Policies to expand basic schooling in Bangladesh have generally fit well with popular desires and preferences for upward mobility through education. But as Bangladeshi society becomes increasingly educated, the sizeable minority persistently excluded from school are experiencing new processes of adverse incorporation and social exclusion: economic opportunity, social and political participation and citizen engagement with the state increasingly depend on the acquisition of formal schooling. This paper explores the efforts of government to interrupt the intergenerational transmission of poverty. It focuses on the practices and effects of the Primary Education Stipend Programme, a conditional cash transfer designed to attract the rural poor into school. It documents how the objects of policy – rural poor children and parents - are ‘seen’ by the state, and the sightings of the state they in turn receive. It also analyses the tools and technologies of the intervention, focusing on its targeting practices. It concludes that the failure of the programme to significantly increase educational access among the rural poor reflects how the tools and techniques of the intervention encode and recreate class and social distinctions, as well as administrative views on child labour and children’s rights that are sympathetic to poor parents. These distinctions and views shape implementation on the ground, so that the programme is in practice only weakly disciplinary in its efforts to educate the rural poor.
CPRC Working Paper No. 142, Chronic Poverty Research Centre, London, UK, ISBN: 978-1-906433-50-5, 25 pp.