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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Examining the role of schooling in the cognitive and wider development of children in the province of Punjab (Pakistan) and State of Gujarat (India): Establishing routes for sustainable education

A research project of the School of Education.


Youtube videos of Assessing children remotely and Assessing children face to face

India and Pakistan have a shared history and cultural milieu. Both countries have similar challenges of children’s access to school, and according to the Annual Status of Education Reports in India and Pakistan (2018) a large number attending school are not learning to the expected levels. However, political conflicts have inhibited these two countries in sharing knowledge and transferring best practices in overcoming common challenges in education. This new project will bridge the links between two countries in sharing pathways for generating and implementing evidence of on Early Childhood Education (ECE). The project findings will be useful for comparing the nature of challenges in both these countries and in understanding the problems in current reforms in ECE and how feasible changes can be implemented for sustainable education goals.This project has direct relevance for the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 4.2 that promises all children quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education. Governments and International donors have made large investments and reforms in these two DAC listed countries but there is still a long journey to achieve the goal of universal primary schools ensuring all children’s right to education. A high proportion of children aged 5 (Primary school starting age in India and Pakistan) do not attend school, if enrolled then drop out before completing primary school, and those who attend school are not achieving functional levels in literacy and numeracy upon finishing primary school. We consider it is important to understand the mechanism and effectiveness of attending pre-primary formal school, estimating how much schools and different types of schools are effectively playing a role in children’s cognitive and social development. There is strong evidence that family socioeconomic status determines the cognitive development of children. However, it is not clear if enrolment and regular attendance at school (and specific school type) contribute to cognitive and social development of children. In the case of Pakistan and India, primary state education is free but it is not compulsory by law to attend school. Children of comparable age, gender and socioeconomic status could be attending school, not enrolled or dropped out from school. This is a natural experiment where groups can be compared to estimate the effect of attending formal school and identifying the determinants in family and community characteristics, which control children’s cognitive and social learning outcomes.


This study addresses the theme of sustainable early childhood education. One goal for India and Pakistan is that by 2030 all young children should attend formal primary schooling, regardless of sex, disability, or family background. However, school attendance is still far from universal, and government initiatives in both countries have not generated the desired impact on fulfilling children’s right to an education, as agreed by international bodies and the countries themselves. This is despite considerable international investment for many years. What is required now is to gather rigorous evidence on where such investment is most needed and effective, so that policy and funding can be used to target the more promising approaches, and identify and help overcome local barriers to success. This study looks at school readiness and attendance patterns, the impact of school attendance on cognitive and wider outcomes over one year, the views of communities and families on attendance, the barriers they face, and what the existing evidence says about the best ways to encourage attendance in such contexts . The results will be relevant to other low- and middle-income countries with incomplete school attendance. They are therefore directly relevant to the theme of establishing and sustaining early childhood education for all.


This project will explore the effectiveness of schools as opposed to not attending school (rather than the more usual differential school ‘effect’) for children’s cognitive skills through a longitudinal approach following households and children for a year after the baseline assessment. It will also include children’s height and upper arm circumference as simple measures of health and growth (baseline and12 months later). All children (3.5 to 6 years) in the household samples (enrolled/ attending school, never enrolled or dropped out) will take part in the assessment exercise at baseline and later post-test.


The project is funded by the following grant.

  • Examining The Role Of Schooling In The Cognitive And Wider Development Of Children In The Province Of Punjab (pakistan) And State Of Gujarat (india): Establishing Routes For Sustainable Education (£293,391 from The British Academy)


From the School of Education