Investigating the issue of out-of-school children in rural Pakistan: implications for policymakers
AbstractA Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
The problem of students dropping out of school is a barrier to poor and developing countries such as Pakistan meeting international education targets. This thesis explores the dropout phenomenon from secondary education (classes 9 and 10) through the perspectives of teachers, head teachers, community members of school councils, fathers of dropouts and the dropouts themselves, in a rural district of Pakistan. The study collected and analysed data on dropouts (N=844) of all the public secondary schools (N=38) of subdivision Pind Dadan Khan, a remote rural region of district Jhelum, during the academic years 2011-12 and 2012-13. In-depth individual and group interviews were conducted with 103 participants comprising 18 head teachers, 41 teachers, 18 school dropouts, 14 fathers of school dropouts, and 12 community members of school councils. The findings of the study show several pull out, push out and policy- related factors of dropping out. The pull out factors are: absence of an educational environment at home; desire to seek religious education; pupils and parents lack of interest in schooling; poor academic performance; failure in class 9; household poverty; pressures of domestic responsibilities; large family sizes; local labour market conditions; seasonal migration; influence of feudalism in the remote rural areas; and the custom of dowry and marrying daughters off early. The push out factors are: locations of schools; a lack of academic and physical facilities; teachers lack of interest in teaching; poor quality teaching; practices of rote learning and memorisation; and explicit bullying from class teachers. The public policy-related factors are: the syllabus being in the English medium; automated progression policy; different examination systems at primary, elementary, and secondary levels; a non-deregistration policy for long-absentee pupils; imposing non-teaching duties on teachers; and an ineffective school council policy. The in-depth investigation based on stakeholders perspectives on dropout has a vital contribution to policy and intervention implementation. The thesis argues that the policy focus at national and international levels should be on dropout prevention strategies to achieve the education targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Good intervention always requires local analysis of problems and assessments of potential strategies at the point of service delivery. This study, therefore, advocated a bottom-up policy approach to understand and address social phenomena, such as of dropouts, at the grass-roots level.