Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Education. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 13 June 2024

Psychology and its Impact on Education in Indiafree

Psychology and its Impact on Education in Indiafree

  • Farida Abdulla KhanFarida Abdulla KhanJamia Millia Islamia


Educational studies in India has its roots in teacher training, beginning with an apprenticeship model for primary school teachers in the 19th century. It was subsequently formally instituted in “normal” schools, then colleges, and finally as departments of teacher education in universities by the mid-20th century. In moving beyond school-level subject competence and school-based practical skills, the intellectual and academic foundations and the professional character of teacher education were sought to be strengthened by adding a disciplinary component of the “foundational” disciplines of history, philosophy, sociology, and psychology of education. Of these, psychology, as the then-emerging science of human behavior, with a growing corpus of scientific research, was most easily able to integrate into the programs and to contribute applicable academic and research inputs into the professional content.

Serious engagement with the more socially and critically oriented foundational disciplines was more difficult, and although they formed part of the teacher education (TE) curriculum, their integration with the programs remained superficial. When a more comprehensive field of study to explore the landscape of education beyond teacher education began to be imagined, the established departments of education and the educational community were reluctant to create a parallel field of study in education. Given their long association with and commitment to teacher education and its eclectic character, the departments were keen on retaining the TE framework and directing all study of education through this lens. The established and familiar empiricist and positivist model of psychology that had been adopted by teacher education was therefore to seriously influence the development of the new discipline, with long-term consequences for its teaching and research.


  • Cognition, Emotion, and Learning
  • Education, Cultures, and Ethnicities


The trajectory of education is somewhat unique in that, unlike most disciplines, its entry into the university system was not as a well-formulated academic discipline. Departments of education were established as centers for the professional training of school teachers that evolved initially out of an apprenticeship model in schools. Subsequently, the training was moved into the “normal” school1 and later into colleges affiliated to the university. In India the need for formal training arose in the context of a mass education system established by the colonial regime for its Indian subjects after the mid-19th century. “Education” as a discipline or a field of studies, in the early 20th century (when the recommendation for teacher training institutions to be located in universities was first made) and well into the 1950s (when an independent India was beginning to review the education system within the framework of its constitution), was only an idea in the process of being imagined, conceptualized, and demarcated. The departments of education thus needed to establish their status and to compete with the many prestigious disciplines along with their long and established intellectual antecedents in the sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences.

The training initially consisted of instruction in school subjects, but as it was formalized and institutionalized as teacher education ( TE), a general component of theory relating to principles of teaching-learning and classroom management was introduced in the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although a common history and the associated dynamics of education as a constantly contested domain (whether as discipline or sub-discipline) has had many similarities across countries, its evolution, conceptualization, and nature have varied depending on the academic, intellectual, and social contexts of its location. In India, education sought to rely on its professional status of teacher training and to accept a sub-disciplinary status, although it has been argued that it could have chosen a different route.2 Education departments across the country (with rare exceptions) have steadfastly retained the TE component as the core and the vantage point for addressing educational concerns. Although it is now a recognized field of studies in higher education, its identity remains diffuse and highly contested.3 Tracing the history of the discipline is invariably tied up with the trajectory of teacher education, the commitment to a “professional” identity, and its relationship with what came to be designated as “foundational” disciplines.

This article reviews the long evolution of TE, its move to the university, and the development of a disciplinary field of education. The evidence presented here suggests that the TE route to creating a discipline imposed specific constraints that have shaped the trajectory of the field in very particular ways and have allowed a positivist and atheoretical version of psychology (within a narrow terrain of school and classroom) to mold its academic aspects, shape its research, and direct it toward an empiricist perspective.

The Genesis of a Discipline: Teacher Education in British India” is an analysis of official documents (commissions, reports, policies, resolutions) for an understanding of the early history of teacher training, its genesis, and conceptualization. The first part, “Curricula and Courses” covers the colonial period from around the mid-19th century until 1947, when the present modern system of education along Western lines was introduced and established in India. It also provides a very brief account of a few important institutions and their courses of study.

The second part of this section, “Education, Teacher Education, and the Imperatives of Nation Building: 1947 and Beyond” takes this analysis forward and covers the post-independence period, when TE assumed a marked significance in the project of nation building. This period was crucial for laying the foundations of the discipline and creating structures that shaped the course of educational studies from the 1940s up to the end of the 20th century.

Education and the University: The CIE, Teacher Education, and the Discipline of Education” expands the analysis to include data from other sources by focusing on the establishment and growth of the Central Institute of Education (CIE) to understand how TE, and its close association with psychology, has shaped the discipline of education in India.

The Disciplines in Education and the Turn to Psychology” explores the model of psychology that was integrated into teacher education and how this model, directly or indirectly, has influenced TE and subsequently the discipline of education. Adopting this model of psychology enabled TE to pay less attention to the other foundational disciplines and to slot them as too theoretical, thereby missing out on a serious engagement with a social and a critical perspective on education. Because of its close connection with TE when education began to develop and expand, it was shaped and influenced more directly by psychology because the alternative perspectives offered by the other foundational disciplines had already been rendered less accessible.4

The Genesis of a Discipline: Teacher Education in British India

The formal and modern system of school education in India was established under the British colonial regime during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Early efforts were sporadic and came from a variety of sources—the church and missionaries, British officials of the Company, and interested individuals, as well as the initiatives of the administrative establishment. With the Charter Act of 1813, the East India Company formally assumed this responsibility by allocating funds for the education of the local population. The Wood’s Despatch of 1854 prescribed an educational policy for India, and although Indians had little say in either the policy or its implementation, the broad structures that evolved out of it served to define the educational system through the period of British rule. In 1858, when the colonized territories came directly under the British Crown, there was an increase in both investment and interest in education.

The new system of education, a modern curriculum and the teaching of English, demanded a different set of capabilities from the teachers, as the existing system was operating through vernacular languages and a traditional curriculum. The monitorial system of training teachers continued, gradually leading to the establishment of normal schools that were initially private initiatives but later established by the government, which, after 1857, became seriously involved in the education of the local population and paid more attention to the training of teachers.

Through this period, important commissions were constituted to review the educational system and to recommend reform and change where needed. The documents discussed here are the Education Commission of 1882; the Resolution of the Governor General of 1904, the Government of India Resolution of 1913, the University Commission of 1917, and the Sadler Commission of 1942. The documents are a rich source of information for understanding the state of teachers and their training and the perceived requirements at each juncture, often contextualized in the prevailing discussions about TE in India and in the West.

The Indian Education Commission (also known as the Hunter Commission) that presented its report in 1882 (Government of India [GoI], 1883) undertook a detailed review of all major aspects of education and covered all presidencies and provinces administered by the colonial government, in addition to gathering information from other parts of the subcontinent. It presents a comprehensive picture of the existing educational system and flags some important discussions on teacher training.

The report suggests that teaching, especially at the primary levels, did not attract those who had already acquired a good school education—whether this was because of the status, the remuneration, or advancement prospects. It records a total of 106 teacher training institutions for primary school teachers, with variation in the quality, duration, and courses, and describes the normal school as serving

a two-fold purpose, it teaches subjects and it teaches the best way of teaching them. The teaching of subjects can be sufficiently provided for in ordinary places of instruction if their standard is high enough for it, what specially characterizes a good normal school is instruction in the science and practice in the art of teaching.

(GoI, 1883, p. 235)

The normal schools were initially established for the training of primary school teachers, and a large part of the training was to provide a secondary-level subject knowledge. When normal schools began to train secondary school teachers, the professional aspects of the training began to be considered more seriously, and because a basic qualification of secondary schooling already provided them with adequate subject knowledge, the need for a more substantial component of academic content for professional development became obvious.

These concerns were further elaborated in the resolution of 1904 as follows:

The equipment of a Training College for secondary teachers is at least as important as the equipment of an Arts College, and the work calls for an exercise of abilities as great as those required in any branch of Educational Service. The period of training for students must be at least two years, except in the case of graduates, for whom one year’s training may suffice. For the graduates the course of instruction will be chiefly directed towards imparting to them a knowledge of the principles which underlie the art of teaching, and some degree of technical skill in the practice of the art. . . . For the others, the course should embrace the extension, consolidation, and revision of their general studies; but the main object should be to render them capable teachers, and no attempt should be made to prepare them for any higher external examination.

(GoI, 1904, p. 44)

It is clear that the need for the certification of teachers had been gaining ground, and this would require some standardization and reflection on the quality of training. The 1913 Government of India resolution goes on to suggest:

Few reforms are more urgently needed than the extension and improvement of the training of teachers, for both primary and secondary schools in all subjects including, in the case of the latter schools, science and oriental studies. The object must steadily be kept in view that eventually under modern systems of education no teacher should be able to teach without a certificate that he is qualified to do so.

(GoI, 1913, pp. 37–38)

The suggestion that universities intervene to improve standards of education was first made by the Calcutta University Commission in 1917, with the recommendation that departments of education be established in Calcutta and in Dhaka (the two universities within its ambit).

The aim of these departments would be to promote the systematic and practical study of the science and art of education; to provide increased opportunities for the professional training of teachers; and to arouse among the students a deeper interest in the work of the teaching profession and in the opportunities which it offers for public service.

(Government of India, 1919, p. 72).

Further, it would enable students to interact within a university milieu and to come into contact with students of psychology, economics, and history, and various branches of science including medicine. The report recognizes that

the study of education is stimulated and guided by many converging influences which bear upon the different aspects of this many sided subject, suggest new lines of inquiry, indicate methods of scientific investigation and criticize any tendency to rely upon ill-founded assumptions or to adopt hurried generalizations.

(Government of India, 1919, p. 73)

The report refers to developments and debates around educational thought and practice in the West and recommends incorporating the psychology of learning into the training.

The last important document with suggestions for teacher education before independence, the Sargent Report of 1944 makes the observation that teacher training institutions are “utterly insufficient” and “the type of training which these institutions give is often open to serious criticism. It fails to keep pace with modern ideas in education and there is insufficient coordination between theory and practice” (Central Advisory Board of Education, 1947, p. 48).

These documents confirm that well into the 1940s, teacher education is still a discipline in the making, and there are widespread concerns about the adequacy and the quality of the programs. There is a sustained call for upgrading the education of teachers and for more substantive academic inputs by introducing research and theory, but there is little indication of a serious effort at examining how this would emerge.

Curricula and Courses

Curricular documents of this period are difficult to trace, but all sources confirm that the TE courses included a general education component and a professional component. The former consisted of the range of school subjects from the humanities, sciences, and social sciences, with an effort to overcome any lacunae in school education depending on the basic qualifications of the student teachers. With the induction of better-qualified students, the importance of a “professional” component became evident, making way for a more substantive academic component in addition to the practice-oriented teaching skills. A general “principles of teaching” course with inputs from psychology appears in the syllabus by the late 1800s, along with recommendations for including history, philosophy, and subsequently sociology of education. Enhancing the teachers’ capacity to contribute to the overall development of children also led to more “co-curricular” courses like sports and physical education, art, music, and so on.

In the Madras Normal School, reorganized as a teachers’ college in 1886, courses such as “Psychology in Its Relation to Education,” “The Scientific Basis of Education” and “General History of Education in Europe” were introduced. Courses on classroom management and school administration were also beginning to appear along with several new courses to enrich the professional aspects of school education.5 Courses on teaching theory, method, and school management were common by the early 20th century, and in 1917 the principal of the David Hare College in Calcutta was complaining that the psychology of the child was being superseded by experimental psychology (GOI, 1919).

The first bachelor’s in education (BEd) degree was instituted in Andhra in 1932 and a master’s in education (MEd), with a research component was introduced in 1936 in Bombay. In 1937, official recommendations for teachers to have a basic familiarity with sociology, psychology, history, and ethics were being made:

Young teachers should know something of the history of their own country, and its educational efforts should make some attempt to grasp the social problems of the local communities which they will serve and should be encouraged to understand the nature and needs of young children as well as the techniques of instructing them.

(Quoted by Devi, 1968)

The training thus consisted of imparting knowledge of school subjects initially in an apprenticeship mode and later in special institutions. Gradually, however, with the requirement of certification and professionalization, lacunae began to be identified and course content began to expand. The role of the teacher was acquiring more importance and training solely within the confines of the school was seen as too narrow and limiting. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the need for teachers to experience the liberal and intellectual environment of the university was recognized and recommendations for upgrading teaching skills and knowledge levels were made. There is little evidence, however, of any serious deliberation or action on the repeated suggestions for education departments to move beyond teacher education and to create a more comprehensive field for the study of education.

Education, Teacher Education, and the Imperatives of Nation Building: 1947 and Beyond

Education figured prominently in the rhetoric of national development and departments of education gained a new status and prominence in higher education as part of this project after India became independent in 1947. The country decided to adopt a model of centralized planning, and a developmental trajectory was put in place through the 5-year plans. Education was to play a major role in the modernizing project—in matters economic as well as social—but most importantly, at this juncture, in the creation of a cohesive nation and a modern and prosperous nation-state. Universal primary education was a commitment made in the new constitution, but attention and resources in the early years after independence were directed to higher education, especially in the areas of science and technology.

The ideals of equality and social justice through schooling, so prominent in the national rhetoric, were not followed up with the necessary political and financial commitment, and intentionally or unintentionally, the “good” teacher was projected as the repository for affecting the tremendous social change that education was expected to bring about. The commitment to providing schooling for the masses was sought to be achieved by expanding the elementary school system alongside a concomitant urgency for more trained teachers, and although there was some effort to incorporate Gandhi’s system of basic education,6 it was never seriously pursued. TE institutions assumed importance in the effort to educate a large and near illiterate population across a vast and varied landscape and a complex and oppressively unequal social order. Had these departments been better prepared academically and intellectually, this context could have been fertile ground and inspiration for a program of research and theory building, but in the absence of such an orientation, the expansion took a more practical and functional route. The documents discussed here, beginning with the University Commission of 1949 and culminating with the National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986, provide an overview of the educational system and its shortcomings, along with the vision of education that was sought to be adopted.

The University Commission, set up under the chairmanship of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan (philosopher, eminent educationist, and later president of India), presented a comprehensive review of the higher education sector in its report in 1949, as well as a vision for education with reference to the new constitution and recommendations for every aspect of higher education. It set high standards for universities and expected them

to provide leadership in politics and administration, the professions, industry and commerce. They have to meet the increasing demand for every type of higher education, literary and scientific, technical and professional. They must enable the country to attain, in as short a time as possible, freedom from want, disease and ignorance, by the application and development of scientific and technical knowledge. India is rich in natural resources and her people have intelligence and energy and are throbbing with renewed vigour. It is for the universities to create knowledge and train minds who would bring together the two, material resources and human energies.

(GoI, 1949, p. 6)

The report discusses education in the section on “Professional Education” rather than in “Arts and Sciences” and highlights a dilemma that has long plagued education:

Education as a study at university level is peculiar in this respect, that in whichever direction it is studied to an advanced level, the study tends to become something other than Education e.g. it turns into a study of Philosophy or Psychology or History or Sociology. Education is an essential focal point for the various studies and skills necessary for the tending teachers.

(GOI, 1949, p. 184)

Although it refers to the need for research in education and recognizes that “the problems confronting Indian education today are so stupendous in their sheer scale and so complicated in their nature, that the efforts of even the most gifted and persistent individual seem dwarfish in comparison” (GOI, 1949, p. 188), it goes on to elaborate only practice-oriented courses and asks for all theory to be directly related to school teaching and teacher education. Surprisingly, for a document that sets high standards of intellectualization for university education, it insists on grounding the discipline of education in the practice of teaching with a focus on problem-solving.

The Secondary Education Commission, 1952 (also known as the Mudaliar Commission), was constituted with the mandate “to examine the prevailing system of secondary education in the country and suggest measures for its reorganization and improvement” (GOI, 1954). It was heavily influenced by the University Commission, 1949, and within that vision it became the blueprint for the development of TE for several decades.

In sections devoted to “The Teacher” and “Teacher Education,” the importance of teachers is reiterated in the hyperbolic language reserved for the profession: “We are however convinced that the most important factor in the contemplated educational reconstruction is the teacher—his personal qualities, his educational qualifications, his professional training and the place he occupies in the school as well as the community” (GoI, 1954, p. 163). Nevertheless, it does recognize more realistically the status of teachers and their woefully inadequate service conditions: “We were painfully impressed by the fact that the social status, the salary and the general service conditions of teachers are far from satisfactory” (pp. 163–164). The Mudaliar Commission concludes by stating, “When service conditions and emoluments are unattractive and status of teachers remains low and unimportant compared with other learned professions, there is no possibility of drawing large numbers of really qualified, enthusiastic and devoted candidates to join the profession” (p. 179).

The Commission’s recommendations had a major impact on TE programs and institutions, with consequences for the development of the discipline. It made very specific recommendations for curricular and co-curricular activities, qualifications, and other activities within the programs, and emphasized the need for a research component. It makes several recommendations for the master’s program for TE that are especially relevant to this discussion and suggests that the MEd should carry out research on comparative methods and new methods of teaching and should allow students to specialize in curricula, craft-centered education and co-curricular education. It also recommends that the MEd train teachers for higher grade posts like headmaster, inspector, and teaching staff of training institutions. Most importantly, the condition that postgraduation be limited to students with a first degree in TE and a minimum of 3 years’ teaching experience has had serious implications for the growth of the discipline.

Finally, in 1964 an Education Commission (the Kothari Commission) was constituted to review the entire system of schooling in order to suggest a course of school education for the entire country. The Kothari Commission Report 1964–1966 (Education Commission, 1966) is an extremely important and relevant document as a frame of reference for innovations, debates, and discussions around education to this date. The chapter on teacher education comments on education as a discipline and makes a number of suggestions in this regard. It calls for breaking the isolation of departments of education from the life of the university and to think of it as more than just pedagogy. Recognizing that in several countries education has developed “considerably as a social science and a separate academic discipline” (p. 68), it recommends recognizing “education” as a social science or as a separate discipline to be introduced as an elective subject at the undergraduate and postgraduate stages with an orientation to sociological, philosophical, and psychological foundations of education. The policy that followed the Education Commission did not reflect its egalitarian goals, and its recommendations for a greater awareness of inequalities and social justice were blatantly ignored in what Velaskar (2010, pp. 65–66) refers to as a “rapid retreat from socialist goals” of the post-Nehruvian period, describing the policy statement as “an incredibly weak reflection of the ECs egalitarian perspective” that was openly criticized by the member secretary of the EC himself. The suggestion for a serious critique of education through a social science perspective, to be undertaken by strengthening the development of a separate discipline, found no mention in the policy and not much favor in the prominent departments of teacher education across the country.

Finally, a major comprehensive policy on school education, the National Policy on Education (NPE), (1986), with revisions made in 1992), came into effect, with substantive changes to school education. It is the national framework within which school education in India functions, A new education policy although there was a serious restructuring of the system following the new education policy of 2019, which is not discussed here. The NPE 1986 claimed to have been framed on the basis of the Kothari Commission, but it made an important ideological shift that India was to effect in the context of global capitalism and neoliberal politics of the 1980s that became more evident in the 1990s.7 A section on the teacher discusses teacher education but does not have much to say about education as discipline.

A National Commission on Teachers was appointed in 1983 that examined the relationship between the school and society and the teacher’s role in some detail. Subtitled “The Teacher and Society,” it emphasizes “essential similarities of educational and teacher related issues” and the teacher’s role in building a humane and caring society (National commission on Teachers, 1985). In its observations on teacher education and the status, working conditions, and remuneration of teachers, it highlighted the inadequacy of the financial allocation for education in the 5-year plans and the steep drop from the first plan (1951), which had a 7.2% of the total outlay, to 2.6% by the time of the sixth plan in 1980.

The teacher is expected to

acquire the basic skills and competencies of a good teacher: the capacity to manage a class with students of varying abilities: to communicate ideas logically and with clarity; to use technology for effective teaching; to organize educative experiences outside the class to work with the community and to help students do so. Further the teacher should also translate national goals into educational actions; communicate the feelings of national unity and integrity and also an understanding and appreciation of global issues like population explosion, environmental pollution, the threat of a nuclear holocaust and the quest for world peace; . . . to imbibe right attitudes and values besides being proficient in skills related to teaching.

(National Commission on Teachers, 1985, p. 82)

To sum up, in post-independence India, preference was given to higher education, especially in the sciences and technology, and although the lofty ideals of the Indian Constitution in relation to school education were often invoked, there was little financial or political commitment for these. There is an inherent belief in education as an instrument of social and economic change and progress, but despite the rhetoric, there is little deliberation or serious consideration of how theory and research within a social science perspective would emerge from a professional program, immersed in practice alone. The Kothari Commission’s recommendations to develop such a discipline did not translate into policy, and the responsibility for this complex task was projected on the training of “ideal” teachers within the confines of the classroom, the school, and the teaching-learning process that only served to deflect from the responsibility of the state and its political and economic structures and policies.

Education and the University: The CIE, Teacher Education, and the Discipline of Education

Having briefly surveyed the history, vision, and conceptualization of teacher education in the process of creating a discipline of education, this section explores the practice and the implementation of the vision in the context of the national concerns after independence. It describes and explores the development and the functioning of the Central Institute of Education (CIE) of the University of Delhi, from the moment of its establishment following the country’s independence in 1947, to the last decades of the 20th century, the period in which the broad framework of educational studies was institutionalized, the structures and processes formalized, and its contours more or less defined. The CIE is a fair exemplar of a typical department of education that continues to maintain its status as a “model” institution for TE and ranks among the leading education departments in the country.

The CIE was the first “national” institute of education in independent India, set up in 1947 in the University of Delhi, and supported and inspired by important national leaders, although it was only one among many in the long line of TE institutions. The Government Normal School at Madras had been affiliated to the University with the status of a college as early as 1886, and by 1932, of the existing 18 universities, 13 had set up faculties of education. In the history of education in independent India, however, the CIE ranks as a leading institution, created to serve as a model for the new departments of education and for teacher education and educational studies throughout the country. Although it was initially under the administrative control of the Ministry of Education, and later the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), it was fully integrated into the University of Delhi as the Department of Education in 1979.

The mandate handed to the CIE by those who were planning and imagining the new India establishes its importance and the expectations invested in it. Maulana Azad, the first Education Minister of independent India, at the inauguration of the CIE in 1947, announced:

The teachers trained at this Institute will naturally be employed in the Centrally Administered Areas. . . . The function of the Institute is something greater than this. It will turn out teachers who will be ‘model teachers’ for provinces, but over and above all this, this Institute will be a research centre for solving new educational problems of the country and will be a beacon light for the training institutions of the country. The problems facing the Institute will be, how to correlate the different systems of basic education, how to reform the present system of examinations, and how to mould the primary education of a child so that he is given full opportunity to develop his individuality and also to equip himself to keep abreast of world affairs. This and similar other problems will come before the Institute and it will have to find ways and means of solving them.

(Kumar, 1991, pp. 95-96)

The prestigious Radhakrishnan Commission in 1949 reiterates the central role of the CIE:

The problems confronting Indian Education today are so stupendous in their sheer scale and so complicated in their nature that the efforts of even the most gifted and persistent individuals seem dwarfish in comparison. In these circumstances immense responsibility lies upon the Central Institute of Education and its progress must be keenly watched and keenly supported by every well-wisher of India.

(GOI, 1949, p. 188)

Education as progress was critical to the vision of the nation, and in the many proposals for restructuring the educational system that would nurture responsible citizens, TE drew attention and gained immense importance. The CIE assumed the role of a model institution in this context, and along with other important Departments of Education in the country, it has played a prominent part in shaping the course of the discipline, with TE at its core. Although postgraduate and doctoral programs in education had been initiated during the colonial period, a serious field of educational studies had failed to emerge, and the CIE was an important step in this direction. A close look at the way in which the institution evolved in setting its goals, formulated courses, established curricula, and created structures of teacher appointments and student qualifications offers further insights into the genesis of the discipline and the direction that it has taken.

The account presented here uses some documentation but is largely derived from my interaction and interviews with former students and retired and present faculty of the CIE, some of whom were part of its formative years. The bulk of information here comes from my interaction with Professor R. N. Mehrotra, with inputs from other faculty, past and present. Prof. Mehrotra joined CIE as a BEd student in 1955, after having completed an MA in mathematics, and was subsequently appointed to the CIE faculty in 1956.8 He was closely involved with the institute and its development during his long teaching career until 1988, and subsequently in his continued involvement with the Institute as a valued former faculty member. He remembered his association with the CIE with immense professional pride and warmth, and captured the ethos and the atmosphere of the institution with insight and clarity. He was able to provide valuable insights into the ethos of its formative years, along with a vivid picture of it’s academic, social, and cultural life . According to him, “The story of the CIE is, in a way, the story of educational studies and, particularly, the story of teacher education in India since 1947.”9

At the time of independence, TE institutions, whether as colleges or departments, had been functioning more as affiliated institutions, rather than regular departments of the universities, with a focus on what was seen as a not very high status professional course and barely recognized by the academic community. The mission of preparing teachers to go out into schools and to be part of educating a vast, illiterate population as participants in a major social and economic transformation of the country, at the time of independence, endowed a new status to the established expertise within the field. The bachelor’s in education (BEd), a 1-year degree for secondary school teachers, following 3 years of undergraduate studies, assumed the responsibility of fulfilling this mission and became the source from which the new department would draw its identity, self-esteem, and prestige.

The BEd became the flagship program and the primary commitment of the CIE, and although the MEd and PhD programs had also been introduced, they received much less attention. In the 1960s, the Planning Commission10 recommended setting up a national institute for research in education, and the CIE was offered this responsibility with the condition that it would discontinue its teacher education program. Having devoted its energy and planning to building up its teacher education capacities, it declined the offer, and the NCERT was created for this purpose. The decision not to transform itself into a solely research institute for education was an important and considered one, and was to define the character of education for decades to come, with teacher education as the central focus and theory and research as secondary aspects of it.

The following account by Prof. Mehrotra furnishes a rich portrait of the institute and highlights the prominent position of the BEd program, its applied aspects, and the extent of commitment required by both faculty and students.

The academic life was BEd dominated, the MEd, MPhil, and PhD students normally were less involved. They often felt neglected. The CIE was an institution where students received individual attention. Besides closer contact with methods teachers,11 we all had a tutorial system. A tutorial group of seven to eight students met once a week and discussed some topic decided in the previous week’s meeting.

A practice teaching group was also seven to eight students in a school with a supervisor who was not necessarily a teacher of any of the two subjects offered by the student. Towards the end of the practice teaching, there was rotation for some days—the supervisors going to different schools. Thus, it would happen that one’s subject method’s teacher visited his students once or twice in the session.

The BEd course (a 1,000-marks examination) was divided into 500 marks theory and 500 marks practical. The theory had five papers of 100 marks each; 25% internal assessment based on monthly and half-yearly examinations, and 75% marks final external examination for each paper, conducted by the University Examination Section. The 500-marks practical examination was entirely internal—250 marks for practice teaching and 250 divided into five different assignments—50 for five tutorial essays; 50 for audiovisual aids—models, charts, etc.; 50 divided into five activities—co-curricular, sports, literary, etc.; 50 for five assignments—scrap book, framing of two question papers in the school and practical work in psychology—intelligence tests, personality tests, etc. (There was a psychology practical class once a week with eight or 10 students in a group.)

The BEd. students were engaged in many co-curricular activities—a students’ union called Panchayat whose office bearers—president, vice-president, secretary, joint secretary, treasurer, were elected by the students in the beginning of each session. Before the elections, even immediately after the session started there was a 2-day orientation camp conducted by the principal and two senior teachers. There were performances through the year, with programs of music, acting, speeches, etc., by students. This was organized by the Panchayat adviser, who was the authority in charge of the Panchayat and its activities.12

With a newfound legitimization in the agenda of nation-building and a vision of education outlined by the state, the picture that emerges is of an institution deeply committed to the task of creating teachers who were expected to know their disciplines, contribute to an all-round development of their students, and inculcate in them the virtues of good and committed citizens. The institution accepted the brief, with teacher education and its professional and utilitarian character as its primary concern. The functioning of the CIE, its priorities, and its development are very much a product of the times and the policies being advocated in the late 1940s and the 1950s. The CIE represents the quintessential department of education envisioned and described by the 1953 Secondary Education Commission, with TE as its core and with the classroom, the school, and the teacher as its focus.

The social implications of school education, although figuring prominently in state rhetoric, were never seriously addressed or backed by the political or financial commitment that a serious project of social justice would require. In keeping with the developmental agenda, it was the higher education sector, especially the sciences and technology, that consumed state resources and attention, and assumed priority at all levels of state planning in the first few decades after independence. The responsibility of fulfilling the complex project of equity in education was being projected as a simple equation of increasing schools and providing good teachers. TE thus assumed a symbolic significance and a sense of importance that the institutions were willing to accept without questioning the implications of the complex web of political, social, and economic structures that no amount of good teaching practice alone could address.

From TE to Education—A Tortured Route

The relationship of education with the foundation disciplines has not been uniform everywhere, but it has been instrumental in shaping the course of the discipline. In Britain, for example, between the 1920s and 1950s education was dominated by psychology and a quasi-scientific paradigm, but from the 1950s onward the advent of the humanities—initially history and philosophy, and subsequently sociology—established the credentials of education as a field of social enquiry. “The foundation disciplines of philosophy, history, psychology and sociology came to the fore, dominating both teacher education and educational research in the UK and much of the English speaking world” (Furlong & Lawn, 2011, pp. 1–2). In the context of a liberal higher education ethos in the United Kingdom, “By the mid-1970s then, the disciplines were well established both in their general rationale for contributing to the study of education as a whole, and also increasingly as clearly defined and discrete disciplinary communities in their own right.” (McCullogh, 2001 pp. 111–112),

In India, the study of education was sought to be increasingly and exclusively mediated by teacher education, with little space for the disciplines other than psychology, which maintained its dominance by offering a paradigm that could be integrated with the eclectic character of TE. The relevance of the more socially and theoretically oriented foundation disciplines of history, sociology, and philosophy was less obvious, within the template of TE, and the contact remained superficial. The departments drew their strength from their professional and applied orientation, and these disciplines were perceived as beneficial, but not particularly necessary for teachers. The unease of stepping out of the TE format could be partly explained by the antecedents of the departments and the confines within which they evolved that neither required nor were conducive to a serious academic engagement with scholarship, theory, and research in the social sciences.

When TE was being established as an academic discipline within the university, disciplinary experts were appointed for the teaching of the foundation disciplines, but when a larger pool of TE graduates became available, this option was closed off. TE became a requirement for all teaching of education, and a strong resistance to allow direct entry into education without going through the TE route seems to have developed. This has been a complicated relationship and has made it difficult to foster a critical and socially oriented perspective of the many complex aspects of education. It is, however, important to remember that the resistance to the disciplines has its own history and was not always one sided. In the 1950s and 1960s, when departments of education were attempting to integrate into the life of the universities, there was little interest in school education in the social sciences or among scholars within these disciplines. Education departments were regarded as mere “teacher training” institutions, and even within professional disciplines they were held in low esteem and did not merit the status and prestige of medicine or engineering, for example. Thus academic exchanges with other social science departments of the university have always been limited to routine institutional obligations. It is revealing, therefore, that the CIE had its closest links and faculty exchanges with the College of Nursing (another low-status professional sector) of the University of Delhi.

Currently, the study of education is situated in faculties of education and in the numerous colleges of education throughout the country. The BEd continues to occupy a prominent and prestigious position (for a variety of reasons, although it is only one of many TE programs and trains secondary school teachers). It derives enormous importance from its position as the first point of entry into TE and as a prerequisite for the MEd degree, which is a necessary qualification for teaching in TE programs and, more importantly (in convoluted ways), in departments of education.

Admission to the BEd requires students to have studied two school subjects for their undergraduate degree, a condition that prevented the entry of students from three of the four traditional “foundation” disciplines into these programs until the early 1990s, when psychology and sociology were recognized as school subjects whereas students of philosophy continue to remain ineligible for admission. There is no direct entry into the MEd from any discipline other than TE, and because the MEd is a minimum qualification for teaching in education departments, it prevents students from other disciplines who have a serious academic interest in education from being able to work in these departments unless they train as teachers. These conditions for entry, along with the inadequate exposure to the social science perspective on education within the TE route, make it difficult for expertise in the social sciences and an informed critical perspective to be developed and nurtured within the normal institutional conditions and structures described below.13

The foundational disciplines are a compulsory component of the TE programs, but except for a particular version of psychology (heavily influenced by the educational psychology paradigm of the United States, with strong traces of the behaviorist and learning theory movements), the disciplinary knowledge offered in the programs is extremely inadequate for developing a well-informed social or critical perspective of education, whether students proceed to enter the profession of school teaching or go on to postgraduate study and research. The BEd has a required course in the psychology of education, and topics from psychology are found in other courses, as well as the practical component of training. Similarly the MEd has required and optional psychology courses and a strong imprint of a quasi-scientific research methodology (largely quasi-experimental and testing oriented). The other disciplines—that is, sociology, philosophy, and history—are usually combined in a paper14 like “Education in India” in the BEd syllabus.

Given the nature and the requirements of the BEd program (a 1-year program that was extended to 2 years in 2016), these disciplines seem difficult to connect to the here and now of the classroom and teaching, and are barely able to offer a cursory introduction to the discipline. Serious scholarly engagement with theory and methodologies is nearly impossible through this route alone. It may happen through individual motivation and effort, sometimes of a faculty member and sometimes of an exceptionally interested student, but there is little institutional support for it. The “methods” courses require undergraduate study of the subject, but there is no such requirement for the foundation disciplines. Subsequently, teaching of the foundation disciplines only requires a total of one and a half to two courses that a BEd and MEd is able to offer. It is a well-accepted article of faith within education departments that anyone with an MEd should be able to teach all courses on the syllabus, barring the methodology courses for which disciplinary credentials are essential,15 and it is not unusual for a commerce, mathematics, or science graduate with little exposure to the social sciences to be teaching philosophy, sociology, or history of education. Largely as a consequence of these trends, research in education, even in the 2000s, with few exceptions, remains focused on the school, the teacher, and the child; and it is confined to a positivist and empiricist paradigm with little theoretical or critical analysis, although this is very slowly changing.

Efforts to establish centers for the study of education from a disciplinary lens as distinct from TE have been made in other ways, and although miniscule within the large education sector, they have steadily managed to pose challenges to the mainstream departments and to TE. For example, in the 1960s, the Tata Institute for Social Sciences in Bombay established a research unit in Sociology of Education; and in the 1970s, The Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies (ZHCES) at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, with an MPhil and a PhD program, was established to study education as a social phenomenon, using theoretical and methodological traditions rooted in the foundational disciplines, in this case of sociology, psychology, economics, and history. Within Delhi University itself, the establishment of the bachelor’s in elementary education (the BElEd) was a bold attempt at a teacher education program that allows a deeper and more meaningful engagement with the disciplines both at the theoretical and the practical levels. This program is producing well-rounded, socially aware teachers, but is only grudgingly being accepted by the teacher education community. These programs have succeeded in raising important questions about education and society, but mainstream TE institutions, even in major universities, continue to ignore their contribution and often treat then dismissively. The resistance in the TE community to accepting TE programs as only one among other ways of engaging with education is still profound. It surfaced most recently in response to the Justice Verma Commission’s recommendations for radical changes in TE, especially at the suggestion for a greater and more direct engagement with the disciplines. A more extensive discussion of these developments, although extremely relevant for the future of education in India, is, however, beyond the scope of this article.

The Disciplines in Education and the Turn to Psychology

Psychology and, on a smaller scale, the history of education were integrated into the TE curriculum as early as the late 1800s, and subsequently philosophy and sociology of education were recommended as disciplines relevant to the study of education. In this section, I look at how a particular model of psychology and its subject matter, in being closely aligned with the interests of TE, became the discipline of choice for establishing the academic credentials of the departments as they started to integrate more seriously into the academic life of the university. I suggest, however, that the nature of the model of psychology that education chose to adopt (for a variety of reasons) further strengthened its empirical and asocial character and alienated it from a critical social science perspective.

Although the framework for the creation of a new discipline or disciplinary field could have modeled itself on any of the disciplines that it had already adopted as foundational disciplines, or even as a combination of these, it was quite evidently psychology that most easily lent itself to this task. As a behavioral rather than a social science, psychology in the first half of the 20th century was steeped in the exploration of learning and the study of children, successfully modifying human behavior, and measuring mental capacities. It was able to provide the scientific backing for teaching practice and pedagogical methods that could enable TE to assert its academic credentials.

The emergence of psychology coincided with developments in mass education, and many of the leading concerns of psychology were issues of deep interest for education, such as child development, learning, personality, and so on. References to the importance of psychology are present in the earliest documents mentioned in “The Genesis of a Discipline: Teacher Education in British India,” and the early “professional” components of teacher training began to include psychological content applicable to pedagogical practice. The core content of the TE program—the “methods of teaching” courses—depended heavily on theories of psychology and on psychological research. The overlap of interests between psychology and education is evident, and therefore the relationship is not surprising. Major sub-fields of psychology, such as educational psychology, child psychology, and organizational psychology, were directly related to schooling and the classrooms.

However the juncture at which education as a field began to establish itself within the academy and the then-popular paradigm of psychology is also critical in understanding the obvious as well as the more subtle ways in which psychology was to influence educational research and practice in the Indian context. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the departments of education in India began to acquire an identity and improve their status within a somewhat hostile and condescending environment of the academy, the appeal of psychology seems inevitable. An eclectic, useful, and applicable psychology, with its quasi-scientific methodologies and theories of behaviorism and individual difference, seemed ideal for deriving its academic and research credentials. This model of psychology, popular in the anglophone world, suited the needs of a growing field of education and was eagerly adopted by TE in India. This was a time when the world of Indian academics was widely exposed to scholarship and academic currents from Britain and the United States. In fact the initial post-independence Commissions on education included educationists and academics from Britain and the United States as members, and in the 1960s a team of American educationists was invited for consultations at the CIE when the NCERT was established.

The version of psychology that captured the imagination of TE in India is best exemplified in an account by Peter Manicas in his 1987 history of the social sciences in America, where he describes psychology as the “exemplar” of the Americanization of social science. He claims that its inspiration was drawn from the study of individual differences, initiated in Britain, that was infinitely more appealing in America than the study of the normal adult mind initiated by the Germans, and this determined the course of psychology for decades to come in the English-speaking world. Moreover, in America, he notes, the social usefulness of disciplines was paramount and “redefining psychology as the ‘science of behavior’ would eventually do the trick” and establish its instrumental value (Manicas, 1987, p. 234). According to Boring:

American psychology was to deal with mind in use. . . . Thorndike brought the animals into the formal laboratory . . . then went over the study of school children and the mental tests increased. . . . Then Watson touched a match to the mass, there was an explosion and behaviorism was left.

(Quoted by Manicas, 1987)

Terman was to declare in 1920:

It is the method of tests that has brought psychology down from the clouds and made it useful to men: that has transformed the “science of trivialities” into the “science of human engineering” . . . No psychologist of today can complain that his science is not taken seriously enough.

(Quoted by Manicas, 1987)

The goal of scientific psychology was prediction and control, and in the context of 1950s America, the term “social science” was formally changed to “behavioral science” and without any remorse or conceptual embarrassment then the human sciences would now unite in seeing themselves as jointly concerned with behavior and with individuals who could be both mindless and asocial, the happy robots of the Great American Celebration” (Quoted by Manicas, 1987, pp. 236–237). Here, this description is used very consciously to describe the model of a social science that was adopted in India by those shaping education and educational research.

TE as a field had little theoretical coherence, and its practitioners were drawn from the range of disciplines that made up the school curriculum—from languages to the social sciences, to mathematics, commerce, and the physical sciences. The empiricist and positivist nature of an asocial and scientific model of psychology had immediate appeal for lending coherence and legitimacy to the professional status claimed by education.

A brief scrutiny of the curriculum and research in TE illustrates the influence of psychology in its teaching and research, and subsequently how research and theory in education was thus shaped by psychology through its evolutionary period as a field of studies.

Psychology and the TE Curriculum

When teacher training was first established, the professional component of its teaching relied on theories in psychology. As a component of the foundation courses, it has always carried more weight than the other foundation disciplines, and the earliest theory courses in a formalized TE curriculum included content from psychology. Besides contributing to teaching practice and courses on pedagogy, research methods courses in education were initially derived from the psychometric tradition of psychology, and although other methodologies have gradually been incorporated, this research tradition remains deeply entrenched even today. Textbooks of research design and statistics in psychology have been used as standard texts in the departments of education, and the educational psychology paradigm has had a profound influence on TE in India. The CIE established a psychological laboratory in the 1960s, and a weekly “Practicum in Psychology” was a compulsory component of the BEd program, complete with experiments using psychological testing tools like the mirror drawing apparatus and the memory drum. When the Secondary Teacher’s College, another very eminent institution for TE, was consolidated into the MS University of Baroda, it was transformed into the Faculty of Education and Psychology, and among its three foundation courses, two were in psychology—one on the “Psychology of Individual Difference” and the other a “Psychology of Learning” course (see Menon & Mathew, 2016).

The “Teacher Education Curriculum—a Framework” prepared by the NCERT in 1978 (NCERT, 1978) divides the course work for secondary school teaching into three sections. The first part, with a weightage of 30%, consists of the foundation courses, or what it calls “pedagogical courses” and includes three papers: the “Teacher and Education in Emerging Indian Society,” which combines topics from sociology, history, and philosophy; “Educational Psychology”; and “Psychology of Adolescence.” The second section involves “Working with the Community,” with a weightage of 20%. The third section is “Content cum Methodology and Practice Teaching,” with a weightage of 50%. These courses, too, include topics from psychology and psychological research related to learning and teaching.

A “Framework for Teacher Education” prepared by the NCERT (1988) for the MEd grants a weightage of 20% to the foundation courses and allots 10% to educational psychology and 10% to a paper that combines philosophical and sociological perspectives, along with a summary history of education in India. It is only in 1998 that the framework for TE curriculum suggests allotting a complete paper to the philosophy of education and one to the sociology of education, along with the psychology of education paper for the MEd program. The content of the foundation papers at the BEd level is far more limited.

Psychology and Research in Education

Finally, in providing a model for research, psychology was able to wield a profound influence on TE and subsequently on education, especially because TE was accepted as the legitimate framework for the development of the discipline.

A research component had been introduced in the master’s program in TE as early as the 1930s, and MPhil and PhD programs were launched subsequently. Given their background, TE departments had little occasion to provide a theoretical framework to sustain a research program, and needed to rely on its foundational disciplines. Within the objectives of TE, an eclectic and empirical model of research based on the behaviorist and positivist framework in psychology was best suited to its needs as well as its capacities, and became the preferred model for research even when this began to go beyond the confines of TE.

A review of a hundred PhD dissertations of the CIE (starting in 1958, when its first PhD was submitted) demonstrates the strong influence of psychology and its research paradigm on educational research. The dissertations span a period of almost three decades, from the 1950s to the 1980s, the time when the basic structures, practice, and broad contours of education were established.

This analysis reveals that 53 of the 100 dissertations are directly influenced by and draw from the subject matter of psychology. The topics of study range from intelligence, learning, and reasoning, to personality, levels of anxiety, attitudes, job satisfaction, ego strength, values, and so on. Standardized psychological questionnaires and tests are common “research tools,” and intelligence tests, personality tests, interest inventories, and a slew of other psychological “instruments” have been widely used. Construction of standardized tests is also a trend, including tests of psychological and social variables, and this extends to construction of tests for school subjects like mathematics, sciences, and the social sciences. The studies are predominantly empirical, with extensive use of quantitative research methodology and statistical analysis of the data. Standard texts for research in psychology that have been commonly used by educational psychology were recommended texts and continue to be used even today.16

A few of the studies described here reflect the general trend of research through these years and the influence of research paradigms in psychology. The Influence of Home Environment on School Children (Mehra, 1980) is a study of the effects of home environment on academic achievement, self-concept, social adjustment, and intelligence. The tools used for the study include a family attitude test, a sociometric test for social adjustment, the Goodenough drawing test for intelligence, and interviews based on the work of Sears et al. (1957) on child rearing. The analysis of the data uses the chi square technique to establish relationships.

Backwardness in Mathematics and Basic Arithmetic Skills (Gupta, 1971) is a correlational study and Development of Interests of Boys of Secondary Schools in Calcutta West Bengal in Reference to Four Different Streams VIZ Humanities, Sciences, Technology, and Commerce in Multilateral Schools (Bardhan, 1972), is a comparative study of interest levels of students of the four streams. Interests are measured using an adaptation of the Strong vocational interest blank and Kuder’s preference record. Data are analyzed using correlation techniques and t-tests.

Other research titles include:

Comparative study of Tribal and non-tribal intelligence (Sinha, 1964)

Experimental study of the effect of reciprocal inhibition therapy on anxiety in adolescents (Bhatia, 1977)

Study of achievement motivation in relation to intelligence, vocational interests, achievement, sex and socioeconomic status (Abrol, 1977)

Study of problems and personality profiles of truants in various types of schools in Delhi with a view to suggesting measures to check them (Sunder, 1979)

Identification of personality variables associated with creative writing in Hindi (Pathak, 1982)

A second set of studies come under the rubric of history of education. There are 10 such dissertations that cover both the colonial period and education after independence. These are primarily accounts that trace educational developments through a specific time span or a specific region, for example, “History and Survey of Education in Ratnagiri District” (Rege, 1961), “Educational Development in British India” (Shukla, 1958), “Policy in Madras Presidency 1800–1900” (Sargurudoss, 1961), and so on. The majority of these are simple linear narratives of educational developments of the period, with little or no attempt at a deeper historical analysis.

Six dissertations use the terminology of sociology, and although a few are in-depth studies with a critical or theoretical analysis, most are straightforward evaluative accounts, for evaluation of training programmes for social education workers in India the evaluation of environmental education in primary education in Bangladesh (Ehsan, 1985), with no attempt at historicizing the phenomenon or any in-depth theoretical or social analyses of larger contexts and structures within which the phenomena operate. The subject of the evaluations ranges from educational programs, innovations, or organizations (often NGOs) to curriculum, pedagogy, and use of instructional materials. Although these contribute useful data, they are more in the nature of reports rather than research studies.

In this span of almost four decades there is only one dissertation in philosophy, entitled Approaches to Educational Theory—A Philosophical Probe (Mathur, 1985).

This leaning toward empirical, ahistorical and atheoretical work is not specific to the CIE, and departments throughout the country follow a similar pattern. The department of Education, set up in 1938 at the Jamia Millia Islamia,17 another Central University situated in Delhi and reputed for its teacher education programs, was a celebrated outcome of the deliberations on Gandhi’s Nai Taleem, a revolutionary concept of education that sought to confront colonialism, caste, and class through education. Despite its radical and anti-colonial origins, it failed to develop its critical and social perspective after independence and moved toward the mainstream model that education adopted throughout the country.

In a survey of 35 dissertations submitted between 1974 and 2000, in the department of education of this university (Jamia Millia Islamia, 2008), 26 dissertations are studies of relationships between sets of variables of a psychological nature. A majority of these are correlational or comparative studies looking at differences between groups or quasi-experimental research using a variety of statistical techniques. Correlations, t-tests, and Chi square and other statistical techniques popular in psychological research at the time are common.

The following list of titles serves to illustrate the trend of research, orientation, and methodology:

Mental and socioeconomic levels of children as determinants of moral judgment (Kalra, 1978)

Variations in moral judgment in relation to caste, sex, and socioeconomic status (Soni, 1982)

Intellectual development in relationship with creativity, socioeconomic status, and achievement levels of science students (Kumar, 1987)

Differences in personality traits and socioeconomic status of sportswomen and non- sportswomen (Sandhu, 1988)

Psychological tests of personality, intelligence, anxiety, creativity, and so on, are extensively used in these studies, and the results are analyzed through standard statistical techniques, in the trend seen at the CIE. This department, however, offers a program in educational administration and management, and therefore includes dissertations pertaining to educational management, administration, and financing of education, with a clear influence of research in organizational psychology.

The behaviorist influence in educational research has been pervasive, and despite efforts to introduce theoretical frameworks with qualitative methods and social and critical perspectives, the majority of research conducted in education is rooted in this methodological framework. It can be understood in light of the history of the discipline and in its TE core that was focused much more seriously on its professional status and its applied aspects. Within this context, a “neutral” and “scientific” model seemed to address its concerns and allowed it to conduct what was seen as relevant research. For all the reasons that an experimental and strictly empirical model of research in psychology began to lose its luster, it has by and large failed to produce original, substantive, and useful research in education and has not been conducive to the cause of creating a critical, social perspective. In fact, as recently as 2016, Menon and Mathew (2016, pp. 161–162), in commenting on research at the MPhil and PhD level, observed that “this is not planned or implemented with any seriousness or reflection; whatever happens is sporadic and not by design.”


In an essay entitled “Education and the Genesis of Disciplinarity: The Unexpected Reversal,” Hoskin (1993) refers to the ambiguous status of education in discussing the evolution of the disciplines within the structures of modern universities. He makes the assertion: “Education is not a discipline. Today to even consider Education as a discipline is a discomfort and embarrassment. Education is a sub-discipline, a melting pot for other ‘real’ disciplines, best disregarded in serious academic company” (p. 271). Citing a major 1979 volume by Oleson and Voss on the emergence of disciplines, covering the period 1860–1920, he notes that it has neither index entry nor a chapter devoted to education. Although he goes on to make a different argument about the genesis of disciplines and how advances in education actually helped to define them, the paper reflects a crisis of identity that continues to afflict education as a discipline. This ambiguity about its identity is at the heart of the debates about the role of the foundation disciplines in education and has been addressed in different ways by educational systems around the world.

This article, in tracing the history of what are now well-established departments of education within the university system in India, is an attempt to identify some key factors and moments that have shaped educational studies, its strong identification with TE, and its varying interactions with the foundation disciplines. It attempts also to unravel the barriers that have gradually evolved to prevent an open and serious exchange with the social science disciplines and the conditions under which this gradual isolation took place. This history is important and captures the underlying tensions of transforming a practical, applied, and what was primarily conceived of as a professional field into a theoretical and academic discipline within the intellectual and scholarly milieu of the university. The long period of its transformation from a very rudimentary agenda of “teacher training” for primary schools, to a better thought-out and academically more grounded program of teacher education involved considerable effort and investment and finally led to the creation of departments of education. Although the agenda of ultimately working toward a more critical social sciences perspective was part of the vision for an emerging discipline, within the field itself TE took priority and became the sole focus of the departments.

After 1947, as the emphasis on providing mass education for unprecedented numbers gave added impetus and importance to the TE programs, the newly integrated departments chose to identify with TE and its professional status, to establish their position within the university. The debates, discussions, and recommendations among the educational community, both before and after the country’s independence from colonial rule, are testimony to the anxiety over introducing theory without making it relevant and applicable. Recurrent concerns about the status of the discipline, the credentials of those entering the teaching profession, and the nature and quality of the education being imparted are also apparent. This context was able to integrate most easily and comfortably with a behaviorist and positivist model of psychology that was directly applicable in schools and classrooms, and useful for teachers and students.

The role of the foundation disciplines in education has always been contested, but equally there are many examples where the disciplines have had considerable influence and have contributed substantively to teaching, research, and theory in education. In India, it has been a fraught relationship and has been determined by the concerns and the mediation of TE. Between the 1950s and the 1980s, when disciplinary inputs into education were at a peak in the Anglophone world, education in India was closing the possibility of any such exchange. This was a time when the study of school education did not carry much prestige, and few serious scholars from the social science disciplines were willing to engage with it. In these circumstances, education chose to rely on its professional and applied nature and was inevitably driven toward an individualistic, quasi-scientific, and empirical stance of psychology—the “science” of human behavior—to establish its academic credentials within the university. These choices determined a course that put severe limits on any meaningful engagement with the more critical and social aspects of the other foundational disciplines and the lens they provide for interrogating education and society.

Although education as a well-defined discipline is yet to emerge, a field of educational studies has been taking shape, occasionally out of efforts of the traditional departments themselves and increasingly in departments, universities, and centers that have emerged independent of the TE model. Either way, there is a recognition of the issues of school education as encompassing much more than schools, children, and teachers, and the need for inter-disciplinary collaboration. The task becomes more difficult in the current context of a worldwide shift toward a neoliberal agenda, an increasing tendency toward privatization of education, and demands for a business model, all of which are being endorsed by the Indian state. The added pressure of shrinking spaces for the social sciences within universities are cause for serious concern that has provoked debates and discussion about a need for the disciplines and for a critical perspective in education.18 A utilitarian agenda in the interests of a global capitalist economy is threatening the progressive and critical perspective that the social sciences espouse—a perspective that will be crucially needed if education is to fulfill its potential as an instrument for social change and the constitutional promise of social justice.


  • Abrol, D. N. (1977). Study of achievement motivation in relation to intelligence, vocational interests, achievement, sex and socioeconomic status. Unpublished Ph.D dissertation. University of Delhi
  • Bardhan, A. K. (1972). Development of interests of boys of secondary schools in Calcutta West Bengal in reference to four different streams viz humanities, sciences, technology, and commerce in multilateral schools [unpublished PhD dissertation]. University of Delhi.
  • Bhatia, T.R. (1977). Experimental study of the effect of reciprocal inhibition therapy on anxiety in adolescents. Unpublished Ph.D dissertation. University of Delhi
  • Central Advisory Board of Education. (1947). Post-war educational development in India—January 1944 (5th ed.). Indian Press.
  • Devi, R. S. (1968). Origins and development of teacher education in India. In S. N. Mukerji (Ed.), Education of teachers in India: Vol. I. S. Chand.
  • Education Commission. (1966). Report of Education Commission 1964–66: Education and national development. Government of India, Ministry of Education.
  • Ehsan, Abul. (1985). Evaluative study of the environmental education programme in primary schools in Bangladesh. Unpublished Ph.D dissertation. University of Delhi.
  • Furlong, J. (2013). Education—the anatomy of the discipline: Rescuing the University Project. Routledge.
  • Furlong, J., & Lawn, M. (Eds.). (2011). Disciplines of education: Their role in the future of educational research. Routledge.
  • Garret, H. E. (1961). Statistics in psychology and education. Vakils Pepper & Simons Private Lts.
  • George, S., & Rajaguru, S. (2016, March). Intelligence and achievement of tribal and non-tribal students in the Nilgiris District of Tamil Nadu, India. Indian Journal of Applied Research, 6(3).
  • Government of India. (1913). Indian Education Policy, 1913.
  • Government of India. (1919). Calcutta University Commission, 1917–19.
  • Government of India. (1949). Report of the University Education Commission (1948–1949). Ministry of Education.
  • Government of India. (1954). Report of the Secondary Education Commission (2nd ed.). Ministry of Education.
  • Government of India. (1883). Report of the Indian Education Commission.
  • Government of India. 1985. The Teacher and Society. Report of the National Commission on Teachers I. 1983-1985.
  • Government of India. (1992). National Policy on Education 1986 (with modifications undertaken in 1992). Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • Government of India. (2012). Report of the high-powered commission on teacher education constituted by The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India: Vision of teacher education of India, quality and regulatory perspective. Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Department of School Education and Literacy.
  • Gupta, R. C. (1971). Backwardness in mathematics and basic arithmetic skills [PhD dissertation]. Delhi University.
  • Hoskin, K. W. (1993). Education and the genesis of disciplinarity: The unexpected reversal. In E. Messer-Davidow, D. R. Shumway, & D. J. Sylvan (Eds.), Knowledges: Historical and critical studies in disciplinarity (pp. 271–304). University Press of Virginia.
  • Jamia Millia Islamia. (2008). A bibliography of theses submitted in Jamia 1974 to 2007. Compiled by H. J. Abidi, S. Azmi, & M. Asim. Dr. Zakir Husain Library.
  • Kalra, V. (1978). A Study of moral judgement in children belonging to different mental and socio-economic levels. Unpublished Dissertation. Jamia Millia Islamia. Delhi
  • Kumar, R. (1991). (Ed.). Selected works of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Vol. III. Atlantic.
  • Kumar, S. (1987). Relationship of intellectual development with creativity, achievement and socio-economic status of XI grade science students. Unpublished Dissertation. Jamia Millia Islamia. Delhi
  • Manicas, P. (1987). A history and philosophy of the social sciences. Basil Blackwell.
  • Mathur, J. (1985). Approaches to educational theory—a philosophical probe [PhD dissertation]. Delhi University.
  • McCulloch, G. (2001). The reinvention of teacher professionalism. In R. Phillips & J. Furlong (Eds.) Education, Reform and the State: Twenty five years of politics, policies and practice. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Mehra, M. (1980). The influence of home environment on school children. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Delhi University.
  • Mehrotra, R. N. (2019). An optimist’s journey in teacher education. Indian Association of Teacher Educators.
  • Menon, S., & Mathew, R. (2016). Teacher education in universities: A case from India. In B. Moon (Ed.), Do universities have a role in the training and education of teachers? An international analysis of policy and practice (pp. 149–168). Cambridge University Press.
  • Minium, E. W. (1978). Statistical reasoning in psychology and education. Wiley & Sons.
  • Mukerji, S. N. (Ed.). (1968). Education of teachers in India: Vol. I. S. Chand.
  • Nambissan, G. B., & Rao, S. S. (Eds.). (2013). Sociology of education in India: Changing contours and emerging concerns. Oxford University Press.
  • Nurulah, S., & Naik, J. P. (1962). A student’s history of education in India (1800–1973). Macmillan, India.
  • National Council for Educational Research and Training. (1978). Teacher education curriculum: A framework.
  • National Council for Educational Research and Training. (1988). National curriculum for teacher education: A framework.
  • National Council for Teacher Education. (1998). Curriculum framework for quality teacher education.
  • Pathak, U. (1982). Identification of personality variables associated with creative writing in Hindi. Unpublished Ph.D dissertation. University of Delhi
  • Rege, M.S. (1961). History and survey of education in the Ratnagiri district. Unpublished Ph.D dissertation. University of Delhi
  • Sandhu, K. (1988). A comparative study of sportswomen and non-sportswomen in selected psychological and sociological variables. Unpublished Dissertation. Jamia Millia Islamia. Delhi
  • Sargurudoss, M. (1961). Educational policy in the Madras presidency (1800-1900 AD). Unpublished Ph.D dissertation. University of Delhi.
  • Sears, R. R., Maccoby, E. E., & Levin, H. (1957). Patterns of child rearing. Row, Peterson & Co.
  • Shukla S.C. (1958). Educational development in British India (1854-1904). Unpublished Ph.D dissertation. University of Delhi.
  • Sinha, R.R. (1964). Comparative study of tribal and non-tribal intelligence. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Delhi University.
  • Soni, J. C. (1982). A studyd of moral judgement in schoolgoing children of rural area of Delhi belonging to different castes and sexes. Unpublished Dissertation. Jamia Millia Islamia. Delhi
  • Sunder, S. (1979). Study of problems and personality profiles of truants in various types of schools in Delhi. Unpublished Ph.D dissertation. University of Delhi
  • University of Delhi. (2017). Catalogue of theses submitted to the Central Institute of Education, Library of the Central Institute of Education.
  • Velasakar, P. (2010). Quality and inequality in Indian education: Some critical policy concerns. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 7(1), 58–93.


  • 1. Teacher training was initially meant for primary school teachers, who were identified from among promising students and given special attention under a master while following their regular school education. The training was later shifted to a more formal institutional setting, and these were designated as “normal” schools, the term having originated in France from the ecole normale, or a “model” school where training of teachers was the primary focus.

  • 2. See Hoskin (1993). He suggests that education in the early 19th century could have claimed a different status by taking on the mantle of great figures like Durkheim and Dewey, but chose instead to accept a sub-disciplinary status and lost its disciplinary voice.

  • 3. Bitter debates on what education can and should include, how a social science perspective is to be integrated, and which theoretical perspectives are appropriate have been ever present, sometimes very openly and at other times more subtly within the education community; and other than the fact that it encompasses all issues related to education, there is little consensus on any other aspect, and its identity remains diffuse.

  • 4. This article must not to be seen as a critique of teacher education. It does, however, assert that the concerns of TE and education, although overlapping, are not identical and that interlinking the two so closely has not served either of them well.

  • 5. Thus a 1-year teacher training course in Nagpur in 1892 introduced courses on the “History and Principles of Education” and “School Method” as well as one on “Organization and Discipline.” Bombay introduced two new courses—one in the history of education and general methods; and another one called “Special Methods, School Organization and Hygiene.” Physical training, art, and technical subjects were introduced along with “Methods of Teaching and Knowing the Child,” and domestic economy and needlework were introduced for women teachers. In Ahmedabad, a course for the higher certificate (presumably secondary schools) in addition to school subjects also included “Music and Singing,” “Arts and Crafts,” “Blackboard Drawing and Class Teaching,” and “History of Education,” “Theory of Educatio,” and “Organization and Methods of Education” (see Devi, 1968).

  • 6. This was a scheme of education proposed by M. K. Gandhi, a leader of India’s struggle for independence, and elaborated by Dr. Zakir Husain, an educationist and one of the architects of the University of Jamia Millia Islamia, which advocated manual work and craft as an integral part of schooling and learning. Passed at a national conference of education at Wardha in 1937, under Gandhi’s leadership, the scheme was aimed at creating a more holistic system of education that would enable schools to become self-sufficient and thus independent of the colonial power, and at the same time revolutionize the social order.

  • 7. See Velaskar (2010) for a more detailed discussion on this shift and the ensuing implications for education.

  • 8. The author of this article is deeply indebted to Prof. Mehrotra, who graciously received her at home, talked to her at length, and also provided her with several documents and the draft notes of a memoir that he was in the process of compiling in 2018. The bulk of the information in CIE comes from him. I also interacted with Prof. Nargis Panchpakesan, Professor Najma Siddiqui, Prof. Shyam Menon, Dr. Jayshree Mathur, and Prof. Namita Ranganathan, all of whom have taught at the CIE and been closely associated with the institute and its history. Professor Mehrotra’s memoir was finally published in 2019, and he passed away in the same year.

  • 9. “These Fifty Years of CIE,” is the title of a talk that Prof. R. N. Mehrotra delivered at the CIE, and forms part of his autobiographical memoir (Mehrota, 2019).

  • 10. The Planning Commission was set up by the Government of India in 1950, when a model of centralized planning was adopted. It was responsible for formulating the 5-year plans that were to assess and utilize economic and human resources in all sectors, including education, at a national level.

  • 11. “Methodology teachers” was the term used for faculty who were appointed as experts in school subjects. They were expected to strengthen the pupil teachers’ knowledge of school subjects, as well as to train students in pedagogic skills needed for teaching the subject.

  • 12. This passage is part of a talk that Prof. Mehrotra delivered at the CIE, for which he gave the author of this article a transcript.

  • 13. The Justice Verma Commission, which reviewed teacher education and made several recommendations for restructuring the field.

  • 14. A “paper” is usually a 3 credit course taught over one semester.

  • 15. See the report by the high-powered Commission on Teacher Education, chaired by Justice Verma, also referred to as the Verma Committee Report. In a comprehensive critique of the TE programs, it refers to how current programs fail on account of their lack of engagement with “knowledge about the socio-cultural context and philosophical basis of education and learning” (p. 14).

  • 16. Textbooks that combined research methodology and statistics for psychology and education were standard reference material in departments of education (see, e.g., Minium, 1978), and although qualitative methodologies have very slowly found their way into the syllabi, these texts are very much in use in educational research, even today.

  • 17. The department here was established within the framework of the deliberations on Gandhi’s “Nai Taleem,” a revolutionary concept of education that sought to confront colonialism, caste, and class through education. The history of this institution could have veered off on a different track, but although it started off on a very different course and had the potential to develop a different model of education, it finally succumbed to the mainstream.

  • 18. See Nambissan and Rao (2013) for a discussion of the changing scenario of education in India. Furlong and Lawn (2011) and Furlong (2013) discuss the issue in the contemporary context, with important insights into the international and global changes and pressures on universities and education.