Personal profile

Research interests

My research on the issues of poverty, inequality and intergenerational social mobility in the Global Southern post-colonial contexts draws upon the disciplines of sociology, education economics and development studies, and challenges the transformative potential of mass schooling as assumed by the global educational agendas. My work illustrates that educational aspirations, strategies, experiences and outcomes in the contexts like rural Pakistan are deeply embedded within the relational worlds of the learners, in their intergenerational and familial pursuits, ethos and moral commitments. These relational worlds are also characterised by highly unequal power relations and dynamic social conflict that stratify society. By implication, education is part and parcel of this social stratification. As global educational agendas assume away the unequal power relations in Southern contexts, my research argues for a wider reform agenda to address structural inequality as a precondition for the meaningful uptake of mass schooling.

I initially trained as an economist, and started my career by implementing large-scale rural development projects including the provision of vocational and technical training to young people in Pakistan before coming to Bath for the interdisciplinary M. Res in International Development. I went on to pursue a career in policy analysis, contributing to debates on how to measure multidimensional poverty and track its geographic distribution, and to the shaping of large-scale educational reforms and poverty reduction programmes. From 2008 to 2014, I led a major strand of research on improving educational outcomes for the poor, researched the representation of religious diversity in school textbooks in Pakistan, and explored the role of South Asian think tanks in promoting international development agendas. I gained further training in the sociology and economics of education at the University of Cambridge as a Gates Scholar. In 2019, I was engaged by the British Academy to synthesise the findings and policy implications of the GCRF-DFID funded research programme on early childhood development in low-and-middle-income countries.

I work with a wide range of quantitative and qualitative research methods, and a strand of my research offers innovative, theoretically informed ways to listen to the polyphonic voices of the poor. The Habitus Listening Guide for the analysis of qualitative data, that I developed with Madeleine Arnot, enables researchers to identify and understand the socially conditioned meanings, aspirations and strategies of poor families as they struggle to achieve social mobility through formal schooling. This nuanced relational and dialogic approach to data collection and analysis captures not just intergenerational continuity, but also social change triggered by the rise of mass schooling in Southern contexts.

I am currently convening and teaching the unit 'Education and International Development (ED50489)' for the postgrduates and the unit 'Education inequality in low-income contexts (ED20436)' for the undergraduates. I also teach a range of research methods (quantitative, qualitative, and mixed) at various levels.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Education/Academic qualification

Economics and sociology of education, Doctor of Philosophy, Reconceptualising the role of schooling in intergenerational social mobility: Patterns, perspectives and experiences from rural Pakistan, University of Cambridge

… → 2019

Educational Research, Master of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

… → 2013

Economics, Master of Science, Quaid-i-Azam University

International Development, Master of Research, University of Bath

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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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