The Social Context of Education an Introduction


Outline of the Course:

People live out their lives within a context of social relationships. Education serves to create, reproduce, transform and disrupt these social relationships. The possibilities, frustrations and even the very meanings of education for an impoverished Dalit girl studying in a village school would be very different from those for the son of a rich industrialist in a big metropolis. An understanding of the differences would be an important component of our efforts at rethinking what kind of education is most suitable to contemporary India. This course would aim at providing a general introduction for students from a science background.


These would be discussed on every Monday from 1100 hrs to 1230 hrs.
General introduction to the idea of society and the social. Some key concepts, some key thinkers and some key methods. 2 sessions.

Changing meanings of education across time and society. A brief historical perspective on education in India. 1 session.

Social-political arithmetic. Structural functionalist sociology of education. Talcott Parsons. Why the rich want the poor to be educated. Critique. 1 session.

Marxist sociology of education. Marx, Gramsci, Halsey,, Ivan Illich and Paulo Freire. Jurgen Habermas. 2 sessions.

New Sociology of Education. Symbolic interactionism. Resistances to schooling - Michael Apple, Henri Giroux, etc. 1 session.

Neo-Weberian sociology of education. Randall Collins and Pierre Bourdieu. 2 sessions.

Caste, class, gender and education in India, a case study. 1 session.

Strategies in Indian education. Aurobindo, Tagore, Nai Talim, changing policy perspectives, current debates. 2 sessions


On every Friday from 1430 hrs to 16:30 hrs there would be a session whose aim would be to get course participants to actually implement what they have read / heard. This would be through viewing and discussing videos, field visits, discussions on various issues, guest lectures, etc. The emphasis would be on active participation by all those involved with the course.


The following books in the HBCSE library on the theoretical perspectives in the sociology of education are reasonably comprehensive for the literature up to the mid-1980s: David Blackledge and Barry Hunt, 1985, Sociological interpretations of education, London: Croom Helm.

Philip Robinson, 1981, Perspectives on the sociology of education: an introduction, London & Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

It is best to look at the original texts wherever possible. References to extracts from readers and books by major thinkers would be given alongside each session. Regrettably, there is no good single overview available on the Indian context. Sureshchandra Shukla and Krishna Kumar (ed.), 1985, Sociological perspectives on education: a reader, New Delhi: Chanakya, is rather dated, but still worth reading. Extracts from books, reports, policy documents and articles on India would be referred to alongside the main sessions.

Course Coordinator: