‘The year that can break or make you’: the politics of secondary schooling, youth and class in urban Kerala, South India

Sancho, David (2012) ‘The year that can break or make you’: the politics of secondary schooling, youth and class in urban Kerala, South India. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Education harbours some of the most pervasive contradictions in contemporary India. While it produces world famous human capital enhancing the country’s rising competitiveness as a global ‘knowledge economy’, millions of children still lack access to basic education. In Kerala, a state famous for the success of its educational achievements, the benefits of education that can be gained by those in the lower strata of society continue to be marginal regardless of policies of positive discrimination. Focusing on youth at the higher secondary school level (grades 11-12), ‘the primary bottleneck in the education system today’ (World Bank 2012), this thesis seeks to understand the social processes that go into making education a key resource to the (re)production of inequalities.

Based upon a year’s ethnographic fieldwork in and around two schools in Ernakulam, South India, this thesis examines the ways in which two distinct groups of youth – one attending a top end private English medium school at the heart of a city and the other educated in an institution at the bottom of the schooling ladder – inhabit their final year of schooling and generate future projects and aspirations. I located their experiences at the intersection of the two educational sites par excellence: the school and the house. In the city, middle-class schooling and parental regimes attempt to orient youth’s lives towards the acquisition of multiple competences aimed at enhancing their individual prospects towards becoming competitive professionals, depicted as garnering maximum amounts of wealth and prestige in today’s globalised economy of paid employment and migration. At the fringes of middle-class urban life and the quest for professionalism, youth are becoming subject of an increasing ghettoisation: only the educationally, financially and socially poor are left to attend their school.

In that stark scenario, education emerged as central to both youth performances of class, status and gender. They constructed and embodied identities based on education and more generally with ideas of competence. This creative work revealed an overtly hierarchical field formed of distinctive peer groups engaged in overt practices of exclusion and inclusion according to imagine futures: mostly elusive fantasies that reveal the youth marked by uncertainties in a time shaped by rising expectations and increasingly intricate and unequal paths leading to them.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN406 Cultural traits, customs, and institutions > GN495.4 Societal groups, ethnocentrism, diplomacy, warfare, etc.
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform > HN0050 By region or country > HN0980 Developing countries
L Education > LG Individual institutions (Asia. Africa. Oceania) > LG021 Asia > LG060 India. Pakistan. Bangladesh. Burma (Republic of the Union of Myanmar). Sri Lanka. Nepal
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Jan 2013 16:38
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015 13:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/43282

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