Culture(s), Childhood(s), and Right(s): Theorizing the Right to Education in (Post)Colonial India

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:42
Oral Presentation
Umesh SHARMA, University of Toronto, Canada
The purpose of this paper is to explore ‘The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act (2009)’ of the Government of India—which introduced the provision of mandatory elementary education for all Indian youth between 6 and 14 years of age—by situating it within a broader socio-historical context. With marginal adjustments (most notably those involving the prescribed age of formal education), the preceding amendment had its antecedent in Article 45 of the Constitution of India (1949)—specifically, in the provision that within a period of ten years of the commencement of the constitution, the newly conceived nation-state would provide free and compulsory education for all children until 14 years of age. In momentarily bracketing issues pertaining to ‘practicality’ as such—namely, the role of a public system of education in spurring economic growth, in manufacturing a ‘literate’ populace which possesses a common national identity grounded in a shared set of cultural ethos, while simultaneously providing an institutional mechanism through which an increasingly complex society is to be ‘sorted’—this paper seeks to evaluate the socio-cultural implications of a universalist exhortation to education couched within a liberal-democratic discourse of ‘rights’ and ‘equality’. It specifically pivots upon examining the question of the offer of mass standardized institutional compulsory elementary education from the vantage of three perspectives: (1) The institutional legacy of colonization and the postcolonial predicament; (2) Variegated expressions of social relations between adult and child across space and time; (3) The relationship/relevance of culture to the devising of educational institutions and/or practices. In meditating specifically on the themes of childhood, coloniality and rights, and therein, contributing to key areas of inquiry within the fields of the sociology of childhood and education, it aims to examine the complexities inherent in devising educational policy within a (post)colonial globalized context.