Looking at the Demand Side of Education
Education around the globe is considered as the defining feature of economic and social development. Pakistan on the supply side has clearly lagged behind in provision of adequate educational resources and consequently on the demand side has failed in creating a clear demand for education. However, it is important to realize that the problems which hinder the provision of education are not just of mismanagement by government but some of them are deeply rooted in the social and cultural orientation of the people. Overcoming the latter is difficult and would require a change in attitude of the people until then universal primary education is difficult to achieve.
Many reasons could be attributed to it:
Major factors that hinder enrollment rates include opportunity cost, poverty, cultural constraints, illiteracy of parents and parental concerns about safety and mobility of their daughters. The economic benefits from schooling are particularly doubtful for girls as society approves of Pardah. Also, since girls have a labor force participation rate of only 4.3% of total population (Tahir et.al, 15), the returns to education seems minimal. Female enrollment rates are low as schooling system is considered to have a bad impact on girl’s character. Society’s emphasis on girl’s modesty, protection and early marriages may limit family’s willingness to send them to school. Enrollment by rural girls is 45% lower than that by urban girls; while for boys the difference is of 10% only, showing that gender gap is another factor (Lloyd 106). There exists a positive relation between enrollment and household incomes. Recent studies have shown that income shocks (death of family member or animals) affect enrollments, with greater impact for girls (Lloyd 102).
Cost Of Education
The cost of education is another determinant for parents to decide whether to send their children; to government schools, private schools or no schools. Cost of education has increased further due to increased inflation. Educating a child in public school costs twice to society as would cost in private school. Although private schools appear cheaper but government fees appear “free” to parents, however society bears the cost by paying taxes (Andrabi et.al 40). Societal “cost of learning” is lower in private schools, but private schools are located in richer settlements only. The paradox is that private schools are better but not everywhere and governments schools ensure equitable access but do not provide quality education.
Returns to Education - A Misconception
The issue with non-achievement of primary education to all is due to the low enrollment rate coupled with very low retention rate; especially for girls. Geeta Kingdon, in “Education, Skills, and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from Pakistan” explained that returns to education are significantly greater for women than men in almost all occupations. This could be due to scarcity of educated women nevertheless; women actually earn less than men because of lack of equal opportunities. Moreover, returns to wage employment as well as returns to self-employment increase with the increasing years of education for both genders. This implies the presence of misconception of education having negative returns due to the forgone income. Thus there is a strong need to make the students and their parents aware that returns to education increase with an additional year of education.
Thus, to improve the cynical condition of education in Pakistan not just provision of education has to be focused upon by the government but the problems of demand side of education needs to be addressed as well. Only then could there be a hope for higher enrollment rates accompanied with proper retention and low drop outs rate. Parents and society in general has to reshape its preferences and thinking about education for the system to improve. And to supplement this government has to provide the resources along with diverse opportunities to provide proper returns to education. Equality of opportunities where returns of education could be compensated is the key to fix the demand side problems of education.