Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Sociology of Education, New York University (NYU)
School or Madrassa: Parents' Choice and the Failure of State-Run Education in Pakistan

Scholars and policy makers believe that public education in Pakistan is failing. Madrassas are also widely considered to benefit from this failure. How does the failure of public education in Pakistan affect parents’ decisions about what kind of school—public, private, or madrassa—they choose for their children? To what extent is parents’ choice of madrassa for their children directly or indirectly linked to the failure of public schools? To answer these questions, it is important to examine how the individual perceptions of the state of public education in Pakistan affect parents’ choice of schooling for their children. My research seeks to explain the relationship between parents’ perceptions of public primary education and their decisions to send their children to madrassas in Pakistan. I employ a mixed-methods design to collect data in Quetta and Pishin districts in Balochistan Province. Using surveys and semi-structured interviews, I examine: a) parents’ perceptions of public schools and madrassas, and factors that influence their decisions to choose alternative educational options; b) teachers’ perceptions of the organizational context of which they are part; and c) key officials’ perceptions of the performance of public schools and madrassas. Parent surveys will also explore the role of religion and parents’ socioeconomic backgrounds in making educational choices for their children. In addition, I will measure variations in student performance between madrassas and public schools and within sector. Understanding the association of the performance of public education and madrassas and the perceptions of parents is critical to learning how parents make educational decisions for their children. I hope my research will serve as a guiding principle for the Pakistani government in making policies for either reforming and regulating public education and madrassas or, in some cases, absorbing madrassas into the public education system. I believe my study will potentially guide future empirical research on madrassas and public education in Pakistan as well as contribute to our understanding of the factors related to school choice in the developing world.