Modern Transformations and the Challenges of Inequality in Education in India

Despite different claims of expansion and improvement, education in India continues to be marked by the disheartening levels of inequalities and exclusions in access, participation, completion and outcomes. Should we understand this crisis in terms of the continuance of the ‘Macaulayan framework’ of education as an instrument devised for the reproduction of inegalitarian social order and for maintaining political control? Are we justified in painting Macaulay as the singular villain of the piece now that we haven’t done much since Feb 1835? Alternatively, has the modern education proved to be a liberating force from the shackles of the exclusionary traditions of pre-modern social order? What specific ideas of social inequality are parts of a historically specific education discourse which it aims to reduce or even consciously produce and conversely what different forms of inequalities are produced in educational practices even as some of them it intends to ameliorate? Should we understand modernity of education not merely in terms of its colony-metropolis binary and the post colonial contexts, but also as a broader/transcending phenomenon/category of historical analysis? Do the recent policies of neoliberalism in education mark any transformative break from the normative pattern of education or further deepen this crisis? Is the crisis fully comprehensible within a discursive framework that largely revolves around the terminologies of stakeholders and deliverables and of measurability and quantifiability?

The proposed conference is thus an attempt to understand interaction/interplay of social inequality and education (both as discourse and practice) and the interplay of education and discourse of modernity (with its simultaneous invocation of and differentiation   from tradition). It is an attempt to explore these interplays by employing the perspectives of class, caste, gender, and disability and through linguistic, cultural, religious, and regional lenses of inequalities for understanding the nature of present system of education and how it has historically evolved in context of political economy? And, ask where do we go from here? Some broad themes to be discussed in the conference for understanding the normative pattern of education in India and the ways to transform it include :–

(A) Status of education in colonial and post-colonial India: An overview and the suggestions towards an Equal and Just Social Order.

(B) Educational thoughts and experiments during the freedom struggle in India: Legacy for post-colonial nation-state.

(C) Nature of curricular knowledge and pedagogy with specific reference to the production and reproduction of knowledge in social and natural sciences, performing and fine arts, language education and the medium of education.

(D) The lens of marginalized or excluded children and the normative pattern of education in modern India: Girl, disabled, tribal, downtrodden castes, Muslims and other minorities, and working class children.

Transcending the confines of presently dominant framework of the discourse on education, it is hoped that the proposed conference would explore ways to bring to the core the hitherto subaltern, alternative or subdued frameworks and trends for engaging with above-outlined extremely vital issues. It is expected that by bringing together the scholarly expertise on colonial and post-colonial/contemporary education in India, the proposed conference would help us understand the above-outlined issues in the context of continuities and changes occurring over a broader temporal spectrum stretching from the late pre-modern to Colonial, Post-colonial and contemporary scenario. We wish to focus on education in modern India in terms of its contents and structure; and the policy framework as well as the contexts or other influences that shaped it. We invite both academicians and practitioners in this conference so that both of them can learn from each other and produce a guiding coherent synthesis by resolving various related issues and show the way forward. 

For instance, how does indigenous education of the pre-modern society appear if we for a moment ignore both the standard perspectives normally shared on education, namely colonial stereotypes as well as romantic glorifications of India’s past? Is it methodologically and/ or conceptually fruitful to distinguish between colonialism and modernity? What kind of changes colonialism and modernity brought to the earlier existing arrangements of knowledge production and transmission and in the participation of pupils from different social stratums? What have been the important divergences and similarities in the pattern of the evolution of modern education in India and its nature and apparatus from the original/Western-historical trajectories? What have been the progressive as well as ambivalent and paradoxical features of the discourse on education evolved during freedom struggle in India and its legacy and critiques? What have been the dominant/normative conceptions and patterns of Education in modern India? How have these been historically influencing the participation or exclusion of the overwhelming majority of our population consisting of variety of marginalized groups, communities and classes from the sphere of formal education? Should we regard this normative pattern of education as an agent of maintaining reproduction, homeostasis and stalemate in socio-economic, cultural and political order or as the harbinger of change? Do we need the specific ‘strategies’ that aim to ameliorate marginalization/exclusion of particular group/communities/classes or those that strive for overall transformation of education? What have been the contributions and failures of state (both colonial and post-colonial) and other agencies in the shaping of our education system? What is the impact of the adoption of neoliberal policy framework and changing role of state in education during the recent decades on this scenario? What are the potentials or constraints of the neoliberal ideology of inclusion for realizing the principles of equality and other constitutional objectives? In the present context, how do we ensure that education becomes an agent of optimizing diversity and promoting democracy, equality, secularism, dignity and justice and contribute towards building a more humane society? How the wide hiatus between official knowledge and the sites of knowledge production has historically evolved in formal education and how can it be bridged to include the wider-socio-economic, cultural and political spheres in the education process transcending the physical confines of the classroom? How do we facilitate teachers’ agency and ‘child friendly’ and socially oriented milieu of education in India?