Since Independence, India’s educational performance has been regularly put under scrutiny. Meeting the original mandate of providing free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 had provided to be an uphill task. Various reforms and programmes have been initiated over the past decades to achieve the somewhat elusive aim of universal elementary education (UEE). The National Policy on Education (1986) formulated after a nation-wide debate still stands out as a landmark in the country’s educational policy along with the 1982 Programme OF Action which outlined its implementation strategy. A framework of partnerships aiming at launch centrally sponsored schemes at the state level followed later. A spectacular innovation, post-1991, was the multiplicity of donor-assisted programmes.Against this backdrop, the enduring class, caste and gender imbalances in education called for a political will to make access to schools a priority. Moreover, as schools form a natural arena for the construction of nationalism, it is not a surprise that the gradual withdrawal of the state from the educational sphere has created a vacuum for its use by ideological groups and organizations.
Some of these significant changes and present trends are reflected and commented upon in the present volume, which is the outcome of two international conferences organized by the Centre de Sciences Humaines, New Delhi. Cutting across research fields, the two seminars gathered on a common platform, historians, political scientists and educationists from Indian and Europe to reflect on the most central issues in the education sector: its history and development, its decentralization, its finances, its sociology and some of its ideological trends.