Private Actors and Education for the Poor in India

Conference Paper to be presented by Geetha Nambissan

Geetha B. Nambissan is Professor of Sociology of Education at the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her research focuses on exclusion, inclusion and the education of marginal groups, the middle classes and educational advantage and the social and educational implications of private schools for the poor. 

Over the last decade, transnational and local advocacy networks have been projecting the low-cost unregulated school market in India as a cost-efficient, high-quality and equitable solution to the education of the poor and as a site for viable business options. The actors in this market include individual “edupreneurs” and, more recently, corporate groups that have entered the school business in later-developing countries. What we are witnessing is the construction of narratives of “good education” for the poor in extremely minimalistic terms, validated through “research” and disseminated by powerful networks. The attempt is to evolve globally scalable models that will deliver “high-quality” education at the lowest of costs, ensuring profits. In this paper, I map some of these trends, highlighting the manner in which private actors are attempting to change education policy in India by drawing upon neo-liberal discourses and constructing new narratives, networks and practices around schooling. I argue that these trends have serious implications for social justice in education for the poor.


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