Navigating the Education Marketplace: The Impact of Space and Place on School Choice Amongst Low Income Households in New Delhi, India

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal 47 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Eleanor GURNEY, King's College London, United Kingdom
In India, as in many countries around the world, the nature of the education landscape is changing.  Within the last decade private schooling has ‘mushroomed’, much of it at the low fee end of the spectrum, despite an on going public debate in which serious concerns have been expressed about the quality of many such schools and inequalities of access.  At the same time, private-public partnerships and parental choice mechanisms are emerging as discernable government policy trends in the name of quality improvements for school education and the elusive national goal of universal elementary education (UEE). In order to better understand the implications of such policy reforms and the increased marketisation of education more generally for social equity, this paper will consider how socially and economically disadvantaged households navigate the diverse terrain of the contemporary education market at the local level.  The paper will draw on case study data from an on-going ESRC funded doctoral study comprising in-depth interviews with parents/caregivers across two slum communities in urban New Delhi, supplemented with secondary survey data, field notes and close analysis of school documents and government policy texts.  The data indicates that geographical factors (including distance to schools and perceived dangers in travelling to/from school), local market dynamics (the number and type of providers) and the characterisation of schools as either ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ spaces are significant in shaping parental schooling choices.  Moreover, the dynamic between space and education is apparent in schooling choices that reflect community solidarities and dissensions, often on the basis of religion and ethnic identity.  In this way, the community space and its place within the wider urban centre is shown to be central to choicemaking processes and to continuing patterns of social segregation and educational inequality that make ‘choice’ as a policy mechanism for quality improvement problematic.