Caste, Costs and Educational Access in Rural Punjab

Tayyaba Tamim



This paper is based on some key findings of an original research carried out to explore the issue of inequitable access to education within caste-based social structures in rural Punjab, Pakistan. Data from 36 interviews with low and high caste parents, school heads and four key informant focus groups in two villages in southern and central Punjab revealed that schooling costs remained difficult to manage for the poorest low-castes despite provision of government sponsored free schools. Bourdieu’s social critical framework used with specific reference to his notion of capitals reveals processes of social reproduction. The economic
capital transubstantiates into social and cultural capital, refracting into schooling costs that are not just economic but also temporal, psychological and social for the lowest caste groups. This limits the impact of economic subsidies offered by the government for expanding educational access. The paper contributes to the current literature by arguing that policies aimed at equitable educational access must conceptualize educational costs as multidimensional, just as poverty itself is not just economic but multifaceted.



rural, caste, schooling access, costs, inequality, Bourdieu, capitals

Full Text:




Alavi, H. (1971). The politics of dependence: a village in West Punjab. South Asian Review, 4, (2), 111–128.

Alavi, H. (2001). The two biradiris: kinship in rural West Punjab. In: Madan, T.N. (Ed.), Muslim Communities of South Asia: Culture, Society and Power, 3rd. (pp. 1-16) New Delhi: Manohar.

Andrabi, T. Das, J., & Khwaja. I., A. (2005). Private schooling: Limits and possibilities


Bourdieu, P. (1977a). Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bourdieu, P.,& Passeron, J. C. (1977b). Reproduction in education, society and culture. California: Sage.

Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In: J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241-258). New York, NY: Greenwood.

Castro-Leal, F., Dayton, J., Demery, L., & Mehra, K. (1999). Public social spending in Africa: Do the poor benefit? World Bank Research Observer,14 (1), 49-72. doi:

Das, M., B. (2006). Do traditional axes of exclusion affect labor market outcomes in India? Social Development Paper, No. 97, South Asia Series. Washington DC: World Bank

Dreze, J.,& Kingdon, G.,G. (2001). School participation in rural India. Review of Development Economics,5,(1).doi: 10.1111/1467-9361.00103

Gazdar, H. (2007). Class, caste or race: veils over social oppression in Pakistan. Economic and Political Weekly, 42 (14) 86–88.

Gazdar, H., & Mallah, H.B. (2012). Class, caste and housing in rural Pakistani Punjab: The untold story of the five marla scheme. Indian Sociology. 46 (3), 311–336.

Government of Punjab. (2008). Multiple indicator cluster survey, Punjab 2007–2008.Availableonlineat:


Government of Pakistan. (2016). Pakistan Economic Survey 2015–16. Retrieved from:

Government of Pakistan. (2017). Pakistan Economic Survey 2016–17. Retrieved from:

Government of Pakistan, Bureau of Statistics (2007-2008) Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement 2007-2008 . Retrieved from

Hazarika, G., & Bedi, S., A. (2006). Child work and schooling costs in rural northern India. Discussion Paper Series, IZA DP No. 2136. Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit Institute for the Study of Labor. Retrieved from

Jacoby, H. G., & Mansuri, G. (2011). Crossing boundaries: Gender, caste and schooling in rural Pakistan. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 5710. Retrieved from SSRN:

Jensen, P., & Nielsen, H. J. (1997). Child labour or school attendance? Evidence from Zambia. Journal of Population Economics, 10, (4), 407–424. doi:10.1007/s001480050051

Kabeer, N.(2006). Poverty, social exclusion and the MDGs: The challenge of durable inequalities in the Asian context. Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, 37, (3), 64–78.

Karachiwalla, N. (2013). Social distance and learning outcomes: Evidence from Pakistan. Paper presented at the Annual Conference at the Centre for the Study of African Economies, March, Oxford.

Patrinos, H., & Psacharopoulos, G. J. (1997). Family size, schooling and child labor in Peru – An empirical analysis. Journal of Population Economics, 10, 4, 387-405. doi: 10.1007/s001480050050

Rawal, S. & Kingdon, G. (2010). Akin to my teacher: does caste, religious or gender distance between student and teacher matter? Some evidence from India, Working Paper No.10-18., London Institute of Education, Department of Quantitative Social Science.

Reay, D. (2001) Finding or losing yourself ? Working class relationships to education, Journal of Education Policy, 16, (4), 333-346.

Sawada, Y., & Lokshin, M. (2001). Household schooling decisions in rural Pakistan. World Bank Policy Working Papers. Retrieved from

Siddhu, G. (2011). Who makes it to secondary school? Determinants of transition to secondary schools in rural India. International Journal of Educational Development, 31, (4), 394–40. Retrieved from

Strauss, A., & Juliet, C. (1998). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Development Grounded theory. Sage: California.

Tamim, T., & Tariq, H. (2015). The intersection of caste, social exclusion and educational opportunity in rural Punjab. International Journal of Educational Development, 43, 51-62.

United Nations Development Programme. (2015). Human Development Report 2015. Retrievedfrom

United Nations Development Programme (2016) Multidimensional poverty in Pakistan,June2016.Retrievedfrom

Zhang, M. (2003). Link between school absenteeism and child poverty. Pastoral Care in Education, 21: 10–17. Retrieved from doi:10.1111/1468-0122.00249



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License