State, Society and Education

Home/ State, Society and Education
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSES2011044

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon Semester

Course Coordinator and Team: Manasi Thapliyal, Nivedita Sarkar and Rajshree Chanchal

Email of course coordinator:,,

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives:

The core objective of this course is to engage with assumptions upon which education as an institution is founded, and ask some foundational questions about the relationship between education, society and politics. We try to understand the overarching presence of the State in predicating the nature of the institution as well as the social relations and political imperatives shaping the institutions of education. We address the questions of:

  • How does formal education become central to the project of modernity, development and democracy, particularly so in the Indian context?
  • How does “ideology” implicate the question of knowledge and education?
  • What political and social factors influence the visions and functioning of educational institutions?
  • How does inequality at the political, social, and at the level of economy, affect the educational experience? And,
  • In what ways do schools help to maintain social-political asymmetries?

These are the questions that students will engage with in this first semester core course and it is hoped that having done that they would be able to engage meaningfully and critically with the discourse around educational practice in India.

Course Outcomes:

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

  1. Explain the concept of State from classical liberal, liberal, and neo-liberal perspective;
  2. Demonstrate a knowledge of key issues and debates around state’s role in provision of education;
  3. Identify key theorists and arguments in the discourse of inequality and exclusion in educational context;
  4. Put educational policy texts and institutional practices into dialogue with contemporary socio-political context in a reflective way;
  5. Analyze concepts and organize arguments in a persuasive way using both written and oral skills;
  6. Demonstrate an awareness of critical skills required to read a range of texts; and
  7. Apply research skills to source materials for class presentations and assessment tasks.


Brief description of modules:

The course is organised in four units.

Unit 1: Modern State and School as an Institution (3 weeks)

The purpose of the unit is to explicate how education is tied closely to the social-political project of the State. This will be addressed by exploring how the idea of education takes root in the imagination of a liberal welfare state, entwined with the ideas of rights, citizenship, equality, social opportunity, meeting the ‘manpower’ requirements, as a well as emergence of the idea of a secular school. We will try to look closely at the industrial revolution context of institutionalisation of education and in particular mass schooling in the West, its rationale, its forms in the imperial setting as well as in the sites of colonial domination (like India) [1]. We begin to explore thus the question of “What purposes have the school served?” in varied contexts as well as in its contemporary form.

Unit 2: Knowledge, Ideology and Education (4 weeks)

The focus of this unit is broadly upon how ideology implicates educational practice. We engage with the ways in which it shapes our worldview, on how consensus gets created at a given point of time around seminal questions like what knowledge is of worth or what is worth teaching, to other ‘mundane’ queries about the institutional practices such as streaming, labeling of students, examinations, achievement tests, talent examinations and therein the construct of intelligence used in everyday discourse in schools. How does this lead to schools becoming complicit and the extent to which they become instrumental in the reproduction of social inequalities, is a question that will be inquired into. We also begin to reflect, in this context, on the different socio-political contingencies that have shaped the contours of the education system in India.

Unit 3: Education, Inequality and Exclusion: (3 weeks)

This module will engage with the social context of education in India. We engage with the social structures and inequality: its forms, basis and critically examine how issues of access and equity within the education policy discourse are implicated by structures of inequality such as caste, class, gender, religion and ethnicity, across the rural and urban contexts. This will enable conceptualization of overlapping axes of social exclusion engendered through education in Indian context.

We will take up some of the major debates in the Indian context (over affirmative action, meritocracy and reservations in educational institutions; the common school system debate, expansion of private schooling, EWS reservation in context of RTE) to make visible the contested terrain of education in India.

Unit 4: Education and the Political Economy (3 weeks)

We examine here questions of education finance and privatisation—provision, choices, state’s financial commitment to the social sector of education. We see how the dynamics of public funding is linked to the idea of public good. How do notions of ‘quality’, ‘efficiency’, and universal access, for instance, hold through together with concerns of secular, just and democratic education? How do these get impacted in the context of globalisation and ascendancy of a neoliberal State? We explore this aspect by engaging with specific reform initiatives like, DPEP, SSA; debates over state control over education, role of international agencies like, UNICEF, OECD, World Bank etc. in the reform initiatives.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Assignment 1: Submission of 2 Memos on assigned readings for Unit 1 20 % ( First Submission: 30th August; Second Submission: 20th September)
  • Presentation (10%)
  • Assignment 2: Book Review (30%) ( Submission 10th October)
  • End-term exam (40%). (Mid-November)


\Reading List:

Unit 1

Essential Readings:

  • Heywood, Andrew (2013). ‘Political Ideas and Ideologies’, pp. 27-55 and ‘Politics and the State’, pp. 56-79. Politics. Palgrave Macmillan
  • Or
  • Harrison, B & Dye, T. Power and Society: An introduction to social sciences. Thomson, Wadsworth. Chapter 3, “Power and Ideology”, pp. 41-65
  • Jyotirao Phule. “A statement for the information of Hunter Commission (1884)”. In Selected Writings of Jyoti Rao Phule. New Delhi: Leftword Books. A submission to the Hunter Commission, arguing about need for state to support primary schooling for masses
  • Pathak, A. (2002). Education as an arena of struggle. In Social Implications of Schooling: Knowledge, Pedagogy and Consciousness, Chapter 1, 57-108 (excerpts would be given from this section for discussion in class on secularisation of schooling, the Indian context…).
  • Krishna Kumar, (1989) ‘Colonial Citizen as an Educational Ideal’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Jan. 28, 1989) / Introduction of Political Agenda of Education.


Unit 2

Essential Readings

  • Tagore, R.. The parrot’s training. Excerpted from: V. Bhatia (ed.) 1994. Rabindranath Tagore : Pioneer in Education. Sahitya Chayan : New Delhi.
  • Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays. Trans. Ben Brewster. London: New Left Books, 1971. 127-188.
  • Velaskar, Padma. (1992). Unequal schooling as a factor in the reproduction of social inequality. Sociological Bulletin, Vol. 39, Nos. 1 & 2, pp. 131-146.
  • Kumar, K. (1989). Learning to be backward. In Social Character of Learning. New Delhi: Sage.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1976). The school as a conservative force: scholastic and cultural inequalities. In Schooling and Capitalism. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
  • Bourdieu, P. Forms of Capital


Other Suggested Readings and texts:

  • Marx and Engels. The German Ideology, excerpted from (25 pages)
  • (
  • Anyon, Jean. (1981). Social class and social knowledge. Curriculum Inquiry, 11, 1-42.
  • Gramsci, A. On Ideology/State/Civil Society. In Selections from Prison Notebooks, 704-707/524-535.
  • Holt, J. (2003). ‘How children fail’. A summary in James Arthur and Ian Davis (ed.) Education Studies Reader, 319-326. London: Routledge.
  • Apple, M., Oliver, Anita (1998). Becoming Right: Education and the formations of conservative movements. In Torres, C.A. and T.R. Mitchell (ed.) Sociology of Education: Emerging Perspectives, 91-120. New York: SUNY Press
  • Harris, K. (1979). ‘Education (as political manipulation)’. In Education and Knowledge: A Structured Misrepresentation of Reality, 128-163. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.


Unit 3

Screening of India Untouched: Documentary by Stalin

Essential Reading

  • Ambedkar, B.R. (1916). Caste in India: Their mechanism, genesis and development. Patrika Publications (pp. 1-32)
  • Geetha V. (2012). The violence of caste and the violence in homes, and selections from Patriarchy
  • Excerpts from Sharmila Rege (ed.) Writing Caste, Writing Gender.
  • Pawde, Kumud. The story of my Sanskrit. In Mary E. John (ed.) Women’s Studies in India Reader
  • Velaskar, P. (1998). Ideology, education and political struggle for liberation: Change and challenge among the Dalits of Maharashtra. In Sureshchandra Shukla and Rekha Kaul(ed.) Education, Development and Underdevelopment. New Delhi: Sage.



  • Gail Omvedt (2012). Understanding Caste. Orient BlackSwan
  • Satish Deshpande and Yogendra Yadav. (2006). Redesigning affirmative action. Economic & Political Weekly 41:2419-2424.
  • Vasavi, A.R. (2003). Schooling for a new society? The social and political bases of education deprivation in India, in Ramya Subrahmanian, Education inclusion and exclusion: India and South African perspectives, IDS Bulletin, Vol. 34, No.1, pp.72-80.
  • Talib, Mohammad. (1998). Educating the oppressed: Observations from a school in a working class settlement in Delhi, in Sureshchandra Shukla and Rekha Kaul(ed.) Education, Development and Underdevelopment. New Delhi: Sage.
  • Manjrekar, N. (2003). Contemporary Challenges to Women's Education: Towards an Elusive Goal? Economic and Political Weekly, 38(43), 4577-4582.
  • Nambissan, G (). Equity in Education. EPW.
  • Roger Geffery. The Madrassa Teacher.


Unit 4 Essential Readings

  • Sainath, P. The globalisation of inequality. Seminar issue 533
  • Cole, Mike. (2008). Chapter 7, Globalisation, Neo-liberalism, and environmental destruction in Marxism and Educational Theory. Routledge.
  • Kamat, S. (2004). Postcolonial Aporias, or What Does Fundamentalism Have to Do with Globalization? The Contradictory Consequences of Education Reform in India. Comparative Education, 40 (2), Special Issue (28), pp. 267-287
  • Krishna Kumar, Manisha Priyam, Sadhna Saxena (2001). Looking beyond the Smokescreen: DPEP and Primary Education in India. Economic and Political Weekly, 36 (7), pp. 560-568.
  • Tilak, J.B.G. (2004). Public subsidies in education in India. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 39 (4), 343-359.