Schools, Schooling and Education

Home/ Schools, Schooling and Education
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1EL9134

Semester and Year Offered: Semester 5 or as per SUS need

Course Coordinator and Team: Gunjan Sharma (SES)

Email of course coordinator: gunjan[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: Basic familiarity with social science perspective


In a context in which the consensus on ‘what is good education’ is shrinking, the aim of this course is to engage the students with the notion, functions, critiques and context of schools and education. The specific focus is on the Indian context. Schools have come to assume a significant space in the social world and are seen as playing a variety of roles in the contemporary times. The course will engage in discussion about these roles and the social, cultural and economic functions that the schools are said to be performing. In doing so, it will also explore schools as institutions and organizations. While schools are seen as performing a range of functions, they have been critiqued from a variety of perspectives (new sociology, critical theory, deschooling, and the like). In the process of discussing these perspectives, the course will initiate the students into thinking about the broader idea of education (beyond schooling). These discussions will prepare a context through which the group would be able to engage with some key concerns in the area of school education in India – through questions like: What are schools? What are the varied purposes of schools? Who are the varied actors in education? What can we say about equity in and quality of school education in India? How is education broader than schooling?

Course Outcomes:

  1. Demonstrate awareness of the debates around the connotations & purposes of education
  2. Identify and reflect on selected contemporary issues in the field of school education in India
  3. Make-sense of beginning literature and texts in education

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module 1: What are schools? (Teaching time: 25%)

This module will initiate reflecting on schools as educational, social, cultural and economic institutions. Through certain basic texts, the module will introduce the kinds of ‘functions’ that the schools are seen as performing in society. Discussing about school as an institution of the State and how it strives towards the ‘educational aims’, will comprise a significant aspect of the module – which will aid in beginning to reflect upon some conceptions of (and perspectives on) the aims of education. These discussions will be situated in relation to the tensions between home and school, and social asymmetries in the Indian context.

Module 2: Schooling and education (Teaching time: 25%)

This module will revolve around the various perspectives from which the modern schooling is critiqued. In doing so, it will initiate students into thinking about the meaning of education (vis-à-vis schooling). This will be facilitated through an introduction to the ideas of selected thinkers in education. The purpose of the module is not to critique formal education from a particular lens, but to enable the students to reflect on the broader connotations of education, and appreciate the debates around (what should be) the aims/purpose of education.

Module 3: Talking about education: (Teaching time: 20%)

This module will involve talking to a small number of schoolteachers, parents and children. It will also attempt to facilitate interactions with some ‘out-of-school’ children and/or organisations working with them. The purpose will be to (observe and) talk to the informants around a specific set of questions pertaining to educational aspirations, their context and challenges, and ideas about ‘good education’. The questions will be framed in the class. The purpose is to familiarise students with and initiate them into making-sense of views and everyday discourse on school education.

Module 4: Education in India: Introduction to selected contemporary concerns (Teaching time: 30%)

This module will make use of the responses that the students come across in the previous module – to introduce the contemporary debates and concerns in the context of school education. The focus will be on the contemporary policy context questions of equality and quality – which will be explored through specific cases like: the RtE Act 2009, and the debate around the quality of State schools. In this process, the discussions will also involve beginning to reflect on education as a public good, and thus on the purpose or the goals of formal education. This will facilitate drawing a link with the module one and two and tying the discussions together.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Participation (Response to readings): 10%
  • Film review: 25%
  • Field based presentation: 30%
  • Take home submission: 35%

Reading List:


  1. Parsons, T. (1959). The school class as a social system: Some of its functions in American society. Harvard Educational Review, 29(4), 297–318.
  2. Kumar, K. (1996). Two worlds. In Learning from conflict – Tracts for the times, pp. 59 - 74. New Delhi: Orient longman.
  3. Beteille, A. (2005). The school as an institution. In R. Kumar et. al. (Ed.), School, society, nation (pp. 166-178). Hyderabad: Orient Longman.
  4. Ambedkar, B. R. (1927/1982). On grants for education. In V. Moon (Ed.), Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar writings and speeches (Volume 2), (pp. 39 – 43). Bombay: Government of Maharashtra.
  5. Gandhi, M.K. (1908). Hind Swaraj. Ahemdabad: Navjivan Prakahsan. (Chapter XVIII: Education) (5 pages)
  6. Tagore, R. (1933). My school. London: MacMillan. (5 pages)
  7. GOI. (1993). Learning without burden: Report of the NAC appointed by the MHRD, (Yash Pal, Chairman). MHRD, Delhi. (Selections from Chapter 2 and 3).
  8. Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling society. New York: Harper & Row. (5 page selection)
  9. Short stories for in-class reading: The animal parable (by Anonymous), The parrot’s training (by Tagore)
  10. Aggarwal, M., Kapur, D. and Tognatta, N. (2012). The skills they want: Aspirations of students in emerging India. Pennsylvania: CASI. (Section 3, pp. 9-12)
  11. Sarangapani, P. (2003). Constructing school knowledge: An ethnography of learning in an Indian village (pp. 50-53). Delhi: Sage.
  12. Sharma, G. (2013). Politics of institutional knowledge and exclusion. Unpublished doctoral thesis, Department of Education, University of Delhi, Delhi. (7 page selection)
  13. Dhankar, R. (2003). Aims of Education: Policy documents and demands of democracy. (5 pages)
  14. Naik, J. P. (1979). Equality, quality and quantity: The elusive triangle in Indian education. International Review of Education, 25(2/3), 167-185.
  15. Velaskar, P. (2010). Quality and inequality in Indian education: Some critical policy concerns. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 7(1), 58 – 93.
  16. Documentaries/Films:
  17. Black, C. (2007). Schooling the world
  18. East, J. (2008). Summerhill
  19. Teacher’s References (will be used only for classroom activities):
  20. Compilation of aims of education from education policy documents (Kothari Commission, National Education Policies, National Curriculum Frameworks). (7 page)
  21. Right to Education Act, (2009). Retrieved from
  22. Government of India. (2011). The Constitution of India (updated upto Ninety-Seventh amendment Act, 2011).
  23. The PROBE team and Centre for Development Economics. (1999). Public report on basic education in India. New Delhi: CDE.
  24. The Probe Team. (2011). Probe Revisited: A Report on Elementary Education in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  25. Centre for Equity Studies. (2014). India Exclusion Report (Chapter 1 on School Education). Delhi: CES.
  26. NUEPA (2011). Elementary education in India: Progress towards UEE (Flash statistics). New Delhi: NUEPA.
  27. National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). (2005). National Curriculum Framework, (Yash Pal, Chairman). Delhi: NCERT.
  28. Ramachandran, V., Pal, M. and Jain, S. (2005). Teacher motivation in India. New Delhi: Educational Resource Unit.
  29. Pratham. (Latest). The annual status of education report (ASER). Delhi: Pratham.
  30. N.C.E.R.T. (Latest): Achievement survey.


  • The Penguin dictionary of Sociology (1994). Institutions (pp. 126-127). London: Penguin.
  • Young, M. F. D. (2007). What are schools for? Educação & Sociedade. 28, 1287-1302.
  • Barr, R. and Dreeben, R. (1991). How schools work (pp. 2–11). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Ballentine, J. H. (1997). The school as an organization. In The sociology of education: A systematic analysis (pp. 128-146). NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Althusser, L. (1985). Ideology and ideological State apparatuses. In Shukla, S. and Kumar, K. (Eds.), Sociological perspectives in education: A reader. Delhi: Chanakya Publishers.
  • Dewey, J. (1897). My pedagogic creed. The School Journal, 54(3), 77-80.
  • Kvale, S. (2007). Doing interviews (pp. 1 – 9). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Tooley, J. and Pauline, D. (2005). Private education is good for the poor: A study of private schools serving the poor in low-income countries. Massachusetts: CATO institute. (pp. 1-10).
  • Sarangapani, P. M. (2009). Quality, feasibility and desirability of low cost private schooling. Economic and Political Weekly, 44(43), 67-69.
  • Bruns, B., Deon F. and Harry, A. P. (2011). Service delivery failure in the developing world. Making Schools Work: New Evidence on Accountability Reforms (pp. 3 – 12). Human Development Perspectives. Washington DC: World Bank.
  • Labaree, D. F. (1997). Public goods, private goods: The American struggle over educational goals. American Educational Research Journal, 34(1), 39-81.