Ashraf, Reem (2017). 'School Choice and Evolving Capability in Elementary Education in India' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.



In the context of the RTE Act (2009), the intervention under the sub-clause Section 12. 1.C aims to address the larger issue of social justice and inclusion in education.  Highly stratified elemntary schooling, intervention provides for school choice to the children beloning to disadvantaged groups (DG) and economically weaker sections (EWS) to access private schools for free whereby State will compensate schools for the fee expenditure. It should be empirically tested if such an intervention has resulted in expanded well-being for these children as a result of the expansion of their choice sets.

The central focus of the CA framework based on functionings and capabilities has been moulded into theoretical extension for its applicability to children in the work by Biggeri et al, (2011). Explicitly, what matters for children’s well-being are their functionings and capabilities (Biggeri et al, 2006, cited in Biggeri et al , 2011). With respect to the equality of opportunity that is entitled upon every child through RTE, it must be understood that equality of opportunity is a narrower version of equality that works for realisation of well-being. Equalization of capabilities goes beyond equalization of opportunities in the narrow sense of the word, and also beyond removal of discrimination, although both are important elements of it (Schokkaert, 2009).


The five theoretical considerations for child and their evolving capabilities has been extensively discussed in light of the practical concerns in the work of (Jerome et al, 2011). The study proceeds with the given framework and attempts to operationalise cognitive capabilites and how have they evolved for children at margin. In the context of RTE, Section 12 (c), the focus on opportunity issue, as a measure of freedom of choice, must incorporate preferences that an individual have over number of options with equality in terms of quality of education. This sets pace for the discussion as to what type of school would lead to expansion of the capabilities. In this study, the hypothesis is, more choice need not be unquestionably superior to less choices and their may exist a non-linear relationship.


Keeping the effects of cultural capital and the entitlements of the disadvantaged households’ constant, the school provides to be the secondary habitus and space for enculturation for the EWS children. The point of departure for this framework germinates from the argument that equality in school resources does not necessarily lead to equal learning outcomes, and thus making a case for empirically testing if more choice always leads to greater freedom. Drawing from Sens work on culmination outcomes and comprehensive outcomes, the process aspect incorporated in comprehensive outcome assumes significance in testing and explaining the hypothesised argument - two children would end up differently with respect to the learning outcomes because they are treated differently. Therefore, when the focus is conversion of school resources into functionings and capabilities, the role of recognition assumes great significance.

Citing North (2006), distributional justice can be defined where all children have access to quality schooling and opportunities in education are accessible to all (inclusive of fairness with respect to availability of qualified teachers, updated resources and facilities), but the role of recognition as a measure of social justice highlights the representation (textbooks, curriculum and pedagogy and school policies, to mention a few forms of representation) of dominant or marginalised groups. Recognition as a remedy for the economic and cultural injustice (Adams, 2014) further address the issue when school as transformative space is discussed.


Research Questions:


  1. How have the cognitive capabilities evolved in presence and absence of school choice for DG/EWS children in elementary education?
  2. Which schools are potentially explaining the expansion of opportunity sets for the disadvantaged children in light of the larger issue of social justice and recognition.

In light of the above research questions, following hypothesis will be tested:

  • Schools are the first institution for capability expansion and school choice under RTE (2009) expands the opportunities and capabilities of EWS children in Private schools as compared to their counterparts.
  • The normative frameworks governing implementation of RTE will help making schools more inclusive spaces and would foster better learning environment for EWS children.



The study uses the data by the Directorate of Basic Education, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh for the admission applications for free-ship quota under RTE, Section 12.1.C, for the year 2015.Household survey was conducted by tracking 130 houesholds that applied for admission in Class I under RTE, Section 12.1.C in lucknow, which is the capital and major minority concentrated district of Uttar Pradesh. These under privileged children are spread across different types of schools (Low-Fee Private schools, Private Unaided, Public and ‘others’), where 80 children consist of those who availed the admission under Section 12.1.C and remaining served as control group for the study.

The nature of evolving capabilites is understood by tracking the evolution of cognitive capabiliy over three years. The notion of evolving capability has been operationalised by extracting indicators listed by National Council for Research in Education and Training (NCERT). NCERT came up with list of functiongs required at the end of each level for English, Mathematics and Hindi. Thus, creating vector of cognitive capability for each specified level - pre-primary, class I and class II, the paper helps understand the formation of capabiliy as a result of the focus on ‘comprehensive outcomes’ in schooling. Modelling cognitive capability by using an index of schooling characteristics, the study attempts to emperically establish the role of conversion factor by quantifying the role of recognition and resulting inclusion in explaining the formation of cognitive capability in formal education.

Finally, the research aims to contribute to the nature and quality of the alternative added under school choice that would essentially expand the reslf freedom and choice sets of DG/EWS households.




scroll to top