|Climbing the Ladder: A Case Study of the Women's Secondary Education Programme of Allama Iqbal Open University, Pakistan (IBE, 1999, 34 p.)|
The programme has had a tremendous impact on the overall development of the girls and women who have completed their certificate or who joined but could not complete it.
There have been openings for teachers, health workers and nurses. Graduates have opportunities to undertake further education, e.g. the Primary Teacher-Training Certificate course, higher secondary education, vocational training, etc. Some have opened their own schools or vocational centres, provide tuition to younger children or are operating their own small businesses. They have gained confidence and increased their self-esteem, awareness and financial independence.
It has been noted that parents, husbands, brothers, in-laws, the local community, religious leaders and local district education departments have all recognized the quality of the WSEP. During the initial publicity campaigns, it was difficult to convince them of its utility and potential success. However, the in-built flexibility in the distance education system has considerably overcome the difficulties which the community, especially parents, were expecting.
The district education departments and NGOs are pleased with the improved situation of womens education since they are able to recruit more local teachers, as well as health and social workers.
Some of the major findings of those who have completed the programme, and those who have not, in the evaluation conducted by the project evaluation team study are as follows:
A major reason to enrol in WSEP is womens interest in education. Almost as important is the need to improve their income. More than half of the respondents of the study were already economically active, but needed to increase their income and many others wanted to start a job. Both groups felt that having the Secondary School Certificate would be a great help to achieve this goal. Indeed the study of completers shows that many women have managed to find and improve their job as a direct result of having the Secondary School Certificate.
The certificate has enabled many completers to get a job and improve their financial situation. A large group enrolled in (and some already completed) further education, mostly through AIOU. The completers use their increased knowledge in their daily life and feel that they are more confident and respected as now they have Secondary School Certificate.
Many non-completers also noted a positive change, in the sense that their knowledge and awareness have increased. But besides that, they expected the benefit would come once they also obtained the Secondary School Certificate (Batool & Bakkar, 1996).
The case studies on those who have completed the programme have shown that the SSC has helped them in a number of significant ways:
· It has brought financial benefits.
· They have gained confidence.
· They are much more aware of their role in society.
· Some of them have started independent businesses.
· Some are doing a Primary Teacher-Training Certificate course. (However, particularly in the AIOU, preference is given to applicants who have completed a university course).
· Some have proceeded to higher education in health, social work and technical subjects.
· Some students help their children with their school work.
· The courses have benefited them a great deal in dealing with day-to-day problems.
Not only has the WSEP brought financial benefits and more opportunities for education, but also its mode of delivery, i.e. distance learning, has proved to be a viable option. This system has enabled women to study in their own homes without going to school every day. The self-study package has helped them to learn with minimum assistance from others. Since the women who have enrolled in the WSEP have many domestic responsibilities, the system has provided them with an opportunity to study at their own pace and they can select optional subjects of interest to them. In addition, the AIOU has provided face-to-face tutorials for women, which has provided a good opportunity for socializing with other women and sharing their experiences.
The overall conclusion is that the WSEP has had a considerable impact on students lives. The knowledge acquired has had a significant positive effect on students confidence and the respect they receive from the community. The increased confidence and improved income-generating possibilities contribute to their empowerment.