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Article

Nandini Manjrekar and Indumathi Sundararaman

Policy discourses on education in all countries are historically shaped by a range of regional, national, and global factors and dynamics. In the Indian context, ideological and structural contexts have influenced the policy visions and practices of gender and schooling, particularly in relation to the education of girls. Mapping historical shifts over the colonial and post-colonial periods up to the present, the early 21st century, reveals the intersections of ideologies and structures associated with both gender as a social category and education as a state project. Such a discursive cartography reveals certain key moments that point to how these intersections have impacted practices and processes within school education. From the early 2000s, the intensification of neoliberal economic reforms has been marked by an ideological shift that sees education as a private good and the operation of discourses of school choice. The ascendance of majoritarian nationalism and its presence in state power has also seen an undermining of the gains in women’s education. At the same time, India passed a historic legislation, the Right to Education Act (2009), making education a fundamental right of all children. These somewhat contradictory and competing discourses and practices have had critical implications for the education of children of marginalized communities like the lower and former untouchable castes (Dalits), marginalized ethnicities like the Indigenous communities (Adivasis), and a marginalized religious minority community (Muslims). Within an intersectional perspective, it emerges that girls belonging to these communities face the greatest challenges in accessing and participating fully in schooling, even as recent policy initiatives are silent on many of the critical issues relating to promoting gender equality within the education system as a whole.

Article

Rupanjali Karthik and George W. Noblit

India is a linguistically diverse country and supports this with its Language Policy based on the “Three Language Formula” (every child is taught three languages in school). However, its implementation has exhibited monolingual bias as multiple languages are offered as subjects of study and not as media of instruction. The medium of instruction in the majority of government schools is the concerned state’s regional language. Due to a rise in the demand for English medium instruction, governments in various states have started introducing all English medium instruction in schools. It is unfortunate that in a multilingual nation, a monolingual mind-set has dominated the language-in-education policies and effective pedagogical reforms have largely remained side-lined in such policy debates. There is no denial of the importance of learning English for the children in government schools in India. However, the success of any language-in-education policy in India will depend on a flexible multilingual approach that recognizes the languages existing in the ecology of children (which will vary from state to state as media of instruction), acknowledges the importance of learning the English language, and ushers in effective pedagogical reforms.

Article

The challenge of providing education that is inclusive and seen as equitable for all children is one that has exercised policy makers and education professionals in most countries throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries. International agreements such as UNESCO’s 1990 Jomtien Declaration and 1994 Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education were instrumental in promoting debate about the rights of children who were denied access to an appropriate schooling and who, in some instances, had no opportunity to obtain any formal education. The Education for All Goals, which were used to prioritize the development of universal primary education, and more recently the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Education Goals, which reiterated a commitment to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (Goal 4), have increased the focus upon developing inclusive education. This has encouraged governments around the world to re-examine the ways in which they provide schooling for their children and young people. With such a plethora of initiatives, agreements, and advice, it is only to be expected that most national administrations have felt it necessary to respond and to demonstrate that they are taking action towards improving educational opportunities for all. However, the relationship between policy and practice is complex; and in some instances, the development of legislation has failed to provide increased equity in the manner that was intended. This article considers two distinctly different routes towards achieving inclusive education and discusses those factors that have either supported or inhibited success. In drawing upon examples from current developments in India, it additionally proposes that researchers who conduct investigations in international contexts should invest time in understanding underlying policy and cultural and historical factors that may impact upon the ways in which we interpret meaning from data.

Article

Children with disabilities have a variety of needs that require the expertise of several individuals. Multidisciplinary teams include professionals such as teachers, psychologists, social workers, physiotherapists, and resource teachers, who provide support services that help children with disabilities in inclusive educational environments. These teams often include social workers, but in India the role of the social worker is often overlooked and social workers have to struggle to prove their value. Historically, very few social worker education programs have offered specializations or training in inclusive education, and most social workers who worked with children with disabilities in inclusive settings learn the requisite knowledge, attitudes, and skills on the job. Many used the traditional model of social work rehabilitation, which focuses on the individual without relating to social and environmental contexts. The Center for Disability Studies and Action at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India, designed a full-time master’s program in Social Work in Disability Studies and Action, which trains social work professionals to work holistically with people with disabilities, including children with disabilities in inclusive educational settings. The master’s program combines the professional skills and knowledge components for social workers with the core values of inclusive education.

Article

Decolonization is a historic process that picked up momentum in the second half of the 20th century, whereby several countries of the Global South in Asia, Africa, and Latin America successively gained independence from European colonial rule and became sovereign modern nation-states. However, territorial independence from an external ruling power alone could not bring an end to all the social, political, and economic problems ushered in by hundreds of years of imperialism. This fact was realized long before independence from colonial rule by Rabindranath Tagore within the context of British colonial India. Hence, even before territorial and political decolonization, Tagore sought to decolonize the minds of people through education reform by first setting up his own school in 1901 and then establishing Visva-Bharati University in 1921. In fact, Tagore, who is the author of the national anthems of two independent modern South Asian nation-states, never saw independent India. He died in 1941 as a British colonial subject, six years before the independence of India from colonial rule in 1947. While many indigenous intellectuals of his era adopted violent and nonviolent methods to fight against British imperialism, Tagore devoted much of his adult life to the pursuit of freedom through pedagogic reforms. Tagore’s philosophy and practice of pedagogic reform sought to “decolonize education” in British colonial India. Tagore’s own writings on education beginning in 1892 reveal that his philosophy and practice to “decolonize education” was based on the memory and critical reflections on his own experiences as a student in mainstream schools during the British colonial era in India. Tagore’s philosophy of education, institutionalized through his decolonizing pedagogic reform work in his school and university at Bolepur, Shantiniketan, were concrete responses of a highly creative and critical-thinking indigenous intellectual to the problems of the mainstream education system during his time. Hence, studying Tagore’s perspective on “decolonizing education” can provide us with a deeper understanding of the educational problems posed by British imperialism in India, as well as the evolution of these problems in the colonial metropole, which became global in nature through the process of colonialism, as has been argued by a number of academics, including modern British historian Michael Collins and postcolonial Indian academic Sanjukta Dasgupta.

Article

The entry and prominence of international institutions in education have been striking features of policy development in the last few decades. A particular area of interest is India’s education system since independence, particularly in the context of the recent policy ideas steered by international actors. Once a strong marker of the British colonial legacy, formal education in India acquired different meanings post independence. The significance of education has been understood as an essential part of social transformation, a resource for mobility, and an instrument of empowerment. As the inherited system was domesticated, the following challenges emerged: equitable access, relevance of formal learning, and a fashioning of Indian national identity. Through a network of institutions, the enterprise of postcolonial public education was shaped in the mid-20th century and was deeply entrenched in the politics of class, caste, and gender. Mass education and schemes to enable access on the one hand, and the development of highly selective, technology-focused institutions on the other, became the route through which an extremely uneven landscape of education was established. A weakened public education system, growing private institutions, and the overall economic turn toward liberalization marked the Indian educational politics of the 1990s. Diverse international institutions, multilateral institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and national governments came together during the World Education Conference of 1990 in Jomtien, Thailand. For the developing world the policy process became globalized after the conference, and it expanded to include multiple actors and partnerships. Thriving since then, globalized education policy has become a space of solutions and authority. Given these changes at large, it is important to understand the politics of policy production, actual policy ideas, and how they acquire legitimacy.

Article

International agreements that aim to achieve universal primary education for all children, regardless of need or ability, have ensured that governments around the world have considered policy development to support greater equity in education. Many of the world’s more economically advantaged countries have made significant progress to ensure that all children have opportunities to attend school. Progress has also been evident in countries which are less advantaged, though often this has been inhibited because of a lack of resources and expertise. The relationship between policy, provision, and practice in education is complex, and in responding to international agreements, governments have needed to take account of their own cultural and socio-economic circumstances. While many administrations have adopted models developed in other countries, the need to take account of existing practices and to build upon local expertise is apparent.

Article

Since the late 1960s and early 1970s, there has been a great deal of criticism of the colonial heritage of early ethnographic research. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, scholars have also raised concerns also about the colonial heritage of comparative education. Erwin Epstein defined comparative education as “the application of the intellectual tools of history and social sciences to understand international issues of education.” Hence it is important for comparative education as a global field of study to engage with the recent debates in social sciences to generate deeper understanding about educational problems embedded within specific international contexts. The dominance of Northern theory in analyzing research data from the Global South has been increasingly critiqued by scholars in a number of scholarly publications since Raewyn Connell published her book Southern Theory in 2008. They have argued that Northern theory arising out of the colonial metropole is provincial in nature and, therefore, provides incomplete interpretation of data and generates misunderstanding or limited understanding of social phenomenon occurring in the hybrid contexts of the Global South. Therefore, lately scholars have been debating about postcolonial comparative education to argue for the relevance of Southern theory in conducting postcolonial comparative education research for both analytic (ideological), as well as hermeneutic (affective historical) engagement with research data. Drawing on the methodological insights from an empirical case study, this article demonstrates why Southern theory drawing on Tagore’s philosophy of education was found more suitable to analyze research data arising out of a case study designed to conduct an institutional ethnography in a particular international context. It demonstrates how contextually relevant Southern theory helped to provide deeper comparative understanding (verstehen) of a social phenomenon, i.e. inclusive pedagogic work of an old colonial school within a particular historical, geopolitical and cultural context in postcolonial India.

Article

Case study researchers have traditionally focused on micro-level analysis of a “bounded” case, yet this approach has come under methodological scrutiny in a world where phenomena are rarely isolated from globalization’s expansive reach. Social science and policy-oriented research in particular are nearly always subject to local and global histories as well as socio-cultural, political, and economic trends. Furthermore, the experience of individuals, organizations, and institutions are often tangled in interconnected webs of influence, such that a case study that does not trace these underlying relationships is likely to be analyzing only the tip of a phenomenological iceberg. Hence critical scholars call for the need to repurpose traditional case study research methods to embrace shifting contextual factors that surround a research project at multiple levels. Comparative case study methods answer this call by making socio-cultural and political analysis an explicit part of the research process. They expand the researcher’s methodological lens by advancing the analysis of processes across three axes: the horizontal (through distinct research sites), the vertical (through scales; e.g., local vs national) and the transversal (over time; e.g., historically). The methodology is particularly useful for social science research and policy studies, where complex interactions between actors and institutions are tied to socio-cultural, political, and economic contexts. Teacher education research is an area where comparative case studies can potentially contribute to policy formulation. Using the example of case study research on teacher education in India, the comparative case study methodology is shown to be an effective research tool. Through insights into the socio-cultural and political context surrounding pedagogical reform, case study research can generate corrective measures to improve policy effectiveness.

Article

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.

Article

Jayanthi Narayan and Nibedita Patnaik

Education is a fundamental right of all children, including those with special educational needs. Efforts to achieve education for all has resulted in the focused attention of governments around the world, thereby improving the quality of education in schools and leading to dignified social status for students previously marginalized and/or denied admission to schools. This worldwide movement following various international conventions and mandates has resulted in local efforts to reach rural remote areas, with education provided by the government in most countries. Though there has been significant progress in reaching children, it has not been uniform. There are still many barriers for children in rural and tribal areas or in remote parts of the country that prevent them from receiving equitable education. The essence of inclusive education is to build the capacity to reach out to all children, thereby promoting equity. In the 1990s, special needs education was a focus, and integrating it into the overall educational system led to reforms in mainstream schools which resulted in inclusive education that addressed the diverse learning needs of children. How successful have we been in these efforts particularly in the remote and rural areas? There are various models and practices for special and inclusive education in rural and remote areas, but reaching children with special educational needs in such areas is still a challenge. Though there are schools in these areas, not all are sufficiently equipped to address the education of children with special needs. Furthermore, teachers working in rural areas in many countries are not adequately trained to teach those with special needs, nor are there the technological support systems that we find available in urban areas. Yet, interestingly, in some rural/tribal communities, the teachers are naturally at ease with children with diverse needs. The schools in such areas tend to have heterogeneous classes with one teacher providing instruction to combined groups at different grade levels. Evidence shows that rural teachers are less resistant to including children with special needs compared to urban teachers. Because of their homogeneous lifestyle, community supports in rural areas offer another supportive factor toward smooth inclusion. Though primary education is ensured in most rural and remote areas, children have to travel long distances to semi-urban/urban areas for secondary and higher education; such travel is further complicated when the child has a disability. In many rural areas, children with special needs tend to learn the traditional job skills naturally associated with that area, though such skills are not always blended into the school curriculum. Preparing teachers to provide education in rural areas with the latest technological developments and a focus on vocation is bound to make that education more meaningful and naturally inclusive.

Article

Three significant reforms were established at the turn of the century in India: the National Curriculum Framework of 2005, the National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education of 2009, and the Right to Education Act of 2009. All three reforms reflect a contradiction between the rights of citizens and the regulatory biopolitical inertia of the state. Indian State has undergone cyclical shifts in its orientation. In certain phases, rights became the fulcrum to guide policy and legal framework, and in other phases, the regulatory impulse of the state was at the center. The neoliberal turn of the 1990s marked a sharp shift in which the state left behind its welfare outlook and adopted a more regulatory structure. The rights-based agenda of the three reforms needs to be understood against the backdrop of the changing nature of the state. The three reforms stand apart from those instituted before and after, in that they were informed by a critique of the rights-based framework even while working within it. The three reforms and their social context provide an example of the tension between rights and biopolitics; the reforms emerged as a response to this tension. While proposing rights-based reforms in school education, the intent was much more ambitious, going beyond the immediate domain of education. Occurring in the middle of a neoliberal, market-driven discourse, these reforms critiqued the 21st-century state and pushed it to serve the role of a provider and not just a regulator.

Article

Farida Abdulla Khan and Charu Gupta

Initial efforts toward reform in mathematics education in India evolved out of a more general concern for educational reforms as they assumed a pivotal role in the agenda of modernization and development after independence. Mathematics as a foundational aspect of science and technology assumed a privileged status with recommendations to keep up with developments in technologically advanced countries. This led to the creation of an unduly loaded curriculum with little attention to children’s cognitive and developmental capacities and other more social and humane aspects of a well-rounded education. The early decades after independence were largely focused on providing access, and other than the rhetoric of equality and quality and overarching recommendations, little investment was made into researching the more nuanced aspects of learning and teaching and the social implications of schooling. Several important national commissions and two major policies put forward important recommendations for reform in mathematics education with suggestions for both curriculum and pedagogy. The early decades after independence saw a greater commitment to higher education, especially in the sciences and technology, and this began to shape the school curriculum, with mathematics as a major concern. Although critiques of the system were never totally absent, efforts at intervention in schools and at the ground level were initially made by smaller groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOS), and then also nationally and regionally, to transform processes of schooling and learning with a focus on the learner rather than the content alone. A particularly large and comprehensive national effort at reforming school education in all subject areas was the National Curricular Framework, coordinated and initiated by the National Council of Educational Research and Training in 2005. This was a radical attempt at framing an alternative idea of schooling and learning, focused on the child, but with an acute awareness of the larger social, economic, and political structures within which schools, classrooms, teachers, and students are implicated.