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Research Report

Bridging the gap: Holistic education policy to foster opportunities for girls in rural Pakistan

Hina Saleem

2022 Echidna Global Scholar - Brookings Institution

Advisor, Literacy and Life Skills Program - The Citizens Foundation

Seven out of ten girls in rural Sindh are excluded from schooling. This happens for a myriad of reasons and occurs both in the presence and absence of operational school buildings. When schools are present, the challenges that children—especially girls—face due to their economic and social context often go unaddressed; children who are able to enroll in school often find their learning affected by classroom design and practices and experiences that mirror the exclusion they experience outside of school. At the broader level, this exclusion is reflected in limited representation of the needs and aspirations of sizable rural populations in Pakistan’s formal education system and the pathways beyond it.

This policy brief presents findings from on-the-ground research in rural settlements in Sindh province that explores the disparities between boys and girls in enrollment and continuation of schooling in addition to overall inadequate education outcomes. It also provides policy recommendations to support all children and particularly girls in meeting their education needs and aspirations.

Education policy must respond to these challenges of unmet education needs and aspirations by taking a holistic, welfare-based approach that supports children to overcome the effects of exclusionary conditions to meet their education needs. However, the benefits of such an approach can only be realized if teaching practices and learning experiences are contextualized, build a connection with local knowledge, question root causes of exclusion, and support and prepare all children in negotiating pathways beyond education.

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