Panel Paper: Education and Radicalization in Pakistan

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 9:45 AM
Scott (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Madiha Afzal, University of Maryland; The Brookings Institution
This paper qualitatively and quantitatively seeks to understand the elements of Pakistan’s education system which make Pakistanis prone to radicalization and foster intolerance toward minorities. In addition, I examine how the Pakistani education system shapes views of the outside world, and in particular, opinions toward the United States.

Much of the quantitative research which tries to understand radicalization in Pakistan, as well as in other contexts, focuses on years of education as a determinant, and finds mixed evidence on this relationship. In addition, this quantitative work cannot plausibly establish a causal relationship running from years of education to radicalization. This work also largely ignores the role of education quality. The qualitative work on this topic almost entirely focuses on madrassahs, which form a tiny portion of enrollment in Pakistan, and misses the mainstream public and private schooling system entirely.

This project will work with unique qualitative and quantitative data to better understand this important issue. First, this paper will draw on an in-depth qualitative study (funded by the US Institute of Peace) which I will conduct this summer in high schools across Pakistan’s two largest provinces, Punjab and Sindh. The study will be conducted across twenty-four boys’ and girls’ schools, both public and private, in rural and urban areas. The novel aspect of the study will involve sitting through lessons for an entire day in each school and noting mentions of militant groups, terrorism, intolerant attitudes, and of references to other countries. The study will also involve a reading of textbooks as well as interviews with teachers and students.

Second, the paper will draw on a large-scale household survey undertaken in rural Pakistan by IFPRI in mid-2013 to better understand the effect of education on views of the United States. The public opinion surveys currently used to study this question do not have detailed household level or educational information on the respondent, and are unable to uncover more than a correlation. Household level data will be used for the first time to address this question, which allows us to control for family and household level variables, supply side factors such as access to schooling, and the type of schooling, in order to more plausibly identify the effect of education on attitudes toward the United States.

This analysis will also shed light on the relative importance of schooling in shaping attitudes, as opposed to other factors including the media, the family environment, and other social interactions. Within education, it will aim to uncover whether the teachers, peers, lessons, or textbooks are the defining factor in shaping radical and intolerant attitudes in Pakistan.