Children's Capabilities and Education Inequality: How Types of Schooling Play a Role in Pakistan
This research is an application of the Capabilities Approach to a southern educational context, aiming to answer how children’s capabilities differ across different types of schooling (public, private and religious) in Pakistan. While conventional research on education in the country dwells on aspects like economic returns to education or qualitative differences in public and private provision, a broader perspective addressing the institutionalization of a tier-ed education structure and its consequences for school-going children remains missing. The current study is an incubation of the same perspective; it asks: how do primary school going children’s educational capabilities differ across different types of schooling in Pakistan?, and by re-framing the question of education equality as a capabilities one, sheds light on appropriate ways of conceptualizing and measuring educational capabilities in a developing country context. Since the use of capabilities with respect to Pakistan’s school diversity is an innovative research area, it justifies the choice of a mixed-methods research design. The qualitative phase comprises focus groups with children and their parents aimed at balancing universal lists of educational capabilities with local insights. The quantitative phase involves a capabilities questionnaire for children built using both theoretical and local valuations as well as a household survey to obtain richer information on each child participant. Qualitative findings for the study reflect on contextualized dimensions of theoretically relevant educational capabilities as well as two new capability categories – Religion and Values and Etiquettes – valued by participants. Quantitative findings for the study discuss (i) differences in children’s educational capabilities across school types in Pakistan, and (ii) the individual, family and household factors potentially explaining such variation. Together, the two sets of findings highlight the complexities in development and evaluation of educational capabilities amidst school diversity in Pakistan and reveal important conclusions for the country’s education policy planning and development.