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Aligning opportunities and interests: the politics of educational reform in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar

Priyam, Manisha (2012) Aligning opportunities and interests: the politics of educational reform in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis investigates the role of politics in implementing educational reform in India during the period 1994 to 2011. Much of the recent research on politics and educational reform has been dominated by the analytical framework of formal political economy, but this framework has not been able to explain how reforms are successfully adopted. Also, the main focus has been on the negative role of politics, controlled by powerful interest groups and biased institutions, in constraining changes likely to benefit poor people. I focus instead on understanding the political dynamics in cases of success. In particular, why do political leaders and public officials support educational reform even though this does not suit their political calculations, and is likely to encounter resistance from teacher unions and educational bureaucracies? To understand these dynamics, I use the framework of comparative institutionalism, and examine the contested interaction of ideas, interests, and institutions, leading to success or failure. To analyse the process of reform implementation, I have selected two Indian states—Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Both were educationally backward at the beginning of the 1990s and were confronted with a common agenda for reform established by the federal government. However, they pursued divergent trajectories over the next decade, with the former state achieving higher levels and reduced disparities in primary school participation. I compare the political dynamics in three important arenas: the management of teacher interests and their unions, educational decentralisation, and the daily interactions between poor households, schools, and the local state. I find that political strategies are important in determining variations in outcomes. In Andhra Pradesh, the political leadership found an alignment between the new opportunities provided by the federal government and its own agenda for development; it created new allies for change by reducing discretion in teacher policies, playing on interunion rivalries, and creating a local cadre of party loyalists. However, a wider agenda of development was missing in Bihar, and even successfully designed school decentralisation policies could not be implemented due to weak support from political leaders, and because of local elite capture. In both the states, however, the interaction of the poor with schools and the local state was a process of struggle, indicative of the challenges that lie ahead.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Manisha Priyam
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > International Development

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