rural Development and Pakistan Manpower Institute as a community development practitioner. She has a vast experience of working in field remote and far flung areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and has been in touch with the rural women. She is also known for the number of research report she has written and also for her articles.

Jane Frances Akinyi Rarieya is Assistant Professor as well as Coordinator of Certificate Programmes at the Aga Khan University-Institute for Educational Development, Karachi, Pakistan. Jane has been high school teacher for many years and later on became a teacher educator working in East African countries as well as in Bangladesh, Syria, Tanzania and Kenya prior to joining AKU-IED in 2003. Jane is currently studying for a doctorate in Gender and Educational Management at Keele University in UK.

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The book "Gender and Education in Pakistan" is a research based documental literature that explores the nature of gender related issues in Pakistan, by deciphering the underlying processes that results in various patterns of education in Pakistan vis-a-vis male and female but primarily it deals with female education and the issues related to it. Consisting of different chapters the book is based on research studies conducted in different parts of Pakistan and amply manifests the disadvantage gender is facing in public and personal matters. It calls for more carefully thought out approaches while addressing the gender disparity prevailing in the education system of the country.

The book has been divided into eleven chapters and is a collection of research based essays. These essays deal with the basic problems encountered by the women in Pakistan primarily in the education sector. The book starts with the critical evaluation of a number of surveys conducted time and again in Pakistan and gauging the endeavors of government to address the handicaps in the educational system pertaining to women and increasing their participation in the mainstream. The role of non-governmental organizations has also been highlighted to diminish the gender gap and providing equal access to education but the change as seen is very minimal.

'Gender and Education in Pakistan' not only reports the findings of a number of surveys but also details personal experiences of those successful women who became teacher educators in their respective field of study. One such story is that of Ayesha Bashiruddin, who was able to pursue her career in a patriarchal society of Pakistan albeit with the support of her family especially her father.

According to the book, in Pakistan a female teacher does not find it easy to teach the opposite sex hence majority opt to teach girls who are the symbol of oppression in a society therefore they lack enthusiasm and spark boys have. Although it has never been easy to teach boys, says most of the female teachers. It comprehensively elaborates the complexity of the dual responsibilities of home as well as those of a teacher resting over the fragile shoulders of a woman. Much of the blame is to put on the stereotype image of man and woman portrayed by the textbook of upper secondary class that limits the potential of women, ranking man as the bread winner while woman as the one who look after household chores. Stress is given to overhaul the structure of the text and aggrandize justice and fairplay in relation to gender.

This stereotype nature coupled with other social factors has excluded women from leadership in Pakistan. Nevertheless, the book identifies the various source of tension faced by four female leaders hailing from the remote areas of the country. It features those driving factors that helped these female leaders to rise above an ordinary woman in terms of professional growth, prominent among those is the paramount support of the male members of their family, primarily their respective fathers. Women's traditional sphere of activity has expanded far beyond the boundary of her home, but has however, led to much more complex and intensive daily routines for her. Also gender has been the main obstacle rather barrier for those Pakistani women who aspire to develop their career in management.

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The conclusion of the book points towards the attitude of the general masses in creating gender disparity in Pakistan hence suggests that changes of most basic kind in the behavior are necessary in the society. This will require everyone, from those in the echelons of power to those who educate the masses, made aware of the necessity of providing proper and equal education to everyone and addressing the problem of inequality. Curriculum material cannot be ignored; therefore there is a dire need to revise its contents. Last but not the least political will is needed to give ample opportunities to women to come to the fore.

'Gender and Education in Pakistan' has its importance because of its unique nature of having contextual and research based material on the gender discrepancies prevailing in Pakistan. Since the gender disparity is at its zenith in the education sector therefore the compilation of such a piece of writing is the dire need of the hour. The assemblage of number of articles in this book highlights the "different aspects of inter play and intra play of gender and education in Pakistan"

The book is a sincere effort of the editors and the writers to fill the vacuum which the lack of educational research data has created. It is based on surveys and programmes introduced from time to time to minimize gender disparity therefore no doubts are casted over the authenticity of the facts mentioned in it. Each and every point mentioned is concerted by facts and figures that give the book an edge over those books that lack such statistics. The most distinguishing feature of this book is that it provides a realistic picture of the situation and goes beyond numbers and quantitative data by discussing the qualitative aspect of research too such as general mind set vis-à-vis gender, stereotype image of male as well as female etc.

This book is replete of real life experiences of women hailing from different backgrounds and coming from different spheres of life. Those experiences create a sense of inspiration in the reader and give an apt understanding of the underground realities and hindrances women faces in our society. Quoting real life experiences also helps in better understanding of the state of affairs and also captures the interest of the reader till the end as these experiences are grasped with interest by one's memory.

Since the book deals with dual subjects of education and gender therefore it has given a detailed picture of the educational policies from time to time, life experiences of teachers accompanied by class experiences and way leading towards educational leadership and management. For a layman who is unknown of prevailing educational scenarios, the book acts as a comprehensive guide, focusing on each and every aspect of gender disparity in all its form and shape within our patriarchal society and further analyses the quantitative and qualitative outcomes of numerous educational policies introduced.

The book has come up with the key issues via the analysis it has made time and again and has been able to trace important factors in relation to the topic. It has put forth a number of recommendations that are very applicable such as tackling the problem of inequality right from the very homes, improving teacher education and a positive change in teaching strategies so as to enable and empower the teacher to address social inequalities. Same is the case with analyzing the text and revising it so as to put an end to the widespread stereotype culture.

'Gender and Education in Pakistan' can be aptly used by both practitioners and policy makers in Pakistan and is also suitable for use as a textbook in courses both nationally and internationally as well as a source of reference material for devising policies.

However, in spite of the positivity, the book has many shortcomings. First and foremost the editor has presented a very gloomy picture of the status of women in Pakistan and in educational sector. Although gender discrepancy cannot be denied in our society but there has been marked improvement in the participation of women in the main stream and in all walks of life. The improvement might be with snail's pace but it is not prudent to completely ignore this factor. Hence, along with the deficiencies the improvements should also have been mentioned.

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Since beginning, the impression that one gathered while studying the book was that the editors has made up their mind of portraying women in a much more deprived manner as is in reality. Differences do exists everywhere and they are more prominent in Pakistan but there is still light at the end of the tunnel.

The book speaks volumes about girl's education but remains silent on boy's one although the later also falls in critical area and needs attention.

Lack of recommendations at the end of each chapter had also added to the list of shortcomings. Although in the end of the book few recommendations were given but need for more recommendations is felt. Therefore giving recommendations and suggestions at the end of every chapter pertaining to the said subject would have been more appropriate.

The misery of women who have dual responsibilities such as managing home and schools have been comprehensively elaborated but no such life experiences of those who are successfully handling both have been stated. It would have helped those who are encountering the same problem, if a number of women who are smoothly managing both the spheres of their life have shared their experiences and techniques.

Many potent reasons that hamper access of female education have been ignored. These include misuse of religion since education of girls is strictly prohibited due to religious groups as there is a gross misinterpretation of Islam. Also early marriages compel girls to leave education and take responsibility of home. Purdah and reluctance of parents to send girls to mixed gender schools is another reason for low enrolment and poor access to education.

Other than these limitations the book is a sincere effort and is written in a very natural, spontaneous and original style. It is a milestone in the domain of educational research and is of greater interest to the people belonging from the education sector.