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Gender and School Reform in India  

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

Shaping Sustainable Inclusion Policy Through Practice  

Richard Rose

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

Historical Developments, Influences of International Actors, and Education Reforms in India  

Shivali Tukdeo

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.