The Social Contract and India’s Right to Education

Dyer, Caroline and Sriprakash, Arathi and Jacob, Suraj and Thomas, Nisha (2022) The Social Contract and India’s Right to Education. Development and Change. pp. 1-24. ISSN 1467-7660

[img] Text - Published Version
Download (240kB)


India’s 2009 Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Actpresents an idealized social contract which assigns roles to multiple actors touphold a mutual duty, or collective responsibility, to secure children’s accessto a quality school education. This article explores how the social contract as-sumed by the RTE Act misrepresents the conditions required to enact mutualresponsibilities as well as actors’ agreement to do so. Qualitative data fromBihar and Rajasthan show how state actors, parents, community groups andteachers negotiate and contest the RTE Act norms. The analysis illuminatesthe unequal conditions and ever-present politics of accountability relationsin education. It problematizes the idealization of the social contract in education reform: it proposes that if the relations of power and domination through which ‘contracts’ are entered into remain unaddressed, then expressions of‘mutual’ responsibility are unlikely to do other than reproduce injustice. It argues that policy discourses need to recognize and attend to the socially situated contingencies of accountability relations and that doing so would offer an alternative pathway toward addressing structural inequalities and their manifestations in education.

Item Type: Article
Authors: Dyer, Caroline and Sriprakash, Arathi and Jacob, Suraj and Thomas, Nisha
Document Language:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Education, Social contract, India
Subjects: Social sciences
Social sciences > Education
Divisions: Azim Premji University > School of Development
Full Text Status: Public
Publisher URL:

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item