Reading Educational Policies: Contexts and Practices (REP)

Home/ Reading Educational Policies: Contexts and Practices (REP)
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSES2012094

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon Semester 2018

Course Coordinator and Team:

MA Education: Manish Jain (C)

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives:

Unlike other courses on education policies that focus on resource allocation, specific plans, key policy recommendations or education planning, this course ‘Reading Educational Policies: Contexts and Practices’ draws upon literature and concepts drawn from Political Science and Sociology of Education to understand and examine the nature, formation and enactment of educational policies. For this purpose it engages with the contradictory classed, casted and gendered character of the State and its educational policies and asks what are the questions, social categories, resources and meanings from the discourses and practices of wider society that are drawn in the policies/programmes? How do these policies shape social categories and simultaneously position different social groups and individuals within these categories? It attempts to understand and examine educational policies (as texts, discourses, practices and outcomes) with reference to their historical, political and normative contexts, social power relations, mediation through different institutional structures and theoretical frames that guide perception of ‘problem(s)’ and suggest ‘solution(s)’ to them. The course aims at developing capacities and skills among students to situate a policy text or proposal by paying attention to its contexts, processes, institutions, outcomes and effects (both material and symbolic).

To develop these capacities, students will be introduced to different theoretical approaches and methods to frame and analyse educational policies. Though the course will draw upon literature, research and cases from different countries, yet it will focus on the specific nature, challenges, issues and debates of educational policy formation in India. Such a focus would entail discussion on key policies emerging trends and discourses, politics of ‘reforms’ and restructuring, relationship and interaction among state, international actors, civil society and market, and issues of access, quality and inequality. The course would also examine the knowledge/power relationships among educational policy formation, research and funding. Each unit would use a case study or contemporary debate from India or elsewhere to foreground the key questions to be discussed in that unit.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. Explain different theoretical perspectives on education policy;
  2. Show awareness of key policies, issues and debates in education around privatisation, quality, efficiency and accountability in contemporary India;
  3. Examine education policies and discourses;
  4. Identify different actors and their role in formation and implementation of education policies;
  5. Analyse role of evidence, research, interest-advocacy groups, policy transfers, social power relations and normative frameworks in opening ‘policy window’ and policy formulation.


Brief description of modules:

The course is organised in four units.

Unit 1: What is an Educational Policy: Multiple Meanings

This unit begins with the question what is an educational policy. It discusses different models and understandings of policy such as rationalist and developmentalist, policy as text, as process, action and as policy cycle. It also differentiates between different types of policies: material/symbolic, incremental/rational, distributive/redistributive etc. We look at a series of policy issues and questions for policy analysis. To understand what kinds of questions may be asked by one specific model/perspective and not other, feminist perspective is taken as a case in point in this unit.

Unit 2: Who makes Educational Policy: Actors and Contexts

Who are the different actors that participate in the framing and practice of a policy? This question of ‘who’ frames, participates and influences in policy formulation and implementation would involve understanding the actors: state, civil society, market/private, and international agencies such as World Bank and external funding agencies. We would attempt to understand meanings of these actors both conceptually and historically from different theoretical frames. To examine the changing expectations, roles and relationships of these actors, we would look at some key policy texts, initiatives and proposals made by them and situate them in historical, political, social and ideological contexts. This contextualization may help us develop better understanding of the specificity of a state and ability/interventions of different inter/national actors in influencing it at distinct historical junctures.

Unit 3: Policy Processes

This unit aims at understanding different theories and models of policy formulation and uses these in understanding policy and its different stages. We begin with the question, what gets conceptualised as ‘problem’ (and from whose perspective) that requires a policy response to ‘solve’ it. How this problem identification sets an agenda that may or may not be taken up by the ‘political stream’ to frame policy. What role do evidence, research, interest-advocacy groups, policy transfers, social power relations and normative frameworks play in opening ‘policy window’ and policy formulation? What is the understanding of state, market and other social forces in this policy proposal? Who is heard and who remains voiceless in the formulation of policy problem? These questions will be taken up through case studies and debates on low-fee schools, school choice and teacher’s work.

Unit 4: Policy Implementation and Translation

This unit would focus its attention on the questions of translation and mediation of education policies and programs on the ground. If one set of studies on ‘implementation’ concentrate on proper ‘planning’ for implementation to avoid dilution of policy efficiency and wastage of resources and efforts, other studies focus on local institutions and actors who bring in new ideas and practices and in this process ‘translate’ and mediate the policies. Is this mediation and translation unbridled? Where and in what power to translate or constrain its scope lies? How is expert-subject relationship exercised or challenged and transformed in operationalizing the policy? What are the expected and unintended effects of this policy implementation and what do they tell us about the policy, the field/object of its gaze, the context and its complexity and the reconfiguration of power, state and other actors? These questions will be discussed with reference to case study as well. Students may be asked to look at the experience and practice of NCF 2005 and CCE as an example.

Assessment Details with weights:

  1. Assignment on Unit 2: 20 %
  2. Analysis of a policy document or a comparison of two policy documents: 30 %
  3. 2 individual and 1 group presentation on readings: 20 %
  4. Group assignment on a policy debate based on student’s choice: 30 %


Reading List:

Essential Readings for Unit 1:

  1. Bell, Les and Stevenson, Howard (2006). What is Education Policy? In Education Policy: Process, Themes and Impact, New York: Routledge, pp. 7-24.
  2. Rizvi, Fazal and Lingard, Bob (2010). Conceptions of Education Policy and Gloablizing Education Policy Analysis. In Globalizing Education Policy, New York: Routledge, pp: 44-70.
  3. Priyam, Manisha (2011). Aligning Opportunities and Interests: The Politics of Educational Reform in the Indian States of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. PhD thesis submitted to the Department of International Development of the London School of Economics and Political Science, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, London, pp: 43-48, 63-66.
  4. Lister, Ruth (2000). Gender and the Analysis of Social Policy. In Gail Lewis, Sharon Gewirtz and John Clarke (Eds.) Rethinking Social Policy. London: The Open University and Sage, pp: 22-36.


Essential Readings for Unit 2:

  1. Torres, C.A. (1995). ‘State and Education Revisited: Why Educational Researchers Should Think Politically about Education?’, Review of Research in Education, No. 21, pp: 255-331.
  2. Roger Dale (1999). Specifying Globalization Effects on National Policy: A Focus on the Mechanisms, Journal of Education Policy, 14:1, pp: 1-17.
  3. Bottery, Mile (2000). Education and the Discourse of Civil Society. In Education, Policy and Ethics. New York: Continuum, pp: 195-213.
  4. Klees, Steven J. (2012). World Bank and Education: Ideological Premises and Ideological Conclusion
  5. Subramanian Vidya K. (2018). From Government to Governance: Teach for India and New Networks of Reform in School Education. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 15(1): 21–50.


Essential Readings for Unit 3:

  1. Edelman, Murray (1988). The Construction and Uses of Social Problems. In Constructing the Political Spectacle. Chicage: University of Chicago Press, pp: 12-36.
  2. Tooley, James (2007). Could For-Profit Private Education Benefit the Poor? Some A Priori Consideratons Arising from Case Study Research in India. Journal of Education Policy, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp: 321-342.
  3. Ball, Stephen J. (1993). Education Markets, Choice and Social Class: The Market as a Class Strategy in the UK and the USA. British Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp: 3-19.
  4. Forsey, Martin, Davies, Scott and Walford, Geoffrey (2008). The Globalisation of School Choice? An Introduction to Key Issues and Concerns. In Martin Forsey, Scott Davies and Geoffrey Walford (Eds.). The Globalisation of School Choice? Oxford: Symposium Books, pp: 9- 25.
  5. Srivastava, Prachi (2008). School Choice in India: Disadvantaged Groups and Low-Fee Private Schools. In Martin Forsey, Scott Davies and Geoffrey Walford (Eds.). The Globalisation of School Choice? Oxford: Symposium Books, pp: 185-208.
  6. Jain, Pankaj S and Dholakia, H Ravindra (2009): “Fea­sibility of Implementation of Right to Education Act”, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 44, No 25, 20 June, pp 38-43.
  7. Jain, Manish and S. Saxena (2010): “Politics of Low Cost Schooling and Low Teacher Salary”, Economic and Political Weekly, 45 (18): 79-80.
  8. Ozga, Jenny (2000). Education: New Labour, New Teachers. In John Clarke, Sharon Gewirtz and Eugene McLaughlin (Eds.) New Managerialism, New Welfare?, London: The Open University and Sage, pp: 222-235.


Essential Readings for Unit 4:

  1. Dyer, Caroline (1999). Researching the Implementation of Educational Policy: A Backward Mapping Approach. Comparative Education, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 45-61.
  2. Wilson, Fiona (2001). In the Name of the State? Schools and Teachers in an Andean Province. In Thomas Blom Hansen and Finn Stepputat (Ed.) States of Imagination: Ethnographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State. London: Duke University Press, pp: 313-344.
  3. Priyam, Manisha (2011). Aligning Opportunities and Interests: The Politics of Educational Reform in the Indian States of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. PhD thesis submitted to the Department of International Development of the London School of Economics and Political Science, for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, London, pp: 257-273.
  4. Mukhopadhyay, Rahul and Sriprakash, Arathi (2010). Global Frameworks, Local Contingencies: Policy Translations and Education Development in India. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, pp: 311-326.
  5. Sharma, Shubhra (2011). “Empowerment was Never Conceptualized as Entitlement”: Problems in Operationalizimg a “feminist” Program. In “Neoliberalism” as Betrayal: State, Feminism, and a Women’s Education Program in India. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp: 147-181.