Conditional quarterly payments, delivered to students at the school.

Conditional Cash Transfer programs (CCTs) are considered as new “Silver Bullets” for policy makers and governments of developing countries to reduce intergenerational poverty (Fizbein & Schady, 2009). Under the umbrella of CCTs program, government generally provide cash transfers to the poor households which is conditional on their child’s wellbeing mostly school enrollment or health checkup (Saavedra & Garcia, 2012). Likewise, in early 2004, the government of Punjab, Pakistan started a program that offers stipends (CCT) to girls that attend government middle and high schools (grades 6–10). For my own PhD project, I want to assess the net impact of one of the CCT program implemented by the government of Pakistan to reduce gender disparity in education. The Female School Stipend Program (FSSP) is targeted at 16 (out of the 36) districts of the province. These 16 districts have the lowest adult literacy rates, measured using the 1998 population census data. The program offers PKR 12000 (120 USD) per year, in equal quarterly payments, delivered to students at the school. These cash transfers are tied to 80% school attendance i.e. only those students will get the cash transfers which have a school attendance of 80% or more in a month. The program presently benefits approximately 382,000 girls in 6,800 government schools (PMIU,2014). The main objectives of the FSSP are improving girls’ enrollment, increasing retention and completion rate in middle and high schools.

Having worked in monitoring and evaluation team of FSSP for three years in Pakistan, I have contextual knowledge of the objectives and implementation of this project. I am interested to analyze the effectiveness of this program and to determine how this program impacts girls’ education in Pakistan. Being part of the evaluation team, I have noticed that most of the previous studies relied on quantitative methods such as randomized control trials (RCTs) and quasi experimental methods to assess the impact of CCT programs on several wellbeing outcomes like school enrollment and attendance, regular health checkups, dietary preferences and consumption expenditure (Rawlings & Rubio,2003). However, I feel that these studies merely capture the causal impact of the program in terms of percentage changes, but do not provide the reasons behind these changes in behavior. For example, previous studies on FSSP have shown that girls enrollment rate has been increased by 12% in a period of 5 years from 2003- 2008 after the introduction of the FSSP (Chaudhary & Parajuli,2010). But these studies did not determine the operative reasons behind this change in behavior.  Therefore, a more qualitative approach is required to understand the effectiveness of this program. This can be done by obtaining information from the subjects whose behavior is at the issue (See Alam et al., 2011; Hasan, 2010).

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Hence, using this assignment as an opportunity, I want to pilot an impact evaluation study on FSSP, using qualitative research methods. The proposed study undertakes semi structured interviews with teachers of government girls high schools in Pakistan. I have selected semi-structured interview, as it will give me an opportunity to combine the pre-determined set of questions with the prompt ideas which  may popped in during the conversation with the participants; to explore the subject matter in further detail (Brinkmann, 2014).  I have decided to use teachers as participants in this study, as teachers are the key stakeholder in implementing this stipend program and they have a daily interaction with beneficiaries (school girls getting stipends). I am hoping that a conversation with teachers will not only help me to know the changes they have observed in students at school and classroom level but also to gain some knowledge about the implementation mechanism of the program.

In the first section of this assignment, I will discuss the research question and underline research paradigm. In the second section, I will describe the data collection tool and major findings. The third section is comprised on the reflections of the research process. I will conclude this assignment on ethical dilemmas and will relate this journey with my final research project