Great hopes, good jobs, affordable investments, and becoming a real person: education decisions of the urban poor in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Cameron, Stuart James (2013) Great hopes, good jobs, affordable investments, and becoming a real person: education decisions of the urban poor in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Urban poverty is rising as economic development is accompanied by rural-urban migration and the majority of the world’s population becomes urbanised. Policymakers and researchers are only now coming to grips with the implications for education. Educational deprivation still tends to be seen as a primarily rural problem, especially in a historically rural economy such as Bangladesh’s. Little is known about educational access and outcomes for the urban poor, what resources they need to use to get children admitted to school and keep them there, and what benefits they can expect to get in return.

This thesis examines how poor households living in slums of Dhaka city, Bangladesh, make decisions about their children’s education. In particular it asks what aspects of education are valued by parents and children; what the costs of education are; and how these costs and valued outcomes combine to influence the decisions that parents and children make with regard to school. The study is based on a survey of 1599 households and in-depth interviews with 34. Quantitative methods are used to examine associations of different household and individual characteristics with educational outcomes, and qualitative methods to explain the underlying processes.

The data show that the slum environment is far from being an easy one to live in, and most households live below the poverty line. They face high rents and food prices, are time-pressed, and have limited support from friends and relatives. Households had to draw on their resources to cover the costs of school, support their children’s learning, and manage the relationship with the school. Direct financial costs of education were substantial compared to income. More than half of children in primary school took private tuition, despite the low incomes of their parents. There were also important opportunity costs. Children could work instead of going to school, especially at older ages.

Parents and children valued a range of aspects of education. They aspired to professional or formal-sector employment and saw education as key to this, but were ambivalent about whether a small amount of primary education would bring substantial benefits. School education was enjoyed in its own right and also seen as the way that one ‘becomes a real person,’ respected in the community and by a future spouse, with correct moral and social behaviours. It was seen as useful, if not strictly necessary, for a girl to marry and fulfil her expected future role as a wife and mother.

Households had to balance these valued benefits of education against the resources they needed to use for it, and the resulting decisions – to enrol in school, to stay in or drop out, to spend more, and to go to a government, non-government organisation, or private school – were strongly influenced by the wealth, location, social connections, and education of the parents. Children from wealthier households tended to stay in school longer, but location was also important, probably reflecting the different availability of schools in different slums. Drop-out decisions were sometimes made by children themselves, especially for boys.

The thesis concludes by summarizing the findings, reflecting on the conceptual model used, and putting forward policy implications. It argues that the framework based on a mixture of livelihoods and human capital theory is broadly a useful one for considering education decisions. Among the priority areas for education policy for the urban poor, it highlights the lack of government provision of school places, problems caused by evictions and uncertain legal status of slum dwellers, poor coordination between government and non-government organizations, and the inequitable effects of widespread private tuition.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform > HN50 By region or country > HN980 Developing countries
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races > HT0101 Urban groups. The city. Urban sociology
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2013 14:48
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015 12:01
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/45276

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