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Differences in Barriers to Educational Access and Retention for Girls in Scheduled Caste

and Dominant Caste Communities in Pakistan

Bhagwani Bai

University of Memphis


Global Partnership of Education Report (2014) estimates 125 million children of school-

going age are out of school around the world. The majority of these children are from rural areas

of low-income and ethnic minority families (World Bank 2005b; UIS 2005; Wils, Carrol, and

Barrow 2005; Lloyd 2005; Birdsall, Levine, and Ibrahim 2005 as cited in Lewis and Lockheed

2008). The situation of girls education in developing countries is distressing where 70% of total

out of school children are girls from excluded communities (Lewis and Lockheed, 2006).

Pakistan is a developing country with a multi-linguistic and multi-ethnic population

(Lloyd, Mete, & Grant, 2007). The majority of its population is Muslims, but Muslim and other

religious groups are organized in social stratification (Hussain, 2005) based on caste, class along

with age, ethnicity, gender, rural and urban categorization (Malik 2002). In addition, rural areas

of Pakistan can be categorized into three major economic classes; landowner elite, landless

peasants, and lower class occupational communities. Caste is one of the major markers of a

status of a person besides religion and ethnicity in Pakistani society. The lower class

occupationally stigmatized groups are constitutionally declared as scheduled caste which

includes 40 different castes. some of caste which reside in Tharparkar includes Bheel, Meghwar,

Kolhi, Bhangi etc. It is estimated that 93 percent of their population lives in the rural area (Shah,

2007). The majority of them are Hindu, lives in the lower southern part of Sindh, (one of the four

provinces of Pakistan) including Tharparkar District (Shah, 2007).

According to the governmental data of Tharparkar district government, Tharparkars

population is constituent of 60% Muslims and the rest are Hindus including scheduled caste and
other religious groups such as, Ahmadis, and Cristian (census 1998 as cited in Shah, 2007). In

Hindu population, it is unofficially estimated that majority are off schedule caste communities

(Shah, 2007). They are not only discriminated on the basis of the religious minority in Muslim-

majority country but privileged/dominant Hindu castes discriminate them as well (Shah, 2007).

Shah (2007) presents an alarming situation of education in the districts with a high number of

scheduled caste population. District Tharparkar is one of the most disadvantaged and poor

districts where a large number of scheduled caste population resides. According to government

reports, girls enrollment for 2014-2015 in primary school is 39% and 16% at high school (9th-

10th grade) level from the total enrollment in district Tharparkar (SEMIS, 2014-2015). Some

non-governmental organizations reports show that majority of the out of school children in

district Tharparkar are girls from low-income and marginalized communities. Among other

reasons, discrimination on the basis of caste in schools is in the form of peer and teacher

humiliation to scheduled caste students and biased curriculum that force minority schedule caste

students to take subjects contradictory to their beliefs, are some of the major reasons for lack of

access and retention of girls in the schools (Shah, 2007).

The initial review of the literature on the research topic indicates that there is good

volume of research studies on the issue of out of school children, the reasons for the lack of

access to school, and retention and transition to secondary school levels. The issue of caste

separately and its connection with education is also been studied in Nepal and India but caste in

general and its interaction with education is the less examined phenomenon in Pakistan (Shah.

2007). There is also good research on girls lack of access to education with different social and

economic lens but its relationship with caste is less examined subject in Pakistan as well. At

global, national and provincial level, studies authenticate that the majority of out of school
children are girls from poor and excluded groups. (World Bank 2005b; UIS 2005; Wils, Carrol,

and Barrow 2005; Lloyd 2005; Birdsall, Levine, and Ibrahim 2005 as cited in Lewis and

Lockheed 2008). Therefore, there is a need to study and explore the differences in barriers to

girls access to educational institution both from excluded groups and privileged groups. It will

not only help to understand the issues that limit access to an educational institution of girls from

scheduled caste and bring visibility to difference in barriers from their dominant counterparts,

that also help to take appropriate measures to ensure access to education to every girl. Being

insider of the research site, looking at above situation of girls education in Pakistan and based on

findings of some of the studies(World Bank 2005b; UIS 2005; Wils, Carrol, and Barrow 2005;

Lloyd 2005; Birdsall, Levine, and Ibrahim 2005 as cited in Lewis and Lockheed 2008 and 2006).

show that girls from poor and excluded communities are less likely to enroll in the school and if

enrolled, are more at risk of dropping out, it is assumed that barriers for girls from scheduled

caste communities are different because of their caste identity that needs further exploration.

This study will see how cast interacts with gender, class, culture, and geographic location that

causes exclusion of girls from scheduled communities from educational institutions. Keeping in

view these facts, the purpose of the study is to study and explore the barriers for an exclusion of

girls from educational institutions both from scheduled caste and dominant caste communities so

that variation in barriers for girls from both groups can be identified.

The Research Question and How You Developed It

Before the development of research questions, let me share that my personal experiences

of being scheduled caste women and my professional experience of working with my

communities for rights of children especially right to education, I have observed caste-based
discrimination very closely and caste issues always remain my subject of interest. My Masters

program helped me articulate my research topic into a researchable problem and ultimately

research question. These research questions were developed after going through the initial

literature review on the topic. Keeping in view the purpose of the study and directions from a

literature review and theoretical framework, below are key research questions which will be

studied in district Tharparkar, Sindh, Pakistan. The research questions are developed using the

sources such as personal inspiration and gap spotting in the literature (Savin-Baden & Major,


To what extent do the educational barriers for girls differ by caste type in district Tharparkar?

(Core question)

a. Considering the differences in the caste system, to what extent does economic

condition contribute barriers to educational access and retention?

b. Considering the differences in the caste system, to what extent does cultural norms

contribute barriers to educational access and retention?

c. Considering the differences in the caste system, to what extent does the local

infrastructure and resources contribute to barriers to educational access and retention?

d. Considering the differences in the caste system, to what extent does security and

safety in school contribute to barriers to educational access and retention?

e. Considering the differences in the caste system, what extent does the lack of social

network contribute barriers to educational access?

Theory /Philosophical Paradigm

Intersectionality has not only been described as a theory but used as an analytical

framework to study and understand how different social identities of a person or groups

create oppression for some and privilege for others. It allows to see how different social

markers are interlinked and all together result in vulnerability or advantageousness for certain

groups due to their social position in the society.

Kimberlee Williams Crenshaw (1989) first used this term to explain how the intersection

of race and gender shape the experience of legal system differently for the black men and

women. She emphasized that black womens voice is not heard in both feminist and anti-

racial discourses. She is of the view that intersection of gender and race create different

dynamics for black women that need intersectional lens to understand (McCall 2005, as cited

in Nash, 2008). Later on, Patricia Hill Collins (1990) expanded the concept by adding the

class, sexuality, and nationality in the theory to understand Matrix of domination due to the

interaction of multiple identities and social position. (Nash, 2008)

Intersectionality will be adopted as a theoretical framework to guide the proposed

research process from identification and articulation of research problem to develop research

questions, research approach, and research methodology, data collection, analysis, and

interpretation. Intersectionality will also help in validating the assumption that girls from

scheduled caste communities have added problems in access to education and retention as

compare to their counterparts from dominant communities and that problems and needs of

scheduled caste girls' are different that require being explored in depth with the intersectional

lens. Their caste identity makes them more vulnerable when intersecting with their gender,

class, identity and create an oppressive position in the society generally and in education

institution particularly.

Caste is a social identity that different studies have established as one of the main

dynamics in creating oppression or privileged position of individuals and groups in South

Asia and in Pakistan as well (Shah, 2007). Intersectionality as a theoretical and analytical

framework has been widely used in different contexts and disciplines. Application of

intersectional theoretical framework for proposed study will help in understanding how caste
along with socio-economic identities create impact on girls education in district Tharparkar

and to see how caste, gender, class, and geographic location create the positive or negative

impact on girls' education. The findings of the study will help practitioners and policy makers

in designing programs that serve the needs of scheduled caste Hindu population in Pakistan.

Methodology / Research Approach

The proposed study will use intersectionality as guiding theory for establishing

research questions and providing lens in which the identified research problem will be

studied (Marshal & Rossman 1998 as cited in Baden & Major 2013, p. 134). Keeping in

view the epistemological position of intersectionality in critical race theory and feminism,

case study blended with narrative inquiry will be used as a methodological approach. It

is considered that case study approach is applied when there is the lack of in-depth

understanding regarding a phenomenon (Creswell, 2006). The proposed research problem

in the context of Pakistan has the lack of literature for in-depth understanding, therefore,

this study will fill the gap in literature through applying case study research approach.

Baden & Major (2013) presented case study as an approach that can be used in both

qualitative and quantitative research. It is one of the growing approaches in qualitative

research due to flexibility and in-depth examination of the research problem. It is an

approach to intensive data collection, analysis, and presentation. It can be holistic that

cover whole of a case and its relationship with parts. In addition, it can also be contextual

that focuses on historical, political, and cultural, etc. aspect of a case. It is a flexible

approach that can embrace multiple research goals, approaches and philosophical stances

for in-depth and thorough investigation (p. 163) There are different types of case study
research approach such as exploratory, descriptive, instrumental, interpretive,

explanatory, and evaluative that are adopted as per the purpose of the study (p.164)

Le Play, a French sociologist, and economist is considered pioneer of case study

approach (Baden & Major, 2013). In the field of educational research Robert K. Yin,

Sharan Merriam, and Robert E. Stake are three prominent case study methodologists,

provide methods and process of conducting case study research (Baden & Major, 2013,

Creswell, Hanson, Plano, & Morales, 2007 as cited in Yazan, 2015). There are ambiguity

and contradiction in views among scholar on what case study research is. It is viewed as

the way a case is defined (Stake 2005 as cited on Baden & Major, 2013), an approach to

research, and a final product of qualitative study (Baden & Major, 2013). The difference

and un-clarity between case studys legitimate position and unclear procedures cause

confusion for emerging researchers (Yazan, 2015). Baden & Major (2013) suggested the

third view which is the combination of above three views of a case study.

For the proposed study, I plan to apply case study not only as a research approach

in combination with a narrative inquiry, it will also see out of school girls as case and a

case report of district Tharparkar on the barriers in access and retention to educational

institutions for girls from scheduled and dominant caste communities. The research

questions which are developed for this study, require examination of social construction

of caste to understand the social context that create impact on educational interventions

and ultimately on students, teachers, and institutions that cause hindrance to girls from

excluded communities in access to schools (Baden & Major, 2013, p. 159). Therefore,

Sociological and educational type of case study will be applied for the proposed study

because of it fits properly in accordance with research questions.

The theoretical framework also directs about examination of differences in

opportunities and challenges for certain group of a population whose social identity specifically

caste play major role in their socio-economic and political position. In the proposed study both

Scheduled caste and dominant caste girls barriers to access to education and retention will be

explored in the form of the case study of district Tharparkar. This study can be replicated in other

areas to see how cast interacts with other identity markers and create impact in education.

Blending with narrative inquiry provide the opportunity for investigating and narrating

multiple cases from varied sites that will help in collecting expected similarities or difference due

to different locations and caste through life history stories. Life history approach will "provide

the link between participants personal and social worlds (Baden & Major, 2013. p. 233). This

will also give an opportunity of incorporating voices of different communities which have less

voice in the research studies in the past and that can be used further for social and educational

policy and practice change.

Baden & Major (2013) write that narrative research approach has the long history from

earlier religious text to recent digital storytelling. By using this approach, peoples lives are

researched and documented in stories. Similar to case study approach, it is also considered as a

research method or process and research product as well. By applying the narrative approach, a

researcher "conceive, capture, and convey the stories and experiences of individuals" (p. 231)

There are four major types of narrative approaches; life course research, life history research,

biography and autobiography, and digital storytelling. For the proposed study life history

research approach will be used. This approach will allow exploring in the lives of out of school

girls to "highlight prejudice, misplaced norms and assumptions" (p. 233) regarding caste and its

interconnection to their personal and social world. The life history approach will also give the
flexibility to capture diversified aspects of girls lives so that issues related to social and

economic aspects are identified and its connection to girls education can be studied.

Selection of Research Site and Participants

Before the selection of the participants, the demographics of the research site or area

needs to be kept in consideration. Tharparkar district is administratively divided in four sub-

district called Tehsils. In addition to these administrative distinctions, there are six agro-climatic

zones divided on the slight geographic and demographic difference within the desert area of the

district. (TRDP Baseline, 2007). For the proposed study, Tehsil Mithi which is the district

headquarter will be selected as the research site. The reason for selecting one sub-district is that

the proposed studys scope and purpose do not allow to compare and contrast inter-district

difference or variation. This study will explore the difference in both rural villages and towns of

Tehsil Mithi. The reason for selecting rural villages and town is that being an insider of the

research site, I have observed a difference in economic, cultural, and infrastructure conditions in

rural and town locations for both groups that create hindrance in access to school.

Keeping in view the rural - town distinctions, four girls from each scheduled caste and

dominant caste will be selected purposefully. The criteria for purposeful sampling will be the

extreme cases (Baden & Major, 2013) (those who never went to school and those who went to

school but dropped out), selected to see the reason for both access and retention. Life history of

eight girls four from each caste group will be developed. The breakup of participants with rural

and town categories is given in the below graphic chart. Parents (mother and fathers) of all girls

will be interviewed for the better understanding of household socio-economic conditions and

parents views on girls education to write comprehensive narratives of the selected out of school
girls. In addition, teachers of a school where girls have been dropped out, district educational

officials, NGOs representatives out will also be consulted to explore the barriers that causes

girls drop out and non-enrollment. The data collected from parents and teachers will be

interpreted in girls life history narratives. This selection of the above mentioned participants will

help in collecting data about caste, class, and gender that create barriers for girls of both caste

groups and to find the difference in barriers. This selection criterion will also be helpful in

defining, bounding and selecting the cases in accordance with the research goal (Baden & Major,

2013, p. 161).

Details of Primary Participant of Research Study

8 Girls

4 SC Girls
4 DC Girls

2 Village 2 Village
2 Twon girls 2 twon girls
Grils girls

1 Gril never 1 girls 1 Gril never 1 Gril 1 Gril never 1 Gril 1 Girls never 1 Gril
went to Dropped out went to dropped out went to Dropped out went to Dropped out
school from school school from school school from school school from school

Note: SC: Scheduled Caste, DC: Dominant Caste

Data Collection Methods

Keeping in view case study blended with narrative research approach of the proposed

study, combination of data collection tools and methods will be used such as semi-structured
interviews will be conducted with eight out of school girls, their parents, school teachers (if

available), district education officials, NGO representatives, and participant observation will be

conducted each at village, neighborhood, household and school level to explore the data of

village (profiling of villages), caste based neighborhoods, (profiling of neighborhood)

availability and access to public services and infrastructure, location of school, availability of

schools in neighborhood, availability of facilities in schools, attitude of teachers with girls from

both groups, peer relationship in the school and out of school, and availability of social networks

for girls from both groups.

Below is the tentative data collection plan:

Eight semi-structured Interview with eight out of school girls
Sixteen semi-structured Interview with parents of eight girls
Four semi-structured interviews of school teachers of dropped out girls neighborhood

Two semi-structured interviews with district education department officials

(administrative both District Education Officer and DEO Girls education)

Two semi-structured interviews with NGO representative working in education and

caste issues.
Two participant observation of each of eight girls household
Two Participant observation of two of the research sites both rural village and town.
Two participant observation of neighborhood of each of eight girls
Two participant observation of neighborhood school in both village and town
Two participant observation of all neighborhood school of all eight participant girls.
Review of Documents such as town municipals maps, and other documents that can

tell about towns demographics.

For the proposed study, semi-structured interview, participant observation, and

documents analysis are chosen for data collection methods because, First, I will conduct

participants observations at all three levels mentioned above, to have the clear picture of the

location and research problem. Notes of participant observation will be incorporated in interview
questionnaires. Once initial round of Participant observation is done, interviews will be

conducted with girls, parents, and teachers, the second round of participant observation will be

conducted to observe the points highlighted during the interviews. This will overcome chance of

missing any information during the field activities.

The reason for choosing semi-structured interview and participants observation as data

collection methods is that these methods best fit in theoretical stance, research questions, and

selected research approach. These methods will help not only in collecting required data but it

will improve my understanding about the research participants and research site. Review of

documents will help in understanding town demographics.

Data Analysis Methods

Choosing analysis method is one the important phase in research because it influences the

results of research. (Baden & Major, 2013) The purpose of the analysis phase is to make sense of

data (Merriam, 2009, 203, as cited on Baden & Major 2013) through systemic search in line with

the research question and theoretical framework. Thematic analysis will be used for data analysis

for the proposed study. Although there is disagreement on what thematic analysis is and how it is

done, it is widely applied to the general term of qualitative data analysis. Thematic analysis is not

limited to any philosophical stance or theoretical framework but it is widely used within different

frameworks. There are no set rules for thematic analysis, intuition and sensing are acknowledged

in the analysis (Baden & Major, 2013).

The proposed study will follow the analysis process of making familiarity with data,

generating codes categorizing the codes and then converting into themes (Baden & Major, 2013).

As, the research approach for the proposed study is flexible and does not require any hard and

fast data analysis rules (Baden & Major, 2013) thematic analysis will keep the data analysis
process flexible so that intended outcomes can be drawn. To bring quality and authenticity in the

process of the study, member check of interpretation will be done by the concerned participants

for verification. This will not only ensure the voice of the participant in findings but any

misinterpretation can also be removed. In addition, dense description of methods, researcher

positionality statement, context, and finding will be done in the report so that audience can see

each step of the research process (Baden & Major, 2013).

Data Representation

Data representation is an important final step of any research process. It requires careful

selection of reporting form in accordance with chosen research approach and the audience of the

report (Baden & Major, 2013). The proposed research will adopt traditional report format

because researchers who select case study research approach tend to adopt the traditional form of

the report (Baden & Major). The final report of the proposed study will have seven parts. Part

one includes introduction of a problem, in which I intend to include research question, research

assumptions, Context of research, Part two includes literature review and significance of the

study in which barriers to access to education will be discussed and description of a theoretical

framework. Part three includes description of data collection and analysis methods, and

positionality statement. Part four life stories of eight girls, Part five include analysis of data. Part

six includes discussion and interpretation and part seven include Implications policy and practice


The proposed data representation form aligns with the theoretical framework, data,

research approach. The description and presentation of out of school girls stories will ensure

the voice of marginalized girls, that is one of the goals of intersectionality. The data
collection will be done with a focus on case representation and narration, that both case study

and narrative approach both support the representation of stories of girls as well.

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Lloyd, C., Mete, C., & Grant, M. (2007). Rural girls in Pakistan: Constraints of policy and

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Malik, I. H. (2002). Religious minorities in Pakistan (Vol. 6). London: Minority rights group


Nash, J. C. (2008). Re-thinking intersectionality. Feminist review, 89:1, 1-15.

SEMIS report 2014-2015, district Tharparkar. Retrieved from: http://www.rsu-sindh.gov.pk

Shah, Z. (2007). Long behind schedule. A study on the plight of scheduled caste Hindus in

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