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Sociology of Education
Gaurav J Pathania

n India, sociology of education (SoE)

was initiated with the efforts of
scholars like M S Gore, Suma Chitnis,
I Desai, S C Dube, A R Desai, M S A Rao,
Yogendra Singh, Y B Damle and others.
They jointly conducted an all-India field
survey on the social and economic background of students, teachers and parents, their values, attitudes and aspirations in various educational institutions.
Together, they published their findings as
Field Studies in the Sociology of Education
in 1970. Only after a gap of two decades,
N Jayaram published Sociology of Education in India in 1990 (Rawat publications, Jaipur). This was the second attempt to look at the contemporary emerging issues such as the impact of colonialism on our education growth of urban
education, the education-employment
mismatch, reservation policy and the
role of teacher and student unions.
Simultaneously, SoE has been defined
and redefined by a set of theoretical
and methodological disputes. Debates
among sociologists and educationists
regarding the concern of educational
sociology and sociology of education and
their respective approaches have characterised the dispute. As a result, no
serious attempt was made to look inside
the school system.
With this understanding, a conference
titled Sociology of Education: Looking
Back, Looking Ahead was organised in
2006 at Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi. This was the second time after
1964 that scholars debated on the rising
concerns in SoE. The present volume,
Sociology of Education in India: Changing
Contours and Emerging Concerns, is the
outcome of this debate.
The volume is divided in two parts.
The first part, Disciplinary Trajectory
and Institutional Domain contains six
essays, while the five essays in the second
section focus on Contemporary Concerns
and Emerging Discourses. What is noteworthy is that the volume includes essays
from three generations of sociologists:
Economic & Political Weekly


december 14, 2013

Sociology of Education in India: Changing

Contours and Emerging Concerns edited by Geetha
B Nambissan and S Srinivasa Rao (New Delhi: Oxford
University Press), 2012; pp x + 277, Rs 750.

Suma Chitnis, followed by Karuna

Chanana and others. Interestingly,
Nambissan, G G Wankhede, Rao and
Alam belong to the third generation and
are students of professor Chanana. This
volume honours her contribution in SoE
in India.
Knowledge Transmission
The volume is qualitatively different
from the earlier ones as it discusses the
processes of knowledge transmission and
discrimination inside the educational
system. These processes are missing in
the earlier SoE, as editors indicate in the
introduction and Nambissan elaborated
in her essay that schooling in India
remained a black-box until the 1980s.
After this, education has faced the
impact of globalisation and liberalisation
and expansion of private players. This,
according to Chitnis, has widened old
inequalities, created new diversities in
complex ways within the domain of
education, its policies, institutions and
processes. As a wide expansion of global
policies, there is a noticeable shift in
the disciplinary boundaries with increasing emphasis on transdisciplinary and
multidisciplinary approaches and applications in social sciences. Contemporary
researches in sociology, political science,
psychology and philosophy are intersecting with education in such a way
that it is difficult to define precisely
who is a sociologist of education and
what is SoE.
Chanana, in contesting the criticality
of education in her essay Disciplinary
Boundaries and Institutional Spaces,
argues that education occupies a centre
stage in the public policy domain and has
moved beyond the confines of departments of teacher education. As an academic subdiscipline it remains at the
vol xlviiI no 50

margins of sociology which itself is

considered as a softer option within the
social sciences. Describing soft disciplines Padma S Sarangapani argues that
SoE is not very concerned about paradigm
construction per se, rather, it is more
concerned with knowledge-in-relationto-a-practice. Overall, the disciplinary
stance is towards social action. The first
three essays draw the theoretical significance of the volume.
Sociological Imagination
Providing a critical note on SoE and Sociology of Educational Inequalities (SoEI),
Padma Velaskar observes that SoE did not
contribute to the critical sociological
imagination, as the editors also cite in
the introduction. For Velaskar, this is
due to an absence of a theoretical configuration of social structure or stratification. That is why the feminist theorisation of patriarchy and gender in SoE
has not yet integrated into the dominant
malestream analyses of caste and class
structure of power and domination.
Likewise, Wankhede underscores the
need of a theoretical frame to define
social/caste discrimination in India.
I find similarities between Amman
Madan and Leena Abrahams essays as
both capture the disparaging tone of our
education system towards local or indigenous knowledge. How cramming
and a mimetic approach establishes
the authority, prestige, and autonomy of
western science, focusing on bookish
knowledge which stamps traditional
as strange and rural as inferior or
crude. Abrahams study examines the
influence of local culture in selecting
ayurvedic or allopathic practices for a
career. This essay enlarges the scope
of the volume as Abraham accepts that
SoE in India has largely ignored the
international debates in the Sociology
of Science and Cultural Studies of science.
Sociology and SoE in India did not
develop a critical approach to western
science. However, both essays conclude
with a note that a plurality of system
and epistemic pluralism constructs the
space for hope. The crucial question
Madan poses in his title Does Education Really Change Society is similar
to how Wankhede explores in How Far


Education Contributes to the Modern

Values of Justice, Equality and Secularism. Both require detailed exploration
and explanation.
Nandini Manjrekar focuses on the
structure and ideologies of gender, class,
caste, ethnicity and religion which are
determinants in students aspirations.
What values are attached to being educated? Through narration of a school
textbook story Kaun Kya Banega (Who
Will Become What?), she highlights the
role of hard work and the notion of
serving the nation, constructing the
persona of an ideal citizen. Manjrekar
also looks at this perception through
the lens of gender and calls it gender
irony of formal education in the modern
nation. She also reveals the weaknesses
of literacy programmes, as the word
anpadh-ganwaar and angoothachhap are
still used on a daily basis.
Srinivasa Raos essay, based on an
ethnographic account of an elite institution of higher education, discovers that
a students region, religion, or language

is not as important as her or his caste/

tribe. Using Goffmans approach, he
defines the processes and context in
which the discrimination, identification,
stigmatisation and labelling process takes
place inside elite institutions reputed as
centres of excellence. This process is
detrimental to the academic success
and social adjustment of scheduled caste
and scheduled tribe (SC/ST) students.
Rao highlights the prejudice against
tribal and dalit students prevailing in
pedagogic and non-pedagogic settings
where they are considered impure,
uncivilised and rustic as well as
less meritorious, quiet and slow pace.
This is the first study of its kind which
exposes several layers of discrimination
inside one of the Indian Institutes of
Technology (IITs).
Revealing an intimate understanding
of the Muslim education system, Arshad
Alam discusses the mechanisms of discipline, control, and role of power in
madrasas. Power exists in the hierarchical organisational structure and also in

teacher-students interactions. What makes

one madrasa better than others is to
be strict with the best use of the stick.
The essay is a contrast to the contemporary mainstream debates of making education more entertaining for students
and implementing laws against corporal
punishment. Alam also describes how
the madrasa empowers students as it
functions as their temporary home.
This essay is an important contribution
to a rather neglected area of study.
Through no fault of its own, the limitation of the volume lies in the fact that it
does not cover the latest debates and
developments that have emerged in the
past six years since the related conference
was held in 2006. Importantly, there are
two significant structural changes that
have occurred in the Indian educational
system, namely, the implementation of
the Right to Education (RTE) Act and the
Other Backward Classes (OBC) reservation
policy. Moreover, expanding privatisation,

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december 14, 2013

vol xlviiI no 50


Economic & Political Weekly


school choice, the role of global players,

the changing nature of rural education,
increasing suicide rates in elite institutions,
and the teacher and student activism on
university campuses are key emerging
issues. There is no hint on these emerging areas by editors. Absent are articles
on the rising theme education in conflict zones such as north-east India or
Jammu and Kashmir. Thus, readers
should not anticipate it as a handbook of
sociology of education in India.

In a nutshell, the strength of the

volume lies in its comprehensive coverage of institutional practices, and the
complexities of exclusion within the
institution. It is a successful attempt in
revealing the processes of discrimination and capturing changing trajectories of local or indigenous knowledge
against the backdrop of rapid progression of globalistaion and privatisation.
It is a substantial contribution to the
discipline as it enlightens the reader

while acknowledging the limitations

and contradictions of SoE. Researchers
in the area of sociology and education
would surely appreciate a second volume that includes studies after the
game-changing developments that have
occurred post-2006.
Gaurav J Pathania (
is with the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational
Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi.

Books Received
Ahuja, Ravi, ed. (2013); Working Lives & Worker
Militancy: The Politics of Labour in Colonial
India (New Delhi: Tulika Books), pp xvi + 328,
Rs 695.
Amar, Paul and Vijay Prashad, ed. (2013); Dispatches
from the Arab Spring: Understanding the New
Middle East (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), pp xiii + 391, $22.95.
Bald, Vivek, Miabi Chatterji, Sujani Reddy and
Manu Vimalassery, ed. (2013); The Sun Never
Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of US
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396, Rs 995.
Biao, Xiang, Brenda S A Yeoh and Mika Toyoto, ed.
(2013); Return: Nationalizing Transnational
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Cederlof, Gunnel (2013); Founding an Empire on
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Datla, Kavita Saraswathi (2013); The Language of
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Ghuman, Ranjit Singh and Sukhvinder Singh, ed.
(2013); Rural Local Self-Government in India:
Some Developmental Experiences, Centre for
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Khanam, Azra (2013); Muslim Backward Classes: A

Sociological Perspective (New Delhi: Sage Publications), pp x + 298, Rs 795.
Kitromilides, Paschalis M (2013); Enlightenment
and Revolution: The Making of Modern Greece
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Kopenawa, Davi and Bruce Albert (2013); The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of
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Mathias, Lina, ed. (2013); Left of Centre: Kamal
Morarka in Parliament (New Delhi: Rupa Publications), pp xviii + 267, Rs 495.
Mengisteab, Kidane (2013); The Horn of Africa
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Mishra, Arima and Suhita Chopra Chatterjee, ed.
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Nayyar, Deepak (2013); Catch Up Developing Countries in the World Economy (New Delhi: Oxford
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International Higher Education, 1913-2013 (New

Delhi: Sage Publications), pp lii + 425, Rs 950.
Sehrawat, Samiksha (2013); Colonial Medical Care
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Sharma, Alakh N (2013); Delhi: Human Development
Report 2013, Academic Foundation & Institute
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Sharma, Alakh N, Amrita Datta and Joyita Ghose,
ed. (2012); Development Research on Bihar
2000-2010: A Compendium, Institute for
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Sharma, Arvind (2013); Gandhi: A Spiritual Biography (Gurgaon: Hachette India), pp vii + 252,
Rs 550.
Sidhu, Waheguru Pal Singh, Pratap Bhanu Mehta
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Emerging World: India and the Multilateral
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Singh, Mahendra Man (2013); Forever Incomplete:
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Subramanian, Ajantha (2013); Shorelines: Space
and Rights in South India (New Delhi: Yoda
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Sugirtharajah, R S (2013); The Bible and Asia: From
the Pre-Christian Era to the Postcolonial Age
(Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press), pp 303, price not indicated.

Giddens, Anthony (2013); Turbulent and Mighty

Continent: What Future for Europe? (Cambridge: Polity Press), pp x + 242, 16.99 (hb).

Padel, Felix, Ajay Dandekar and Jeemol Unni

(2013); Ecology, Economy: Quest for a Socially
Informed Connection (Hyderabad: Orient
Blackswan), pp xxiii + 316, Rs 795.

India Rural Development Report 2012/13 (2013);

(Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan), pp xxxv +
280, price not indicated.

Raghavan, Srinath (2013); 1971: A Global History of

the Creation of Bangladesh (Ranikhet: Permanent Black), pp 358, Rs 795.

Tomlinson, B R (2013); The Economy of Modern

India: From 1860 to the Twenty-first Century
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J F ter Laak, Jan, Meenakshi Gokhale and Devasena Desai (2013); Understanding Psychological
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Raju, Yerram B (2013); Agricultural Banking: Getting the Perspective Right (New Delhi: Konark
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Vasudevan, Vandana (2013); Urban Villager: Life in

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Rodgers, Gerry, Amrita Datta, Janine Rodgers,

Sunil K Mishra and Alakh N Sharma (2013);
The Challenge of Inclusive Development in Rural
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Vora, Neha (2013); Impossible Citizens: Dubais

Indian Diaspora, Orient Blackswan, pp xi +
245, Rs 725.

Jodhka, Surinder S, ed. (2013); Interrogating

Indias Modernity: Democracy, Identity, and
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Kabir, Ananya Jahanara (2013); Partitions PostAmnesias: 1947, 1971 and Modern South Asia
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Santhakumar, V (2013); Economics in Action: An

Easy Guide for Development Practitioners (New
Delhi: Sage Publications), pp xviii + 350, Rs 545.
Schreuder, Deryck M, ed. (2013); Universities for
a New World: Making a Global Network in
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Whittaker, Andrea, ed. (2013); Abortion in Asia:

Local Dilemmas, Global Politics (New Delhi:
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Yadav, Muneshwar (2013); India After Indira
Nationalism: Content and Challenges (Patna:
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