ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Looking beyond the Smokescreen

DPEP and Primary Education in India

The system of primary education in India has yet to be analysed critically - a critique that would seek to probe the linkages between education and social change. This study seeks to initiate that process by looking at the District Primary Education Programme (DPED) that was subscribed to by most World Bank borrowers, including India, as a social safety net against the social and economic turmoil that followed any structural adjustment processes. In India, the reach of DPEP extended to 240 districts across 16 states, within the first six years of its existence. Despite this, surveys showed a decline in growth at the primary enrolment stage in most Indian states. More disturbing was the increasing presence of the 'para teacher' and the consequent labelling of the full-time teacher as an impediment to the system's further development.

The system of primary education in India has gone through significant structural changes over the last decade or so. Some of these changes are still unfolding, and the eventual shape they will take cannot be easily predicted. The changes are pervasive – ranging from alterations in the role of the state to definition of the professional status of teachers. Despite the scale and the speed at which they have occurred, there is hardly any recognition of these changes in the social sciences, let alone any concerted analysis, critical or otherwise. All one can find in the name of analysis is a body of promotional literature. Apathy towards history and a studied blindness towards the linkages between education and social change are two prominent characteristics of this literature.

It is our contention that this manner of analysis has helped the state to construct a smokescreen, which discourages any critical study of primary education policies and impact. As it is, the social sciences in India have been indifferent to the study of education. In the context of recent trends in the state’s relationship with society and education, the traditional indifference of the social sciences towards the study of education has become a kind of consent.

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