By Mohammad Usama Khawar

The interconnected relationships between education policy, practice, and the lived experiences of those in the Global South forms the core of episode six of CID's Road to GEM podcast series. With the expertise of Javed Ahmed Malik, Program Director of the Malala Fund in Pakistan, we dive deep into the evolving landscape of education policy, highlighting pivotal shifts and enduring challenges in making quality education accessible to all.

Road to GEM24 Episode 6

Highlights from the Conversation

An economist by training, Malik challenges the prevailing reliance on empirical research methods such as randomized control trials (RCTs) when evaluating education policy. While acknowledging the importance of evidence and data, he critiques these methodologies and their narrow focus for sometimes “missing the forest for the trees.” Malik underscores the importance of understanding educational reforms within their full social, cultural, and political contexts—a reminder that data should inform rather than dictate policy. 

During the conversation, Malik critiques supply-side interventions in education. Despite significant investments, there remains a persistent gap in educational quality and access, particularly in rural and underprivileged areas. Malik shares compelling evidence from the Malala Fund's initiatives, which prove to him that demand for education is not the issue; rather, it's the lack of functional schools and qualified teachers. His insights shed light on the urgent need for systemic improvements, from hiring practices to teacher training, to ensure that every school can deliver on the promise of providing a quality education to all students.

Malik addresses the high dropout rates in Pakistan and similar countries, attributing them to systemic failures rather than a lack of desire for education. His advocacy for a more holistic approach to education reform, emphasizing the quality of learning and the empowerment of educators, is a powerful call-to-action. The success stories he shares from his work illustrate the transformative potential of well-implemented education policies that genuinely meet the needs of communities.

Central to our discussion is the critique of the international development sector's approach to education policy in the Global South. Malik calls for a shift from centralized decision-making towards greater localization and responsiveness to the needs of the communities served. He argues for development practices that prioritize agility, relevance, and the leveraging of local expertise, challenging the sector to adopt a more nuanced and effective approach to supporting education globally.

As we look towards the future, the conversation underscores the importance of gender equity in education. Malik passionately advocates for targeted efforts to support girls' education, highlighting the compound benefits of such initiatives on societal well-being and economic development. His vision for a future where gender takes center stage in international development is both inspiring and pragmatic, emphasizing the need for representation, inclusion, and empowerment at all levels of policy and practice.

This episode of Road to GEM offers invaluable insights for anyone interested in the nexus of education, policy, and international development. Malik's expertise and experiences remind us that effective education policy is not just about building schools or hiring teachers; it's about creating systems that are equitable, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of every child. As we continue our journey towards global empowerment, let these insights guide our efforts to craft education policies that truly make a difference in the lives of those in the Global South and beyond.

Usama headshot

Mohammad Usama Khawar

Usama is an Education Policy Analysis graduate student at Harvard University, focusing on quantitative program evaluation. He is an alumnus of the Teach For Pakistan Fellowship, and has worked in various capacities to create and improve programs to boost learning outcomes in low- and middle-income countries. 

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