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2011 - 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society Words: 731 words || 
1. Godbole, Pragati. "GROUP 1. The role of capabilities in girls’ education in India: A multilevel modeling study" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 01, 2011 <Not Available>. 2019-08-20 <>
Publication Type: CIES New Scholar Fellow Proposal
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Faculty advisor:

Dr. Robert G. Croninger

Anticipated stage:

Beginning writing stage

Purposes, and main questions:

The purpose of the present study will be to examine the role of social opportunities or “capabilities” at the household and state levels, in the achievement of primary education “functionings” (i.e. enrolment, attendance and completion) of girls versus boys in India. Based on Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s Capabilities Approach (CA) the present study aims to provide a multi-level (family and state) analysis of data from 41, 554 households in explaining gender-based disparities in education in India.

This study will explore the following questions:
1) Are there differences in education functionings (as measured by enrollment, attendance and primary school completion) between boys and girls?
2) Can the differences in educational opportunities for boys and girls be explained by variation in capabilities?
3) Can the differences in educational opportunities for boys and girls be explained by variation in capability-enhancing state policies as manifested in district/state characteristics?

Thesis statement:

This dissertation is based on Amartya Sen’s argument that economic wealth and income as key indicators of quality of life have insufficient explanatory power to help us understand the barriers in our society against equality for all (Sen, 1992, 1999). Instead, he argues for evaluating quality of life in terms of human capabilities, which provide a richer set of goals for both individual and societal development. Capabilities refers to what people are actually able to be and do i.e. effective opportunities available to individuals to lead a life they ‘value.’

With respect to education too often, inequalities of education opportunities has been explained in terms of lack of resources, rooted either in the system or the family. But beyond that, as Sen (1992) and later, Nussbam (2000) have pointed out, families’ preferences and choices to educate their children are also informed or deformed by society and public policy. Unequal social and political circumstances lead to unequal chances and capacities to choose.

Therefore, an important aspect in understanding education for marginalized groups such as girls in India requires an enhanced understanding of the capabilities that enable achievement of education.

Theoretical/conceptual framework:

This study is based on the Capability Approach (CA) (Sen, 1999). A theory of international development, CA centers on the notion of development as an endeavor of expanding human freedoms rather than merely the growth of gross national product, personal incomes, or industrialization (Sen, 1999). Freedoms directly and indirectly contribute to enhancing people’s functioning and capabilities.

Functionings are what Sen (1999, pg. 75) calls ‘the various things a person may value being and doing.’ Examples include being healthy, adequately nourished, having education, a good job or participating in the political/social life of the community (Sen, 1992). A related concept is that of capabilities. Sen (1999) refers to them as “the alternative combinations of functionings (beings and doings) that are feasible for one to achieve” or the “ability to” do something.
Capability then reflects an individual’s freedom or real opportunities. A person with many capabilities can thus pursue many different activities and thus life paths.

Modes of inquiry, methods, and data sources:

Using the capability approach, I investigate differences in achieved education functionings (i.e. enrollment, attendance and completion) of boys and girls in India. I do this by examining the family unit and using variables that are proxy for social opportunities or lack of them (“unfreedoms”) for girls such as access to health care, attitudes towards girl children, work distributions within families. Further, I will examine capabilities by studying aggregates of family-level variables at the district level to understand the influence of capability enhancing social norms/policies on primary education. The research questions around which the study is organized are multilevel and therefore I will use Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) in my study (Bryk & Raudenbush, 1992). This is consistent with my view of capabilities being characteristic of individuals as well as groups of individuals such as villages, states or nations (e.g. Robeyns, 2008).

I will use data from the India Human Development Survey (Desai & Vanneman, 2005; IHDS), a large nationally representative study of 41,554 households.The study sponsored by National Institutes of Health is a survey of human development indicators including economic, health, and education. Data were collected through two one-hour interviews in each household. Data on education include, children’s past or current enrolment in school, their attendance at school, parental and child perceptions of the school, and along with other relevant development measures will provide an insight into capabilities as explanatory factors in girls’ education.

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