Although major progress has been made with regard to school education in India in the last two decades, access to quality education is still highly uneven. It can, hence, not be assumed a priori that school education is capability enhancing. It certainly is for some children, but for many others it remains a disempowering and dispiriting experience. Is education in India, hence, mainly a system that reproduces already existing social inequalities? It is this question that has been at the centre of our work during the last few years. In two Indian States, Andhra Pradesh in the south and West Bengal in east India, we have done extensive fieldwork to find out how social inequalities are reproduced in Indian schools, but also how that is contested in different ways. We explored this theme at various levels, ranging from the educational system as a whole and the policy level, to the classroom and the textbooks. This paper cannot do justice to all these processes, mechanisms and counter currents that exist at various levels, but it will summarize some of the arguments.

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Keywords India, education, social inequality
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Series ISS Staff Group 2: States, Societies and World Development
Note Paper prepared for the 2011 conference of the Human Development and Capability Association ‘Innovation, Development & Human Capabilities’, 5-8 September 2011, the Hague, the Netherlands
Mooij, J.E, & Majumdar, M. (2011). Primary Education in India: Empowerment of the Marginalized or the Reproduction of Social Inequalities?. ISS Staff Group 2: States, Societies and World Development. Retrieved from