Gender Disparity in Education in Pakistan

According to UNDP 2010 report, Pakistan ranked 120 in 146 countries in terms of Gender-related Development Index (GDI), and in terms of Gender Empowerment Measurement (GEM) ranking, it ranked 92 in 94 countries. Gender inequality in education can be measured in different ways. Gross and net enrollment rates and completion and drop-out rates are the ways to identify the gender inequality in education. Pakistan aims to achieve Millennium Development Goals and also aims to eliminate gender disparity at all levels of education by the year 2015. Elimination of gender disparity at all levels of education requires higher allocation of resources on women's education. Strong gender disparities exist in literacy and educational attainment between rural and urban areas of Pakistan.

Socio-economic hurdles
Patriarchal values are deeply embedded in the society of Pakistan, and its different manifestations are observed in different aspects of the society. As mentioned above, gender division of labour enforces women to primarily specialize in unpaid care work as mothers and wives at home, whereas men perform paid work, and come out as breadwinners. This has led to a low level of resource investment in girls' education not only by their families but also by the state. This low investment in women's human capital, compounded by negative social biases and cultural practices, restrictions on women's mobility and the internalization of patriarchy by women themselves, becomes the basis for gender discrimination and disparities in most spheres of life. Some of the ramifications are that women are unable to develop job-market skills, hence, they have limited opportunities available to them in the wage-labour market. Moreover, social and cultural restrictions limit women's chances to compete for resources in a world outside the four walls of their homes. It translates into social and economic dependency of women on men. The nature and degree of women's oppression and subordination vary across classes, regions and the rural and urban divide in Pakistan. It has been observed that male dominant structures are relatively more marked in the rural and tribal setting where local customs and indigenous laws establish stronger male authority and power over women.

Insurgency hurdles
Destruction of schools and killings have harmed women's education in Pakistan. 16-year-old education activist and blogger Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck by Taliban insurgents 9 October 2012 after she had blogged about the destruction of schools and closing of all-girls schools in her town of Mingora in the Swat District. Later, the Taliban denied that it opposes education and claimed "Malala was targeted because of her pioneer role in preaching secularism and so-called enlightened moderation."

In September 2012 the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that 710 schools have been destroyed or damaged by militants in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 401 schools have been destroyed or damaged in Swat. While the Taliban's campaign extends beyond girls to secular education in general, at least one source reports the damage was related to Taliban opposition to girls' education. Another source includes the bombing of girls' schools as among the Taliban policies.

Rural vs. urban
In year 2006, the literacy rate in urban areas was recorded 58.3% while in rural areas it was 28.3%, and only 12% among rural women. An interesting factor in this context is that female enrollment was recorded highest at the primary level, but it progressively decreases at the secondary, college and tertiary levels. It was estimated that less than 3% of the 17-23 age group of girls have access to higher education.

The amount of women who attend school in urban areas vs. rural areas differs drastically. In urban areas women education is increasing every day. The parents of girls who live in urban areas are a lot more accepting of them to enroll in school and even encourage girls to pursue a career they are also a lot more knowledgeable of their rights. This makes them a lot more motivated to stand up for their education. Parent in urban areas are a lot more modernized or westernized. These urban parents acknowledge the importance of an education. Women who live in urban areas are often enrolled in private schools getting a better education there as they have a lot more educational accessibilities. Women in urban areas are also surrounded by people who are educated and are not put down or beaten for going to school. Unlike in urban areas, women in rural areas are discouraged to attend school. Most of them are brought up in conservative families with little to no education. They have to work harder than women in urban areas because they have little support system. If their parents are accepting of education they still cannot go since most of them are very poor and cannot afford the expense. The women also don't attend school in rural areas of Pakistan because it is not culturally accepted. These conservative families tend to be more traditional expecting women to stay at home and attend the house while men go out to work. They're also restricted in rural areas because their town may not even have a school having them travel a long distance to get there.