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Reasons for Gender Disparity
According to UNESCO, the primary education in Pakistan was not free until March 2004. Parents had to spend on children's school fees and on the purchase of textbooks, uniforms etc. These direct cost kept many of the children, girls and boys, out of school as the poor families were not able to afford the school fees. Fortunately, the fees for public schools were abolished and the government distributed free books to all students. However, still many children were not enrolled in schools. One of the basic reasons is that despite announcing the primary education to be free, it is not entirely free. Parents still have to buy copies, stationary items etc for their children. If educating girls cost the family money (in terms of uniform, fees, transportation cost) and if the girl's labor is needed at home (high opportunity cost of educating girls), then there is hardly any incentive to educate them. People would prefer to make their girls work instead of educating them because if they work, they would be bringing money home and if they are being educated, money would be leaving home (Zaidi, 2009).
Poverty is closely linked to low educational levels. When the girls are not educated due to financial constraints, a vicious circle is perpetuated. Because of being uneducated, they are unable to earn a living of their own. The potential income of the household is not maximized due to which they are unable to educate their girls (Saqib, 2004).
The cultural norms also restrict the movement of girls. They either are required to stay within their homes or must ask permission from father or brother to leave the home. If they are allowed to leave, in most cases they are accompanied by a male member of the house for security purpose. Such measure are taken to prevent harm or anything that would make her lose her 'honor' and make it difficult for the family to find a suitable husband for her as the lose would devalue her socially and economically. For such reasons, girls have little excess to education. In families where there are no male members to accompany girls while going to school, they do not allow the girls to go to school alone especially when there is a long distant to travel. Thus, they do not admit them in schools. Fortunately, with excessive exposure, these cultural restrictions are now changing a little. UNESCO Islamabad states:
''girls enrolment drops off sharply with each 500-metre increase in distance from the closest school admitting girls and this 'distance penalty' accounts for 60% of the gender gap in enrolments.''
Unfortunately, the only dream of a Pakistani girl born in a poor family is to grow up just to help the people around her. The world of taboo and tradition surrounds her and she is seen as a property without any valuable future. The United Nations ranks Pakistan, 105 out of 134 in its Human Development Gender Index 2006; the second lowest in South Asia. Rape, honor killings and trafficking of girls are prevalent throughout Pakistan. According to Human Development Report 2006, poor health care together with low literacy means that 1 out of 10 children die before the age of five. One of the biggest hurdles in girl education has been her lack of access to it. Due to the cultural limitations, parents avoid sending their daughters to co educational institutes. For a girl belonging to a lower income class, the school is either too expensive or too far away or considered not safe enough to be allowed to attend even if she wants to. Distance from home to school is the major problem for girls because of increased rape and abduction incidents. As the age of the girl increases, so does the responsibility of her for her parents leading to purda and early marriages. Even if the girls are allowed to attend school, they are soon pulled out of school either to work or to get married. The change will surely not come with education alone, however education will definitely begin it.
What are Affordable Private Schools?
Affordable Private Schools for the poor people exist throughout the world and cater to millions of students living in low-income areas. Such schools are enterprising because they offer under deprived communities alternatives to have an access to education, and represent a new frontier for impact investing. Many countries have a highly privileged private sector that educates the children of middle and upper class. However, affordable private schools serve a large population of the lower income families. Studies conducted have identified that these affordable private schools do not exists only in rural areas but also in urban slums in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, India, China and Pakistan. Independently owned and operated, these private schools are mostly run by local entrepreneurs who realize the demand for private education for the bottom of the pyramid. This budding market allows the parents of the students to have a viable option to educate their children and provide them with better educational opportunities (Garnett, 2010).
Most of affordable private schools are English Medium as demand for English language skills is a market driver. School buildings are either purchased or rented. These schools do not have any playgrounds, science labs or libraries. The school owners are local entrepreneurs who often live in the same community. They began their career as local teachers and tutors. If the parents are pleased with the performance of their child, they ask the tutor to start a neighborhood school. Many of these schools are managed by a single family, with husband-wife overseeing the business and instructional leadership. Schools offer education from nursery to 10th class, and have an average of 100 students. The student-teacher ratio range 15-50 students per teacher. Most of the teachers are females who live within walking distance of the school. Their salary is about 2000 per month. Schools spend most of their expenses on teachers (and on rent). Only few of teachers have post-graduate qualifications, and rote learning is prevalent. The parents who admit their children in these schools are similar to microfinance clients. Fathers are rickshaw drivers etc, and mothers are either housewives or work in embroidery cooperatives. This will be discussed in detail in the research findings.
Are Affordable Private Schools a Significant Phenomenon?
According to UNESCO Report 2007, enrollments are starting to look up with a 10-percentage point jump in net enrollments between 2001 and 2005. In addition, secular, co-educational, and for-profit private schools have become an extensive incidence in both urban and rural areas. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of private schools increased from 32,000 to 47,000 and by the end of 2005, one in every 3 enrolled children at the primary level was studying in a private school.
It is important to look at the primary education sector in Pakistan as Pakistan has always been lacking in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The rise of private educational sector (shown in the figure below) in Pakistan and has shown that an increasing segment of children enrolled in private schools are from rural areas and from middle-class and poorer families (Andrabi, 2005).
Rise of Private Schools
*Source: Primary Education Improvement Program, 2000
This is because these small schools are opened in almost every residential area. Some schools are opened in houses where there are hardly 2-3 teachers but still have managed to gather 20-30 students because they charge extremely low fees and are near to the residence of the students. As the parents of the students are mostly illiterate, they fail to realize the difference between the qualities of education provided by a school that charges Rs 300 per month or a school that charges Rs 1000 per month. The main factor in choosing which school to put their child into depends on the amount of fees and the location of the school (if it is near their residence). However, Andrabi has argued that small private schools are in a better position to adapt to the local conditions and are able to use the local labor markets in a cost effective manner. In this way the saving are passes on to the parents through extremely low fees. It is important to find out if such schools are able to cater to a wide variety of households, mainly from the poorer segments of the population, and still be able to earn reasonable profit. Affordable private schools are very popular amongst the poor people mainly because they charge extremely low fees. Andrabi states:
''A typical private school in a rural village of Pakistan charges Rs.1000 ($18) per year, which represents 4 percent of the GDP per capita for the country''.
In the last decade, affordable private schools have dominated the education sector. It has been a revolution of sorts, with the private sector supporting over 35% of the enrolled student population in Punjab. The Annual Status of Education Report (2011) revealed that private schools are supporting 31% of the enrolled population while the government schools are educating 67%, with 16% still out of school. The other unanimous conclusion is that private schools provide a higher quality of education at lower